Mall Manager at Northfield Square Mall Slurs Racist Remarks toward Local Restaurant, Grandma Kat’s

Grandma Kat's Restaurant

Mall Manager at Northfield Square Mall Slurs Racist Remarks toward Local Restaurant, Grandma Kat’s

What makes customers feel welcomed and valued? This is definitely a question that I can easily answer after being a guest multiple times at Grandma Kat’s, a unique restaurant located in Northfield Square Mall, in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Terry Keigher, owner of Grandma Kat’s ensures that every customer feels like an honored guest, giving genuine, sincere attention to every single individual. My first encounter with Mr. Keigher occurred one day as my mother and I were shopping at Northfield Square Mall. We strolled by Grandma Kat’s and was immediately called out with a warm greeting and invited to a free bowl of Southwestern Soup and a tasty cold glass of Watermelon Lemonade. Not being pressed for time, we accepted his offer. As Mr. Keigher seated us, he was genuinely friendly, authentic, caring and made us feel like we were visiting him at his home, not at his workplace. The soup was delicious! While eating, Mr. Keigher personally came to our table, took a seat and conversed with us while drinking a cup of coffee. He then offered us to try his homemade banana pudding ‘on the house’. Everything was scrumptious! The hospitality was better than any service that I have encountered in a very long time, giving us no choice but to leave a very generous tip in the tip jar. We had such a wonderful experience at Grandma Kat’s that we’ve become regular guests at this eatery.

Grandma Kat’s has been in operation for two years, serving homemade sandwiches and soups, as well as a large variety of homemade soul food dishes and desserts. These dishes have the qualities of a home cooked meal. Passing recipes from one generation to the next, preserving and perpetuating the qualities of simple goodness in an era when most foods are pre-made out of a package, this exclusive restaurant takes the care and time to create homemade dishes, resulting in meals that are incomparably superior. Like few restaurants in these days of faceless restaurant chains, Grandma Kat’s has an actual history. The restaurant is in celebration of Mississippi native, Kathryn, thus the name of the restaurant. Mr. Keigher elaborates on the establishment’s history and his inspiration for soul food. “My mom and grandma were both cooks. So, I learned a lot from them. We also use a lot of my girlfriend’s grandmother’s recipes – greens, banana pudding, etc. [My girlfriend’s] grandmother was a professional cook in Mississippi for 30 years; so she was an inspiration. I like cooking for my family. Cooking is my passion and I like making people happy!”

Despite the professional and welcoming mannerisms of this restaurant, unfortunately this establishment recently experienced a very unkind and unfair act - RACISM. In today’s society, the racist elements still remain strong. Racism is a current event; however, its expression is more disguised and subtle.
Consciousness Magazine was there to have a conversation with Terry Keigher and Orlando Johnson, to see what sparked this unjust behavior. Outside of being recently assaulted, Orlando has enjoyed being an employee at Grandma Kat’s for over a year. “I like seeing lots of people and being able to interact with them – being that I don’t know lots of people here,” says Orlando. The Northfield Square Mall manager recently disrespected Orlando by saying insulting racial slurs. When asked what the mall manager specifically said to him, Orlando expressively opens up to us. “Well it wasn’t directly said to me. She stated it to Terry. She said she didn’t want black people to come to the mall. She pointed to me and said that I was slow and didn’t wash my hands. I was surprised; I couldn’t believe it! It was my first time experiencing something like that. I had heard prior that this was that kind of county where racism existed, but I didn’t believe it. I was like wow! I couldn’t believe it!”

Orlando Johnson
(Photo above: Orlando Johnson)

Mr. Keigher and Orlando hopes for a positive outcome from the unjust and racist remarks said by the mall manager. “I would like to see justice! This is really unfair. I want to help open up people’s eyes and let them know that racism is definitely here [Kankakee County] and is very well disguised. Nowadays, people keep it to themselves. What she [mall manger] did was just bold,” Orlando expresses. “I think they need a new mall manager. I’m not a spiteful person. I won’t bad talk the mall; it’s a nice mall, it’s just the one’s who run the mall that’s the problem. I just want to see some justice!”

Regardless of the cruel remarks, Mr. Keigher remains positive. Grandma Kat’s is now accepting canned good donations to support local food pantries. “Anyone who donates an item, we will give them a free hotdog, sandwich, etc. If anyone is really hurting or hungry, please stop by and we will give them a free bowl of soup with no problem.” Mr. Keigher is passionately seeking support from the community. “Come out and support us so that we can stay. Come sit at our tables and I will personally have a cup of coffee with them. I believe something good will come out of this,” sincerely says Mr. Keigher with the sound of hope and integrity in his voice.

Mr. Keigher believes that integrity and kindness are both equally important. He demonstrates these qualities by following the simple rule – treating people how he would like to be treated, and going out of his way to help those in need. “My motto is to never let people leave my restaurant hungry. Even if I don’t have money, I make sure to feed people,” explains the restaurant owner who is very hurt and disappointed after experiencing this racial epidemic. “I’m most disappointed about the actions of the mall manager…how she came over and pointed at Orlando and said ‘he’s slow and he doesn’t wash his hands.’ And also the fact that she [mall manager] didn’t like the name of my restaurant. To me, the name of our restaurant is no different from Auntie Anne’s, which is right across from us. The mall manager then stated that she doesn’t want to have a BLACK mall. See, you guys see him now (he points at his staff while he serves a guest), Orlando isn’t slow. He always wears service gloves and he washes his hands.”

Maintaining a positive attitude in regards to this present circumstance, Mr. Keigher believes that in the end something good will surface. “I want to educate the public and help bridge racism and the relationship between the whites and blacks. If this can come out of it in the end, that will be a good thing. I want to help people realize that racism is still relevant in this society,” Mr. Keigher expresses with deep emotion. “We have to all work together to ease the tensions. I always look at is as ‘if you’re given lemons, make lemonade’. I believe that when God closes a door or window, he will open a new one.”

[Grandma Kat's - 1600 N. Route 50 - Bradley, IL 60915]

Grandma Kats flyer

Photos taken by Aaron Robinson - Editor
Consciousness Magazine

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