As things turned out, it was a blessing in disguise.
Three Moline businesses that had to relocate because of a new Aldi grocery store under construction at 4211 Avenue of the Cities are finding their new surroundings more than adequate.
That is especially true for Chris Panouses, who owns Uncle Pete’s Gyros.
“It has been phenomenal. More than we expected,” he said. “When you forecast things, you try to be conservative.”
But business at his new location, 3629 Avenue of the Cities, has nearly doubled since it opened April 21. No wonder.
The new building located across the street from King Plaza seats 80, an upgrade from the 32-chair restaurant his parents — Pete and Kathy Panouses — opened 22 years ago in a small strip center that was next to Long John Silver’s restaurant.
Aldi announced last spring that it would tear down Long John Silver’s and the strip center to make room for a new store that is set to open later this fall. Four businesses — Uncle Pete’s restaurant, China Inn restaurant, Advance America Cash Advance and California Nails were in the strip center.
Long John Silver’s representatives said the store displaced by the Aldi project will not be replaced. California Nails moved into a space in the former Eagle Food Store at 41st Street and Avenue of the Cities. A corporate spokesman for Advance American Cash Advance said the Moline store that closed consolidated operations with existing stores in East Moline and Rock Island. China Inn reopened after an interior remodel in King Plaza, across from Uncle Pete’s.
In addition to the most popular items, gyros, Panouses said he has added steak sandwiches and Italian beef sandwiches to the menu in addition to other mainstays, such as Greek salads, tenderloins and hamburgers.
He said the old place was a “destination” for those aware of it because of its location in the strip mall, access off of Avenue of the Cities and being set back from the street.
“Now, we have a free-standing building with its own parking lot,” he said. “People who drive by a new restaurant, it is more of an impulse stop now.”
Malora Redman of Port Byron, Ill., is a line cook at Uncle Pete’s who has worked there on and off for about 12 years. She said employees were shocked to learn last year that the previous site had to close.
“He looked around for a long time for the perfect place,” she said of Panouses. “We love (this) building. It is perfect.”
Panouses is looking at finding another site to open a smaller, satellite location in another city in the Quad-Cities.
Andrew Nguyen, who owns California Nails salon, also said his move 4011 Avenue of the Cities on Nov. 1 has been
“This has more room. It is better. I like it,” he said. “It has increased business. I remodeled it. I spent a lot of money, but the customers like it.”