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In July 1967 Carl G. Boraiko who operated restaurants in Rockford since 1947, but was best known as the long time operator of Green Shutters and Skeet Drive In restaurants, conceived the idea for a Rockford based franchised chain of fast food restaurants. In September 1967 he would open the very first restaurant at Alpine Village Shopping Center located at Alpine and Harrison Avenues under the name Skeet's Beef-A-Roo. The store was the first of a new Rockford based Beef-A-Roo franchise system trying to cash in on the thin sliced roast beef sandwich craze of the time. His idea was to serve thin sliced hot roast beef sandwiches on sesame seed rolls that were developed locally by the Colonial Baking Company in Rockford. Boraiko who operated as many as five drive in's at one time, decided to name his new venture, Beef Buck-A-Roo. Boraiko would change the name of the company to Beef-A-Roo a month later when it was discovered that the other name was already in use. He planned to offer as many as twenty franchised Beef A Roo locations. The Skeet's Beef A Roo would become simply, Skeet Beef after the second store on North Second Street opened for business.
Boraiko who owned the Skeet Drive In chain didn't have to look far for his Beef A Roo mascot when he simply modernized and dressed his Skeet character in western wear complete with a yellow colored cowboy hat instead of a golden crown, red scarf, leather vest, blue jeans and western boots carrying a giant roast beef sandwich.
The second Beef A Roo restaurant, a stand alone location was opened on November 17, 1967 at 6116 North Second Street. It was a brick and mortar building designed by John Fraboni in a western style exterior and interior motif. The restaurant featured a walkup counter for take out only and served roast beef sandwiches called Beef A Roos, potato chips and soft drinks. In 1968 two franchised units soon followed in April at 2815 - 11th Street and in June at 4410 Charles Street. They continued to add menu items like French fries, coleslaw, milk shakes and ham & cheese sandwiches and a hamburger called a Burger Roo.
In 1968 Beef A Roo units opened in April at 2815 - 11th Street and in June at 4410 Charles Street. Local franchisees were Dave DeBruler and Jean Vitale, Del Miller and his wife and William and James Miller. Soon Beef A Roo units were opened in Beloit, Janesville and Madison Wisconsin, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Peoria and Pekin, Illinois, Oakland, California and Marquette, Michigan among others. Ben Woodman was the California franchise licensee of the Rockford corporation and Lloyd Yentes held the franchise rights for the Peoria and Pekin stores and Harold Mulherin was the Iowa licensee. The Beef A Roo Corporate partners consisted of Boraiko; President, Richard Neblock: Vice President and Fred Coffman as franchise marketing vice president. Beef A Roo, Inc. originally had its corporate offices located at 2600 North Main Street, but as the franchise grew the offices were relocated to 5633 East State Street.
In 1969 Beef A Roo planned to expand internationally when Paul Spaulding who previously enjoyed a long executive career with the J. C. Penney Company before deciding to take his family to Australia, was granted a Beef A Roo franchise in Melbourne. The name of the restaurant was changed to "Beef Ranch" instead of Beef A Roo, which would have been a bad decision psychologically and financially because Australians generally hate kangaroo meat and anything that might hint at kangaroo meat content associated with it, such as "Roo". Spaulding planned on opening up to seventy Beef Ranch Restaurants, I can find no evidence that he ever followed through with his plan.
On November 2, 1971 franchisees Dave DeBruler and Jean Vitale, who owned the Eleventh Street location, would take over the Beef A Roo operation after purchasing the franchise company from Boraiko. The partners who valued family life and local control more than being in the franchise business, gave the other franchise owners in the chain the right to use the Beef A Roo name without having to report to them. Three stores in Michigan were independently owned and closed recently. Vitale left her job as a nurse in Sterling, Illinois and DeBruler eventually quit his job as salesman for Gerber Baby Products to devote their time to expanding and improving the local Beef A Roo restaurant chain.
