Peoria has its very own GOP and this GOP has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with local eateries and supplies for your personal kitchen and coffee needs. The GOP I’m talking about is the George O. Pasquel Company and it’s been supplying local restaurants and the Peoria community since 1946! The company has a unique and rich history and while they take pride in looking back, they’re also moving forward in today’s ever-changing retail world.
The man who knows both sides of this history is Pete Pasquel, who was the second generation owner of this company. Pete and his parents were my very first neighbors in this world. Way back when I was born in 1958 and my family lived on Brookmont Road in the Knollcrest neighborhood. Recently my dad was telling me about our former neighbors the Pasquels and their legendary family-owned business. I wanted to hear more, so I got hold of Pete and he agreed to meet with me and give me a tour of the George O. Pasquel Company. And so it's off we go!
Here’s the main building for the George O. Pasquel Company. I absolutely love the Nugget Brand Pig that’s crawling up the side of the building! The entrance is right there, but our tour doesn’t start here, it starts...
With these buildings across the street. That’s Pete Pasquel who has been working for this company, pretty much his whole life. His dad George founded the company in 1946. Pete told me his father had been a coffee salesman for Standard Brands here in Peoria for 18 years and he had a dream of starting his own food supply and service business. His boss told him to forget the dream because he had three strikes against him: He was an Italian immigrant, he didn’t graduate from eighth grade and he had no seed money for the business. Ignoring his boss’ advice, George Pasquel secured a $5,000 dollar loan from his friend, Denn Andros, a Greek immigrant who was the cafe manager for Hiram Walker. George secured the building on Adams Street, worked hard and his dream became a reality. The business has stayed a family business through the years with Pete taking it over from his father and expanding the business to two blocks and several buildings here on Adams Street in the Warehouse District. His daughter, Maria and her husband, Dan Whitson now run the company. Pete said the tour would best be started in these buildings and the one on the end is the city’s oldest three story structure in town. That’s just the tip of the history iceberg that’s inside of here!
The first two rooms in the building are jam-packed with kitchen and restaurant supplies, many decades old. Bradley and Avanti’s rent space in the building and store items here.
It was interesting looking through those items, but the real treasure trove is in the far room back here. Pete leads the way inside!
This bar is from the Yatuki restaurant and was salvaged after a fire there. Pete holds an ice cream dish from decades ago and there’s a vintage Borden’s milk shake flyer, a Schwwans Ice Cream sign and a Richardson Root Beer barrel from days gone by. Overhead is the original tin ceiling in the building which was originally built in 1846. Pete takes pride in the fact that the family has re-purposed these historic buildings rather than having them torn down.
There’s clippings and photos on the far wall and the first one I saw was my friend Vic Burnett, the weatherman who changed my life! That’s so cool, life keeps going round and round! There’s other photos and cartoons from the past and I love looking at vintage print items like this.
That’s an antique bakery bread slicer that Pete is standing in front of and then he showed me a restaurant coffee warmer from the ‘60’s. It’s like a museum in here and other items we looked at included Windy the Clown, an old Kentucky Fried Chicken poster, uniforms from a German restaurant, a painting from a Mexican restaurant and old Michelob On Tap neon sign.
There’s a case from the ‘50’s adorned with vintage ice cream signs and globes. The case was packed with interesting items and the coolest trifecta in the case were the Billy Beer can, the George O. Pasquel mug and a Maxwell House coffee mug.
And now the tour will move across the street where the retail and restaurant supply business operate out of. There’s Pete posing in front of the building and I just about got ran over taking this shot in the middle of the street!
Pete led the way in and showed me a framed cover of an iBi magazine with himself and his family on it. You can read that article by clicking here and there’s another nice one written by Steve Tarter that you can read here. By the way, I used to be Steve Tarter's editor at one time and I hope he never forgets it!
Pete then led me to the “memory hallway" which includes this prestigious Gold Top Cane Award presented to his father George in 1979 for outstanding business achievements in Peoria.
The opposite wall is filled with awards, titles, deeds, photos, newspaper clippings and the centerpiece is the quote from George O. Pasquel, “Don’t Listen To Anyone Who Says It Couldn’t Be Done.” Inspiring words to live by!
This is an unbelievable item on this wall. Hunter’s restaurant was a legendary restaurant here in downtown Peoria, famous for it’s hot dogs. They closed in 1981 and Pete went and bought the last hot dog and had it shellacked and preserved on this plaque! It’s seeing items like this that make all the work that goes into this blog so worth the while!
Pete took a seat on this vintage Coca Cola couch and told me I could take a look around at the retail section of the business, so armed with the MBIP Camera, here we go!
I had no idea that in addition to being a supplier to restaurants and coffee houses, this place is also a retail store that's open to the public and the front showroom is huge and so impressive! It’s loaded with over 2,000 products including a huge selection of gourmet coffee and syrups, kitchen supplies, dishes, paper goods, spices, foods, dry goods and everything from small wares to commercial equipment. I had no idea all of this was in here!
And there’s more in this room over here! These showrooms are like something you see in Chicago and New York and if you’re like me and not aware of this unique retail option in downtown Peoria, you should definitely check it out!
I mentioned earlier, that Pete’s daughter, Maria and her husband Dan are running the operation now and Pete told me that their children are following their own Pasquel dreams. Their daughter Rowena is in Los Angeles pursuing an acting career and their other daughter Fiona is studying dancing. The next generation of Pasquel dreams are happening and I know that their great grandfather, George would be very proud of them!
Thanks so much to Pete Pasquel for this tour, I really enjoyed hearing and seeing about the past and present George O. Pasquel Company! We’ll see you all tomorrow!
1416 SW Adams Street