One of Kankakee County’s dining institutions, Blue’s Cafe on Kankakee’s west side, hasn’t changed much during the past decades.

But there has been a major alteration take place there within the past week and it has nothing to do with the menu or its wonderful selection of homemade pies.

Co-owners Debbie and Julie Chouinard, part of the family which opened the restaurant in 1954 at 1190 W. Station St., have sold the business.

New owners Florin Ahmedoski, 43, of Minooka, and Nick Naksuti, 49, of Albia, Iowa, re-opened the restaurant on Tuesday.

It would be hard to recognize there has been any change with the business other than not seeing Debbie or Julie upon walking inside the cafe. The menu is largely the same and most of the employees remain.

First things first. The homemade pies will remain a fixture at the cafe. Julie will continue to supply her assortment of baking creations.

Debbie explained the time had simply come. She noted she has spent 55 years working at the location and Julie has spent more than 30 as they both began working there as children.

“It was not a hard decision at all,” Debbie said. “I enjoy not having to get up at 2 a.m. every day.”

Asked what her plans may be now that opening the restaurant has been taken off of her plate each day, she noted she has nothing set in concrete.

“No plans. Just enjoy every day of life,” she noted. “Life has always been good. Blue’s has always been good to our family. There are a lot of memories there from then until now.”

Debbie and Julie also thanked their customers — so many of them who would be considered “regulars.”

“None of this would have been possible without them,” she said.

Regarding the new ownership, Matt Ahmedoski, 21, son of new owner Florin, said the location will continue just as it always has. He noted the breakfast menu has been expanded and there may be a few additions to the lunch offerings, but by and large, things will remain just as they always have.

He said it was important for them to keep the Blue’s name.

“We wanted to keep the name and the family culture alive here. Everyone loves it. We want to appeal to the same people,” he said.

Ahmedoski operated Cindy’s, a family-style restaurant for 13 years in the LaSalle County community of Mendota, Ill., but the pandemic and its impact on the restaurant were more than the family could absorb.

Like so many other restaurants, they transitioned to carry-out orders, but it was not enough to sustain the business.

When the effects of the pandemic on the dining business began to lift, the family began to seek out another site. They spent time traveling throughout Illinois and one day stopped in for lunch at Blue’s.

The location was not even for sale at the time.

They had been looking around Kankakee County for an opportunity, but when they experienced Blue’s, they believed they had found what they were seeking — a family-owned diner tucked inside a neighborhood.

“We all just loved the feel of the diner,” he said.

The location’s hours will remain the same: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.

“We are new owners, but we are just planning more of the same,” Ahmedoski said.

Blue’s had been closed for about two weeks due to staffing shortages. It re-opened on Nov. 2 and customers are returning.

“We’ve been getting a lot of comment telling us ‘Thank you for opening again,’” he said.

The Daily Journal’s Lee Provost writes about local business rumors, comings and goings and other notes of interest. Anyone with information to share should contact Provost at lprovost@daily-journal.com or 815-937-3364.

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.