Meet Maria Ahmedi from Old Route 66 Family Restaurant

outside picture of the old Route 66 family restaurant

Traveling down Route 66 is always an adventure. From roadside stops to one-of-a-kind shopping, and of course the delicious food, it’s definitely a road trip to remember.

In Dwight, IL, located right off of the Historic Route 66 where you can’t miss it, is a family-owned business well worth your while! The Old Route 66 Family Restaurant has been serving their community and many visitors along the way for 20 years. It is a unique restaurant from inside and out, that’ll make you feel right at home.

They offer home cooked meals with recipes that have been passed down through three generations, with a menu that includes broasted chicken, meatloaf, seasoned hand-cut meats, burgers, tenderloins, and much more! Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And who’s to thank for the success of the Old Route 66 Family Restaurant? Co-owner, Maria Ahmedi along with her husband and kids.

Maria Ahmedi posting inside of her restaurant  family picture of Maria Ahmedi and her family inside of her restaurant

Maria grew up in the restaurant business. Her dad owned his first restaurant back in 1977 in Spring Valley, IL. Her dad owned a restaurant later in Seneca, IL where she grew up. After she got married, her and her husband started Wishing Well Café for 10 years in Odell, IL.

“I have a great personality in this field,” says Maria. “And that’s what kept me going, being very genuine with everyone and connecting with my customers.”

After running their café business for a while, they found themselves in Dwight, IL. Maria saw the potential in this location. 

The previous owner of the restaurant, which was under a different name at the time, was ready to move on. Maria and her husband saw a great opportunity, and already had a vision for it. Their transition didn’t take much longer after that. Things moved pretty quickly, and without having to close their doors to the public, they made it happen!

For their name, Maria knew their location spoke for itself. So, without second guessing it, she was aware that it would help draw in more travelers along the way.

As you can imagine, running a restaurant is nothing easy. Maria was not only working on her new transition with her restaurant, but also starting a family. “It was hard trying to run a business and having a family of three kids. I managed to toggle both of that,” she says. “I was the jack of all trades, doing everything from book work to managing the restaurant.”

But through the struggles, there is always victory. Being a woman entrepreneur in this field of work, Maria has a lot to be proud of.

“I feel like a powerhouse!” she says. “I feel like I am a part of this historical group of women who has been forgotten from the past, and I just want to continue to carry this legacy through Route 66. As a minority woman, I am proud to have contributed my own chapter in the Route 66 legacy.”

During Covid-19, Maria and her family decided to shut down their restaurant due to uncertainty. The safety of their family and staff was much more important. However, during those 7 months of shutting their doors temporarily, they began renovating the restaurant into their dream restaurant. She wasn’t sure how long it would take, but that didn’t matter because she knew at the end, it would be worth it.

At that time, Maria says she received great help from the Dwight Economic Alliance (DEA). They helped guide them to the right path of resources like the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC). From there, the SBDC in Illinois has offered exceptional assistance with their family business throughout the pandemic.

On October 12, 2020, they were back in business and with a completely different look!

“I want [visitors] to feel like they’re at home,” she says. “They come as stranger, and leave as friends.”

She not only treats her guests as such, but also her staff. “I have many staff that has been here since day one that I am truly grateful for,” she says. “We treat our staff like our family and that’s what keeps the business going.”

For the future of her business, Maria wants their restaurant to stay in the family, passing it down from generation to generation.

She says, “I feel like we’re going to be put on the map. We’re going to be a destination place for everyone from near and far!”

For more information about the Old Route 66 Family Restaurant, visit www.heritagecorridorcvb.com/Dining/Old-Route-66-Family-Restaurant

inside of the old Route 66 family restaurant  outside of old Route 66 family restaurant

inside of the old Route 66 family restaurant

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