MCHENRY – More than 30 years after Kim Ribar got her start as a carhop in a "horrendous" plaid Western shirt at McHenry's A&W, she is the sole owner of her own restaurant.
Despite going solo, Ribar plans on keeping the name of Kim & Patty's Cafe, a small breakfast and lunch place surrounded by corporate parks in southern McHenry.
"A lot of the customers I had then, I still have now," she said. "I've always just had them. I've had their families. I've seen their kids grow up, and actually when we opened here, my first boss from when I was 15, he had his 90th birthday party here."
Ribar has some changes planned for the immediate future, including acquiring a liquor license and getting a fish fry going for the Lenten season. It would be the first time the restaurant has served dinner, though she's getting some practice through catering and private parties.
The menu continues to evolve, she said, highlighting their made-from-scratch pancakes and homemade soups thought up by self-taught cook, Javier Zavala.
"People are always curious to she what he's going to do next," she said.
But she hasn't thought much beyond that.
The look of the place will stay the same with its sparkly retro counter stools and black mugs featuring the cafe's logo dominated by a large ampersand.
And the veterans wall is definitely staying.
Thought up by then co-owner Patty Pease when the place opened in December 2010, the wall initially started with three photos, one of Pease's father, John William Johnson, and Ribar's father-in-law, Louis Ribar, and brother-in-law, Jack Merchant, as well as a few old photos purchased online to round out the theme.
Now, the collection of photos, all in 8-by-10-inch black frames, have spilled onto a second wall as regulars brought in their own pictures, often times requesting that whole families be grouped together.
Aging World War II photos hang next to more recent photos of soldiers who are in their late teens and early 20s.
"Some people are just so happy and thankful to have someone remember them and have them on the wall," Ribar said.
Some of the stories behind the photos are bittersweet, she added.
"I have one customer whose son's picture is on the wall, and every time he comes in and he eats, he stops and looks at that picture," she said. "He just remembers him."
On Mother's Day, one couple will bring in their mothers to sit in the booth where the portraits of their fathers hang. Other families will come in on the birthday of their loved one who has died.
"It's like having the family together," Ribar said.
Kim & Patty's Cafe:
Where; 731 Ridgeview Drive, McHenry
When: Open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
Information: Call 815-344-5262, or visit kimandpattyscafe.com