September 23, 2014

ISBDC helped El Greco remain open

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- When El Greco faced the possibility of closing a few years ago, Winslow Chou and business partner Ethan Jefferson knew the longtime Carbondale restaurant could not go down without a fight. 

El Greco reopened in March 2013 with Chou and Jefferson as the owners and a year and a half later, Chou will celebrate the business’ 40th anniversary in October. 

Chou said he heard from a friend and El Greco employee that the restaurant was closing. 

“Having been a Carbondale resident my whole life, I felt shock and dismay that an old Carbondale standby was about to close down and my first thought was ‘oh no, not another Carbondale business,’” Chou said.  “My second thought was ‘you know what, I need to do something about it.’” 

Upon the new ownership, Chou said he has made efforts to sharpen the labor and inventory costs and extend the marketing reach in the community. To help his efforts, Chou went to the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he got his first business started, for general restaurant statistics and guidelines. 

Chou’s relationship with the center began in the late 1990s when he started his first business, a computer accessories manufacturing firm. 

“I have a very soft spot in my heart for the SBDC,” Chou said. “Ever since my first business, I felt like they were an important resource that I could go back to for my next step.” 

The SBDC helped Chou craft a business plan and seek financing for his business, he said. 

Chou said not a day goes by without a customer expressing gratitude that they saved El Greco from closing. A few of the customers, he said, will tell him that they have been eating at El Greco since they were a kid or will even drive from Paducah, Ky., or Cape Girardeau, Mo., to visit El Greco.

The SBDC will host “Celebrating 30 Years of Small Business Success,” Nov. 14, from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, 1740 Innovation Drive, Carbondale.  The event will feature guest speakers, client success stories, awards, a trade show highlighting the center’s client success stories and “A Taste of SBDC,” showcasing a large number of area food producers.  For more information, contact Robyn Laur Russell at or 618/536-2424. 

The Illinois Small Business Development Center/International Trade Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and hosted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale.