Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Anna Konstant
Hinsdale Central High School
Behind the counter of Bill’s Toasty Shop employees grill their famous hamburgers, make milkshakes and place orders from customers. Teenagers, adults, children and elders sit among the red stools socializing while eating.
Bill’s Toasty is located on 111 N. Main St. in downtown Taylorville and opened approximately 80 years ago.
Toasty’s is described as a place where teenagers went on their first dates and now many of them return to commemorate the past. “It’s kind of like a right of passage that the locals go through as they go through high school. You step into that world of being able to stay out late,” said Mayor Greg Brotherton.
Cindy, daughter of owner Calvin Scallions, said, “All kinds of people come in, young to old.”
When people get together for class reunions they go to Bill’s because it is spot that was important for them throughout their high school career. “People come home after not being here for 20 years and they want to hit Bill’s up,” said Chris Biondolino, owner of Bailey’s Pub next door to the infamous diner, “There’s not a lot of small businesses that have been around to get that kind of nostalgia of home.”
Robert Bass, a regular at Bill’s, loves to order a hamburger and coffee.
“Toasty’s is tradition,” said Bass who has eaten there for the past 30 or 40 years.
Bass worked for the fire department many years ago and described how after a fire, a group of volunteers would eat at Toasty’s.
Locals continue to return to Toasty’s because of the atmosphere, food and the social environment.
“It just reminds you of an old time diner,” said Scallions.
Consistency is another reason why people return to Bill’s. Biondolino has been a customer at Bill’s ever since he can remember and usually orders a hamburger and a shake.
“They give a consistently good product year after year. It’s the same stuff. They don’t change it a lot. They add some stuff here or there, but you’re basically still going in there for a horseshoe or a double cheeseburger,” Biondolino said.
Biondolino says there have been many restaurants and pubs that have come in and out of Taylorville over the last five years. However, Bill’s has stayed.
Mayor Brotherton agrees that Bill’s has been able to thrive over the years. “Bill’s Toasty has found the magic formula to stay in business,” Brotherton said.
According to Brotherton, Bill’s encourages financial stability in a small town, “If we’re going to have any kind of economic growth, it has to come from small businesses.”
Besides other small businesses, Bill’s has to compete with franchises like McDonald’s and Wendy’s.
Pub owner Biondolino finds little competition between Bill’s and its neighbor Bailey’s Pub.
In fact, both businesses actually help each other out.
“We compliment each other really well. I mean, I’m a pub without food and they’re kind of a greasy spoon,” Biondolino said.
Bar patrons are just one of many types of customers that frequent Bill’s.
People from Japan, Kansas, California, Hawaii, New York, Oklahoma and overseas come to Taylorville to dine at Bill’s Toasty Shop shown by a wall of gratitude, a prominent feature of the small restaurant.
Customers show their appreciation for the restaurant by writing compliments and thank you notes and posting them along the wall.
“James fixed a perfect burger. Edges were crispy and rather thin.” and “Most definitely the best burgers in Taylorville,” are some of the notes people have left.
One customer even returns to Bill’s Toasty Shop to eat, after moving to California to work as part of the film crew for the hit TV show the “Deadliest Catch.”
“It’s a common experience that so many people here in town have and I think that’s what pulls them together and what’s made Bill’s famous,” Brotherton said.
Over the years, going to Bill’s is tradition for many families. From generation to generation Brotherton’s family is an example of a long line of diners.
Not only is Bill’s Toasty a legacy among families, “It’s one of those landmarks in Taylorville,” Brotherton said.
“When you think of Taylorville,” Biondolino explained, “you think of a couple things and Bill’s is one of them.”