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Breakers in Crystal Lake reopens after crash

Published: Saturday, May 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Kyle Grillot -
Susie Nelson serves customers behind the bar at the Breakers Restaurant during a recent reopening, three months after a car crashed into the restaurant. The accident caused significant damage to the kitchen as well as the exterior part of the building. "It's a great place with excellent customers. It's such a joy to work here," Nelson said.
(Kyle Grillot –
"I Brake for The Breakers" button at the Crystal Lake restaurant, which reopened three months after a car crashed into the kitchen. "People said they didn't know if we would reopen. I knew that wasn't an option. I just didn't think it would take this long," said manager Judy McGurn.
(Kyle Grillot –
Exterior repairs show the location of the car crash that caused thre Breakers Restaurant to close for three months.
(Kyle Grillot –
Breakers Restaurant employee Virginia Soldon of Crystal Lake serves customers during a recent grand reopening.

CRYSTAL LAKE – After being closed for more than three months, The Breakers Restaurant is back to doing what it does best – mixing tropical drinks and serving up Chinese food.

The Crystal Lake establishment shuttered its doors in February after a vehicle crashed into the building, located at 7728 Route 14. The accident damaged the kitchen, and more than $58,000 in repairs later, the business reopened this month.

“We had to completely rebuild the kitchen from the ground up, but everything is now back the way it was,” owner Judy McGurn said. “It’s been outstanding since we reopened, so many people are glad we are back.”

The Breakers remains one of the oldest restaurants in McHenry County, originally opening in 1949 after Lenny and Marion Felcman purchased the business.

More than six years into the venture, the husband and wife met George Don, who was hired to run the kitchen. The current chefs at the restaurant are the grandson and granddaughter-in-law of Don.

Joanne Spielman was hired in 1969 to manage the restaurant, and she took over ownership of the business more than 30 years later.

Her daughter, McGurn, began working at the restaurant in 1975 as a busgirl. She worked all aspects of the business until 2009, when she took over running the business after he mother retired.

“Family is very important to this place, and most of our employees have been with us for many years,” McGurn said. “My mother taught me to always keep an even temper, and how to make all those secret tropical drink recipes.”

The Breakers maintains a staff of about 20 employees, eight of whom have been at the restaurant for at least 30 years. 

One of those employees, Kate Aschoff, started working at the restaurant in 1993 as a member of the wait staff. She left the business for a few years to pursue other ventures and returned to bartend and waitress in 2001.

Aschoff took over as manager when McGurn took over ownership.

“Working here is like working with family because me and Judy are like sisters,” Aschoff said. “We are such a close group of people. I have never been involved in something like this.”

The drink menu features a slew of tropical concoctions, highlighted by the Mai Tai. The food menu, an array of Chinese options, is well known for its egg rolls.

“Those are the two things everyone knows us for,” McGurn said. “We are going to keep doing this until we are too old to mix drinks.”

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