On Sunday night, the doors to Petersen’s Restaurant closed for good.

Loyal customers gathered the previous day at the Oak Park landmark on Chicago Avenue to munch on their last Bartelburger, listen to tunes provided by the local Dooley Brothers band and share memories of the eatery that’s served the community since 1931 (the ice cream parlor started in 1919).

Retired Oak Park couple Ed and Carole Bergstraesser were among the crowd at Petersen’s. They said their grandchildren always loved to come to the restaurant as kids, and since they’ve grown up, nothing has changed.

“They get off the plane from New York, and instantly they want to come to Petersen’s,” Ed said, adding that he’ll miss Petersen’s for its affordability, among other things.

“What I’m going to miss most is it was an option for formal dining,” he said. “Everybody in the neighborhood would come here and didn’t have to cough up a lot of money. Over 40 years we spent part of our life here. It was like home.”

Lee Brooke started coming to the eatery in 1935 when he first moved to Oak Park at the age of five. The rich, peppermint ice cream was always an enticing treat as a child, and 72 years later, little has changed.

His brother, Dave Brooke, flies in from Rochester, N.Y., a couple of times a year and, after renting a car, he drives straight to Petersen’s from O’Hare Airport to grab a quart of peppermint ice cream before heading to Lee’s condo.

River Forester Anthony Benesen and his daughter Victoria, a sophomore at OPRF, have only lived in the area for a year and a half, but they’ve already developed an appreciation for Petersen’s and its “quality food.” The restaurant is close to their home, and they like to have lunch together on Saturdays.

“I think it’s too bad. This is one of the few mom-and-pop restaurants left,” Anthony said. “I’d hate to see it replaced by a chain. To my understanding, Oak Park is attempting to cultivate the image of uniqueness, and it’s hardly unique if you have these cookie-cutter places everywhere.

“Petersen’s is the kind of place that would make you go out of your way to come here.”

Sam Cisco, a River Forester for 30 years, has been coming to Petersen’s for lunch every couple of weeks on Saturdays with his friend and business associate Melvin Wade of Chicago. The two said the pleasant atmosphere, reasonable prices and cordial employees kept them coming back over the years.

“A lot of people are going to miss it,” Wade said. “It’s a very pleasant place for everybody. Just like Cheers, you like to go where everybody knows your name. Everybody made a point of coming and talking to you. You miss that feeling, like you’re right at home.”

The Dooley Brothers grew up in River Forest and went to Fenwick High School. Bill Dooley said he has “too many fond memories [about Petersen’s] to mention.”

Younger Dooley, Jim, recalled taking dates to Petersen’s while he was in high school in the 1960s, “just like everyone else. I consider this among the handful of places that are the heart of Oak Park, and it’s sad to see it go,” Jim said. “It’s too bad the village couldn’t do something to keep it here.

“These are the kind of places that people come to Oak Park for; this is what makes it unique. We, being independent [musicians], can appreciate how hard it is this day and age to keep a small, unique business alive.”

Owner Daryl Bartelson said the last few weeks have been an emotional time for Bartelson and his family. He just wanted to keep Petersen’s afloat for a final few weeks to give its regulars a chance to come one last time.

“It’s important that this village’s government and community do their best to support local family-owned businesses because that helps roots to stay deep in a community,” Bartelson said.

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