Beef-A-Roo continued to grow but closed most of the original walk up carry out locations or locations with limited seating. They would build newer more modern restaurants with sit down seating, drive through windows and an expanded menu. Each restaurant was designed with a 50's - 60's or Industrial, Railroad Depot and Northwoods Lodge theme. The Beef A Roo chain today is one we are all familiar with in the Rockford area with many area locations and still owned by the same family after 50 years.
Beef A Roo does not sell their roast beef dressing anymore, but they do sell a unique Beef Seasoning Salt
In August 1978 Don Cole, a former senior investment analyst for Allstate, would open the Dairy Queen located at 4400 Charles Street in the former Beef A Roo restaurant building. Today the building is home to a CoCo Joes Restaurant.
Ray A. Anderson, a former Rockford resident, founded the chain in 1965 and was president of Jolly Troll Incorporated of Minneapolis. Two men, David Fjellman of Madison, Wisconsin and David Sauer of Milwaukee who own a Jolly Troll in each city respectively would open the Rockford Jolly Troll Smorgasbord in June 1967 at 4800 East State Street. The restaurant was originally planned for the Fairview Shopping Center but it failed to materialize so a new building was constructed. The 8,600 square foot restaurant could seat 300 customers and featured a Scandinavian theme, with authentic scale-model buildings. There were also animated trolls throughout the dining room. Jolly Troll would close it's Rockford location and in 1971 it became a Sir Richards Restaurant and in 1973 the Anchor Inn.
Photo Courtesy of Kelly Sullivan
The Ice Cream & Pie Place, 3330 North Alpine Road was a short lived venture operating from 1971 -1973.
The Lakeview Supper Club which consisted of a restaurant and nightclub was opened in August 1965 by former Loves Park mayor Frank S. Larson who also owned Larson Brothers Sand and Gravel business who owned Windsor Lake, and the Freeport Raceway. Located at 1800 Windsor Road on the west bank of Windsor Lake at Windsor and Clinton Roads. The club offered live music by house band Jimmy Flynn’s Dance Band along with several guest artists for dining and dancing and offered a family buffet every Sunday. In November 1970 Ed Carlson owner of Carlson Roofing Company purchased the lake and the land surrounding it from Larson, but Larson retained ownership of the club and nearby go cart track. The supper club became a popular place and Larson brought in entertainers such as Henny Youngman, Dennis Day, Tiny Tim, Rosemary Clooney, Alan Jones, Frank Fontaine, Norm Crosby and Jerry Van Dyke among others. By 1973 the club was facing financial difficulties and in 1974 the IRS placed a padlock on the club doors and seized the property, the following year they would also seize the sand and gravel pit and the raceway.
Barnaby's Pizza opened a location at 2404 S. Perryville Road in the late 1960's. The exterior was faux Tudor/half-timber with large faux stained glass panels depicting 18th century patrons enjoying the fare within. The interior was also faux Tudor, at least in terms of the exposed beams and brick work. Seating was mostly booths, with a number on each table. You could order from a wide variety of sandwiches and pizzas, drinks came by the glass or the pitcher. Barnaby’s was a haven for high schoolers to gather on Friday nights. Franchesco’s took over the former Barnaby’s restaurant and remained there until moving farther North on Perryville Road in 2008. There was a second Barnaby's location at 7019 N. Alpine Road that was opened in the early 1970's and lasted several years before fading into memory. The building has since been demolished and a Walgreen’s Pharmacy now sites on the site.
Who remembers Dom’s Pizza at 3035 North Rockton Avenue? Dom’s was opened in 1957 by Dominic “Dom” and his wife Frances “Flo” Mandala next to West High School, eventually moving about a mile north. In 1980 their sons Bob and Jim Mandala assumed restaurant operations. Bob and his wife Marilyn would take sole ownership in 1999. Bob eventually decided to scout out land for a second Dom’s Pizza location and in doing so enjoyed the process so much that he decided to earn a real estate license to sell commercial real estate as a side job. He eventually sold the pizza restaurant to concentrate full time on his new career. The restaurant closed in July 2006. Dom’s famous pizza sauce is still sold at area grocery stores.
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