On the heels of its 20th anniversary in town, Jimmy’s Place has been quietly placed on the market, with owner Jimmy Jodoin saying he’s still mulling whether he’d like to sell the business.
“It’s a combination of the street, the stress, and just the job. I don’t have a slam dunk reason why I want to; I’ve just been doing it for 20 years. It’s time,” Jodoin said.
Jimmy’s Place is listed for $295,000 and purchase of the building at 7411 Madison St. with the restaurant included is $1.175 million, according to the Multiple Listings Service real estate site. Jodoin, 59, and his late wife opened the restaurant on Nov. 25, 1998, the first restaurant the young couple owned.
Jodoin had worked in construction prior to starting Jimmy’s, buying homes, rehabbing them and then reselling them for a larger price. A realtor and friend showed him the property at 7411 Madison St. and Jodoin, who attended grade school at the now-shuttered St. Bernardine School, saw the space’s potential. He and his late wife, Freminnie, a born-and-raised Forest Parker, decided it would be fun to open a restaurant on Madison Street.
“My wife was full-blooded Italian, so we kind of made her grandma’s recipes,” Jodoin said.
Freminnie went on to handle the restaurant’s back-of-the-house operations, such as accounting, hiring and cooking. Jodoin managed up front, working with the bartender, hosts and more. The restaurant thrived, with frequent visits from celebrities like the late actor John Mahoney, of Frasier fame; Ted Brunson, host of Chicago’s Best; and various Chicago Blackhawks players. Jimmy’s has been recommended by the Food Network channel, Chicago Magazine, and elsewhere.
Jodoin credits the restaurant’s success to its family-friendly atmosphere and unofficial partnership with Fenwick High School in Oak Park. His three children all graduated from Fenwick, with his two daughters playing lacrosse and basketball at the school, and his son competing in wrestling, football and lacrosse. He said Jimmy’s does all the catering jobs for Fenwick’s sports teams, which have helped build relationships in and beyond the community. Last week, Jodoin said he hosted a 60-person girl’s field hockey team from Assumption High School in Kentucky, which comes in town every year for a tournament. This will be their 15th year returning to Jimmy’s.
“It’s been fun, we definitely have had a lot of fun here,” Jodoin said. “Right now I have parties booked all through next year.”
The restaurant’s walls serve as a monument to his family and longtime customers, with framed pictures of his children attending prom, homecoming dances and other milestone events.
As business at Jimmy’s boomed, Madison Street changed.
“When they redid the street, there used to be meters out here and people would feed the meters or they would move the car,” he said. “So now they put signs up here [with] three-hour parking that never gets enforced. So people who work on the street and some — even the owners, which I’m stupefied over — will park on the street all day long and our customers have nowhere to park.”
The clientele, too, has changed. “After 11 o’clock [at night] it’s like a war zone,” full of people bar-hopping, he said, adding: “I’m so disenchanted with the street.”
When Freminnie died two years ago, Jodoin said his daughter started helping out on the side to fill his wife’s role. But “my kids all have big jobs and they are not looking to do this,” he said.
So Jodoin put the restaurant on the market. He said he’s looking for a buyer to carry on and improve Jimmy’s and, ideally, he’d help the new owner run the place for a year or two as a transition.
“I’d like somebody to make it better,” he said. “Maybe I’m getting a little tired and a little complacent in the 20 years I’ve been doing this.”
Once the business is sold, and the new owner has the place running smoothly, Jodoin said he’d probably take some time off and then go back to flipping buildings.
“I think people love Jimmy’s Place. It was a kid-friendly, family-friendly place that, if it changed, it would be missed,” he said. “Everybody who walks in the door, just about 90 percent, I know them by first name. I always was thankful for people’s business, always thanked everybody for coming in, and thanked them when they leave.”