Porkies celebrates quarter-century in Silvis

Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012, 11:50 am
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com
SILVIS — Folks have been pigging out at Porkies for 25 years.

"This is the original one, and the last one standing," co-owner and manager Roger Pulford said Friday. '"We're just tickled to death we've been here this long."

Nov. 1 was the actual anniversary date, but staff members and customers celebrated the event a couple months ago when the weather was nicer, Mr. Pulford said.

At one time, Porkies had restaurants in East Moline, Rock Island and Milan, but only the Silvis location remains. And it's been in the same building the whole time, he said.

Before it was Porkies, it was a Mr. Quick restaurant owned by the late Lee Womack, he said.

"Mr. Womack passed away about 11 years ago," said Mr. Pulford, who, along with co-owner Bruce Petersen, of Bettendorf, has kept Porkies running ever since.

Mr. Pulford first was hired as an assistant manager, coming from Greenbriar Restaurant and Lounge, which was owned by his second cousin, Jack Pulford.

"I wouldn't know what else to do but the restaurant business, after this long," Roger Pulford said. "I have a 10-year plan. I'm turning 50, and want to make it another 10 years."

His dream then is to write a book of stories former employees used when calling in sick and unusual complaints customers have shared over the years, he said.

Mr. Pulford recalled how one employee kept using the excuse that her grandmother had died, "but she ran out of grandmas," he said. "I told her once, 'I think you've lost about five grandmas now,'" he said.

Mr. Pulford gets up at 3 a.m. on business days to open the restaurant at 5:30 a.m. for the breakfast crowd. Breakfast and lunch are served until 11 a.m., and then Porkies, perhaps best known for its giant pork tenderloin, remains open until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and until 7 p.m. on Saturdays.

"We're closed Sunday for God — for the Lord's Day," Mr. Pulford said.

The struggling economy also makes the restaurant business difficult, he said.

But he credits Porkies' success to loyal customers and employees.

"I'd say 80 percent of our business is from regular customers," Mr. Pulford said, as he looked around the restaurant, saying he knew every single customer Friday morning.

"Many of my staff has been with me for a long time," he said. "I haven't had to hire anyone in the past three years, and some of my staff has been here for as long as 14 years or so. This is truly a family atmosphere."

It truly has a "piggy" atmosphere, too.

"Chef Porkie" pictures decorate the place, and pig-inspired wallpaper trim hang around the restaurant's interior. Door chimes also come in the shape of a pig, and signs advertise the availability of "Hog Wash" drinks.

Visitors to Porkies also are welcomed by "Elroy," a pig statue in Porkies' front yard next to outdoor signs promoting the day's food specials. Elroy was given to Porkies "by a group of Harley guys," Mr. Pulford said. "We had a naming contest, and the name 'Elroy' was chosen."

It was in honor of one of the "hog-riding" contributors, Mr. Pulford said.

He's gotten a lot of pig-themed memorabilia from his customers over the past 25 years, and it is scattered throughout the restaurant. He remembers once being asked for a Porkies coffee mug one of his customers wanted to use to store his father's ashes.

Mr. Pulford also still enjoys wearing the store's Chef Porkie mascot costume every once in a while, saying it's always fun to see reactions he gets from kids — squeals of delight, no doubt.


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: Some persons are negotiating for 80 feet of ground on Illinois Street with a view of erecting four stores thereon. It would serve a better purpose if the money was invested in neat tenement houses.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000.
1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city.
1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association.
1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College.
1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.

(More History)