Along the Northwest Highway, tucked between chain restaurants and a slew of drive-thrus, flashes a familiar marquee – a red, green and white neon sign that has served as a beacon to passersby for more than 40 years.
Around the Clock Restaurant and Bakery has changed plenty since it first opened on May 1, 1975, but two things have remained the same: the sign out front and the people greeting you from behind the counter.
The Theofanous family has been a staple in the community since emigrating from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus to Crystal Lake in 1969.
George Theofanous started the restaurant with a partner and ran it for six years before his sons – now- owners Steve and Fano, who worked at the restaurant as kids – took over in 1983.
It’s been decades, but the brothers, who can be found in the restaurant regularly, still look forward to coming to work every day.
“We’ve been a part of this community for a long time,” Steve Theofanous says. “We still enjoy coming in and being part of our staff and serving our customers. It’s in our DNA. We can’t get rid of it.”
Even the menu reflects their family roots, as each member of the family has a menu item named after him or her. Fano Theofanous has the club sandwich, with turkey, bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato. Steve Theofanous has an omelet named after him with ham, mushroom, onion, green pepper, black olives and cheese, and his middle daughter, Andrea, who loves eating vegetables, has a sandwich named after her with eggplant, zucchini, green and red peppers, onion, artichoke hearts and cheese.
While the business itself may be more than 40 years old, the brothers certainly don’t want it to feel that way. Through the years, they’ve regularly updated the restaurant, from expanding the eatery to seat 175 people to consistently changing up the menu.
“We’re always trying to keep it new and fresh and updated so that people feel comfortable,” Steve Theofanous says.
“People are not numbers to us,” Fano Theofanous says. “Our customers are real people who we enjoy forging relationships with. Getting to know them and forming friendships is what sets us apart.”
Many of Around the Clock’s servers have been working there for more than 15 years, and their cook, Ruperto Gutierrez, has been there for almost 30 years. The two managers, Patty Stapleton and Dino Sfondouris, have been there for quite some time, as well.
“The people that have been here for so many years have gotten to know the customers on a first-name basis,” Steve Theofanous says. “It almost feels like ‘Cheers,’ where people come in and you know them by name.”
Another old-fashioned asset that sets Around the Clock apart is its in-house bakery. From apple and pumpkin to French silk and chocolate cream, each pie is made in-house with the freshest ingredients.
Whatever Around the Clock is doing, it seems to be doing it right. The community dining staple has continued to see multiple generations of families walk through its doors on a regular basis.
“It touches me to see the loyalty that we’ve gotten because we’ve been a part of this community for so many years,” Steve Theofanous says. “Our goal is always to be the restaurant the entire community can be proud to call their own.
“That’s what we want to continue to do.”