I was born in Albania and moved to Blue Island, Illinois when I was six. My dad was 19 years old, starting off as a cook there for a small restaurant. A year and a half later, he opened his own place with my uncle. It was a sort of hot dog stand, but it didn’t pan out for him.
My grandma’s brother has a restaurant, and he’s been in the restaurant business for years. In November of 1997, my father jumped on board here at the Good Table, and down the line, my grandma’s brother told my father that this could be his place one day. This is how my family came here from Blue Island!
Our story of how the Good Table came to be is one of starting at the bottom and working hard to rise up. The first five years of living in Kentland were rough. Nobody knew us in town. But I’m thankful to say that we’ve successfully been in business for 25 years! In this time, we’ve gathered a fan following. We’re incredibly thankful for the people who love us so much that they’re willing to travel an hour and a half away every Friday and Saturday just to grab a bite and visit with us.
My role involves managing the front of the house. Flamur and I came back to the area in 2012, and his father was running the Good Table. We were up in Green Bay and Flamur was supposed to enter culinary school but around this time, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. So when he came back, he helped his father improve the menu, which brought about a ton of publicity for the restaurant and tripled our following. With the community being so supportive, we’ve always looked for ways to give back. For instance, every Friday morning during football season, we host the entire South Newton football team, including the coaches, for a meal. We’ve also done this for the basketball team. Whether they’re winning or losing, we love to show our support for the students and athletic department at the school. We’ve also been a part of supporting the new firehouse.
With running back and forth from Minnesota to care for my mother, I didn’t have the opportunity to give to the park fundraisers but I think this sort of investment is great! Anytime we have the ability to help, we love to pour our energy back into the community!
We keep our dollars in the community. We’ve bought two homes here, and we shop locally. It’s all about that small-town community feel. There’s nobody in the restaurant at any given time that we don’t see on a regular basis. It’s just a family-friendly place that is very supportive. For instance, when we closed for two months during the pandemic, I have never seen people rally together to show their love for us. All of the to-go and delivery orders kept us alive!
As challenging as it was with the pandemic, there was one upside: it forced us to go outside our comfort zones. We had never done deliveries before. We didn’t know what we were doing, but because of deliveries, we were able to keep our employees on staff.
Honestly, when I think about Good Table, I’m proud of it. I look at my family’s humble beginnings and am amazed at where we’re at now. We’re so thankful for everyone and the support they’ve shown the business. We will always be here for the people of Kentland.