After melee at Tinley restaurant, customers dish up support
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org May 22, 2012 10:08PM
Waitress Robin Burlinski takes the orders of Marie and Greg Karns, of Tinley Park, at the Ashford House Restaurant in Tinley Park, Illinois, Tuesday, May 22, 2012. The Karns are Saturday regulars who just happened not to be able to make it to the restaurant on May 19, 2012, and came out to show their support Tuesday. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2012 8:33AM
One might think a frightening attack by hammer- and bat-wielding assailants in the middle of the day would scare people away from a business.
But what’s happening at The Ashford House in Tinley Park in the wake of a Saturday melee that resulted in seven arrests and a lot of unanswered questions is quite remarkable. People are coming out to the restaurant in droves.
“The support we’ve been shown is just fantastic,” manager Dave Thamm said Monday. “I can’t say enough about it. We’ve been busier today in the restaurant and in the market (adjacent Winston’s Market) than ever. We’re getting a lot of ‘Are you guys OK?’ and ‘We’re so sorry this happened to you.’ ”
The story was the same Tuesday. Manager April Martens estimated business so far this week was double what the restaurant and deli normally get on a Monday and Tuesday.
“People have just been awesome,” Martens said.
John Benz, of Orland Park, was among those showing his support bright and early Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after the attack, which police say targeted a specific group of diners.
“My wife and I went there for breakfast,” Benz said. They were impressed to find many of the staff who were working when the place went up for grabs Saturday right back at their posts the next day.
Benz likens The Ashford House, at 7959 W. 159th St., to a small mom-and-pop restaurant, the kind one would see in a city neighborhood.
“The food is good, the prices are good,” he said. “It doesn’t take much of an economic insult to close a restaurant these days. I wouldn’t miss a lot of places if they went under, but I would miss The Ashford House.”
Authorities said about 15 people dressed in black hooded jackets stormed into the restaurant about 12:45 p.m. and started busting up the place, targeting a group of about 20 diners. Five Indiana men have been charged with felony mob action, aggravated battery and criminal damage to property for their alleged roles in the attack.
Police shut the eatery down from 1 to 8 p.m. to conduct their investigation. Prosecutors say the assailants believed the group they targeted was part of a white supremacist organization.
Restaurant owner Mike Winston not only incurred $12,000 to $14,000 damage, he lost Saturday’s lunch and dinner business. Plus there was the worry that people would be scared off.
Nevertheless, staff arrived early Sunday to clean up and open for business.
“We want people to know there’s nothing to be scared of, that this was a freak occurrence,” Thamm said.
Many already seemed to sense that. Sunday evening, Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki and his wife, along with his secretary and her husband, went there for dinner.
“We had the ribs special; it was outstanding,” said Zabrocki, who posted his sentiment on Facebook.
He was hardly alone in that regard. Across the social medium, people posted support for The Ashford House, which has been serving up Irish and American fare, including corned beef, sausages, black pudding and soda bread, since 1996.
Zabrocki said the show of support has been amazing.
“It’s a small-town kind of reaction,” Zabrocki said. “That’s the kind of town Tinley Park is. We support each other; we’re like a family.”
Zabrocki said Winston, who also owns Winston’s Market, contributes to a lot of organizations in the community.
“He’s very supportive,” Zabrocki said. “It’s important for the community to support him now.”
Emily Doubeck Moser, of Tinley Park, agrees.
“We love the food and catering they offer,” she said. “The owners are wonderful people who really give back to our community. Winston’s/Ashford House provide our children’s hot lunches at McAuliffe School and Prairie View Middle School. I am a regular customer in the deli and will be ordering my son’s graduation party food from them.”
Amanda Lenhardt, of Tinley Park, had lunch at The Ashford House on Saturday with her mom and dad. They left around noon, just before the melee occurred.
“I thank God we did because my mom is on a heart pump,” she said. “She probably would have had a heart attack and died during that.”
Nevertheless, Lenhardt said she plans to continue to patronize the restaurant.
“We love it,” she said. “Bad stuff happens everywhere. You can’t live your life in fear.”
Colleen Capola, of Tinley Park, has been going to The Ashford House for years and said she will continue to do so.
“It’s a wonderful family-oriented establishment in which I’ve become part of the ‘regular crowd,’ so to speak,” she said. “I’m proud of Mike Winston, his family and all the staff on how they have shown the neighborhood that their customers, friends and all those that visit are top priority and will always continue to do so.”