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Family Owned Establishments are
Giving Back
By Amy Leigh


It was not very long ago when diners were often intimately familiar with the owners of the restaurants they frequented. In the current age of national fast-food and dining establishments, most people are lucky if they see the same person twice when visiting a favorite restaurant. Yet, the town of Morris is different. When diners enter many local establishments, they are met by friendly staff, excellent food and it is not unheard-of for the owners themselves to stop by for some friendly conversation.

Residents of Morris and Grundy County are familiar with the friendly atmospheres, but it often shocks visitors when they realize their status as “strangers-in-town” usually disappears with one trip to a local bar or restaurant. In addition to being known for its exceptional hospitality, there are places that are also known for their generosity. Chapin’s Restaurant and Clayton’s Tap are two such places in town that not only work hard to provide a wonderful experience for their guests on a daily basis, but they also volunteer their time, effort and talents to support worthy non-profit causes.

Scott and Dianne Breslar not only work hard to provide a unique and upscale environment for their guests, but they also enjoy giving back to the community where the restaurant resides. Owners of Chapin’s Restaurant, the Breslars were recently recipients of two very prestigious awards: Entrepreneurs of the Year – 2006 by the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce, and Best Restaurant – 2006 at the “Great Chef’s Tasting Party & Auction” held at the Bolingbrook Golf Club.


The “Great Chef’s Tasting Party & Auction” is an annual event held to raise money for United Cerebral Palsy of Will County. According to Scott Breslar, approximately 650 guests sampled from different food stations that are prepared by the various restaurants, chefs and caterers invited to participate in the event. At the end of the day, the guests vote for several awards in different categories.

“We were packing up for the day and Dianne and our chef Lori Plotz had already left when our name was called as the winner of the Best Restaurant award. You don’t actually expect to win. It was fabulous and a lot of fun to participate,” said Scott Breslar. They were invited to return and will be participating in the 2007 event as well.

Chapin’s Restaurant is family-owned. “It is warm, not stuffy and has a very nice and welcoming bar. We have an excellent wine and martini list with approximately 200 bottles of wine to choose from. We also have flights of wine that change every three months. Instead of one six ounce glass, guests can get three two ounce glasses that allow them to taste three different types of wine – white or red,” says Dianne.

“We are not big but not small. We go around and speak to customers. People can tell that you care,” Scott stated. The restaurant celebrated its second anniversary on November 1st, 2006 and both Scott and Dianne are humbled by their success, which has been possible because of the loyalty and support of its local and far-flung customers. Open for lunch and dinner six days a week (Monday through Saturday), the business is thriving. The restaurant is closed to the public on Sundays but it is available for private parties.

Chapin’s is located in a beautiful, 1930s three-story building full of character and charm and is named after John Chapin, the town’s mayor in 1843. In the future, the restaurant will have an outdoor patio built to fit a large wedding party alongside a carriage house that will serve as a backdrop. Warm weather allows for patio seating on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.

Family owned and operated for over 30 years, Clayton’s Tap continues the tradition of personal service. Originally owned by Hank Briscoe and called “Farmers Paradise,” the tavern was purchased by W. Clayton Darlington in 1973 and renamed Clayton’s Tap after Mr. Briscoe passed away. The tavern has been in the Clayton family ever since. As of 2004, Lois Durkin is the owner of record and runs the day-to-day operations of Clayton’s.


Lois Durkin is fascinated by the history of the building Clayton’s is located in and she learned a great deal about that history when the tavern was completely remodeled in 2004. “The building has an excellent history. At some point, it was a car dealership. We re-did the sub floor and cleaned the basement to turn it into usable space and in the process we found car parts from very old cars,” said Durkin.

Durkin also spoke about the Brunswick bar that was part of the 1933 World’s Fair: “We literally took the entire bar out to have it refurbished. The main bar is still intact.” They have made a few additions to each end of the bar, but this did not alter any of the original craftsmanship.

In the tradition of days gone by, Hank Briscoe’s family still visits the bar. Other traditions include the “Coffee Club” where regulars visit daily at 6:00 a.m. to have coffee with W. Clayton Darlington. Many of these Coffee Club members have been visiting the bar in the wee hours of the morning for more than twenty years. The tavern provides breakfast, lunch and dinner for its guests as well as live music on various Saturdays throughout the months.

Open nineteen hours a day (6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.), Clayton’s Tap goes beyond daily service and looks for ways to give back to the community that gives them so much. In the fall of 2006, Clayton’s hosted a benefit for Jim Feeney, which raised over $30,000 for a scholarship fund at Immaculate Conception School in Morris on North Street.

“Jim Feeney owned the liquor store down the street and he passed away suddenly. We did the benefit during the opening Notre Dame game of the season and we had bagpipes. It was the most people I have ever seen in Clayton’s throughout the day – ever,” Durkin explained with obvious pride at the number of people who came out to pay tribute to a respected man of the community.

“We also participate in Operation St. Nick annually and hosted an after hours for the Chamber of Commerce in March (2007),” stated Durkin. To anyone who speaks with Lois Durkin, it is obvious that she holds great pride in her ownership of the tavern and will continue to give back to the community when she can.

Whether residents or visitors are looking for something upscale or a bit more casual, Chapin’s Restaurant or Clayton’s Tap are sure to please. Friendly, small town service with great food welcomes all. Stop for a moment, take a load off, and enjoy a bit of yesteryear today!

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