Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012, 11:50 am

Porkies celebrates quarter-century in Silvis

Comment on this story

By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Porkies owner Roger Pulford prepares food as his daughter, waitress Nicole Wubbena, gets ready to serve customers breakfast in Silvis on Friday, October 26, 2012. Porkies is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
The morning rush hour has dozens of customers taking advantage of Porkies drive through.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Joanne Johnson moves from the kitchen into the dining room with a tray full of breakfast food at Porkies in Silvis on Friday, October 26, 2012.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
A miniature pig greets customers as they approach the counter at Porkies in Silvis. The pig is one of several images in the dinning room that remind customers of the restaurant's name.
Photo:
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.