Rogers says bye as chili parlor changes hands
By KATHRYN REM
THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
Posted Dec 31, 2008 @ 07:49 PM
Last update Dec 31, 2008 @ 11:33 PM
One after another, loyal customers filed in the front door of Joe Rogers’ Original Recipe Chili Parlor looking for the proprietor, Marianne Rogers, to say goodbye Wednesday, her last day behind the counter of the popular chili joint.
“Some people are saying it’s the end of an era,” Rogers said about the business started as The Den in another location by her parents — Joe and Pauline Rogers — in 1945. “I’m giving lots of hugs today.”
The new owners, Ric and Rose Hamilton, say they aren’t about to mess with a winning formula.
“Absolutely nothing will change,” said Rose Hamilton, who retired from the Illinois Department on Aging to oversee day-to-day operations. “Marianne has taught us the prep, the meat, the beans, and we’ll get the spices from her. Even the staff is staying on.”
Added Rogers: “Nothing will change except Rose will be here instead of me, and she’s taller.”
The sale was final Dec. 15.
Paul Pachlhofer, a state employee and radio host, stops by Joe Rogers’ at least once a week, usually for a bowl of the medium-hot.
“It’s very seldom I come here and don’t meet someone I know,” said the Chatham man, who has been a customer for at least 20 years. “You see attorneys, state employees, construction workers, people from all walks of life in here.”
Like Pachlhofer, many of the chiliheads crowded Wednesday into the cozy shop at 820 S. Ninth St. are longtime customers.
“We’re seeing fourth and fifth generations,” said the personable Rogers, wearing a red apron, jeans and red chile-pepper earrings.
She’s started a new venture: selling the spice blend that goes into Joe Rogers’ chili. The Hamiltons will buy their spices from her, and she will offer licenses to others who want to use the spice blend commercially.
“I didn’t really want to learn the spices from Dad, but after his first heart attack, he insisted. He said, ‘One day you’ll thank me.’ I don’t know how many times I thanked him,” Rogers said.
Using the same recipe as her parents, she cooks the beans and meat separately, which enables customers to personalize their chili. It comes without beans, with extra beans, without meat, with extra meat and — in a tradition prized in Springfield — with as much oil in the bowl as the diner wants.
The chili comes in mild, medium, medium with a touch of hot, medium-hot, hot and the J.R. Special, also known as firebrand.
The chili parlor is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Rogers says she intends to return often, as a customer, for her favorite — a bowl of hot.
Helping Ric and Rose Hamilton with the business will be their children, T.C., 16, a sophomore at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, and Macy, 18, a freshman at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
“We hope to seamlessly transfer,” Rose Hamilton said, “from the Rogers family to the Hamilton family.”