In the small mining community of DuQuoin, Illinois, Alongi’s is a true survivor: Sicilian immigrant Guy Alongi started his business during the height of the Great Depression, in 1933, and his family continues to weather diffi cult economic times in the present day. However, even through hardship, the business has seen remarkable success as an independent family restaurant, serving more than 1 million pizzas and 8 million glasses of Budweiser over the years, as well as ushering dozens of celebrities through its doors, including Bob Hope, Willie Nelson and Red Skelton. Alongi’s also has the distinction of serving up some firsts in southern Illinois: the first pizza operation, the first television in a business, and the first drive-up window.

The restaurant began as a sandwich shop, but by the early 1950s, Alongi’s had entered the pizza business. “We catered to families,” says 81-year-old John Alongi who ran the restaurant with his brother Jerome “Mimi” for decades after their father, Guy, passed (today, John’s two sons carry on the day-to-day operations). “We gave baseball cards to kids—more than 20,000 over the years—and built business that way.” Still, his secret to longevity involves more than kid-friendly marketing; he credits the success of Alongi’s to three factors: service, food and attention to customers. “Business comes back to where it’s treated well,” he says.

To learn more check out the April issue.