Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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As Blockos closes, local restaurant owners weigh in on struggles, successes


Over the past six months a multitude of new businesses have made their way into Carbondale. From restaurants, to late night snack places, with even a new deli on the way.

While some of these new businesses are booming and bringing some life back to Carbondale, others have faced too many struggles and have announced their closure.

Blockos was an all American style restaurant that specialized in breakfast and lunch, located on the main strip in Carbondale. After almost seven months of business, it closed permanently Sept. 17.


This closure stirred up emotions around the area, with dozens of comments piled under the WTF? Carbondale Facebook post making the announcement, “Blockos will be closing permanently SUNDAY.”

Owner Alaye Graham responded to the community, posting:  “I apologize to everyone that hasn’t had the option to try us, we had the roughest weeks ever being open last week. Thank you to everyone for the support and it was wonderful being a part of the Carbondale community.”

Past customer Katie Evans commented, “My family and I loved your restaurant. My boys thought it was so cool seeing someone so close to their age start a business (incredible!) and the food was delicious.”

Amber Brantley Golchin wrote, “My understanding is that it’s really hard for restaurants in Carbondale… The fact that you came so far is a testament to your strength and talent.”

To that, Graham replied, “We had so many narratives stacked up against us but we fought through ‘em, I was just tired.”

One of those narratives involved a shooting that took place just outside Blockos on Sept. 2. Graham did not specifically mention that in his posts, but it clearly took a toll, forcing the restaurant to lose hours.

Other new businesses have had struggles as well, but managed to overcome them.


Notcho Fries, a new modern shop, opened on December 3, 2022. Located at 903 S. Illinois Ave., it is a short walk from campus on the strip.

“We chose Carbondale because one of our owners, Christopher Morales, is an SIU alum and he thought it would be a good spot to start it. We chose the strip because it’s right across from campus and the dorms and we’re kinda close to the bars,” co-owner Anais Robles said.

The menu ranges from fries of all sorts to wings, and even burgers and salads. On Wednesdays, the place has a deal for 75 cent wings, and for the remainder of September they are offering 10% off to students who show their student ID at checkout. The owners often do weekly specials that can be found on their Instagram @notchofries and on Facebook.

“We try to do a special of the week here and there that is not on our menu. Pizza, specialty fries, we’ve done fried chicken fries, we did quesadillas and things of that sort,” Robles said.

The idea for the restaurant was created by owners Morales, Robles and Juarez Monegain. They were looking to bring another late night option for students of the university and those who worked later shifts.

Aside from having a wide variety of options and late hours, another thing that sets this restaurant apart is that all three of its owners are in their 20s which helps them to relate to students.

Since its opening in December, the business has faced a few setbacks.

“We purchased the building we’re in with all the equipment so we went in thinking we had most of our kitchen equipment, but we soon found out that some of it was not functioning so we had to buy everything,” Robles said.

After repurchasing the majority of the kitchen equipment, the walk-in cooler where most of the food was stored broke down, requiring the owners to make another large purchase.

The restaurant also closed for a few weeks in December and month over the summer due to students being out of town.

“We opened during the lights festival in town so the first weekend was amazing and then students left the following week. We were so new to town that the locals didn’t know we were open yet so it was pretty rough those couple weeks,” Robles said.

When owning a business there are always some struggles, especially when it is in a town where the majority of the population is college students, but Notcho Fries overcame those struggles and business is on an uphill track with hopes of eventually making their restaurant a chain.

Opening on the West side in January is a new deli that will offer soups, salads, sandwiches, an array of other healthy options, as well as a few ethnic foods and even ice cream from the Ice Cream Factory. Carbondeli’s will also be smoking some of its very own meats in house.

“It’s going to be chiefly a deli but we’re going to have a ‘make line’ so you can make soups, salads and subs, so you can customize them and get what you want, as well as a specialty menu,” chief executive manager Alexander Schmidgall said.

Schmidgall, a southern Illinois native, is hoping to bring some of the Carbondale life to the West side of the city and open the minds of students with their healthy food options.

“We love Carbondale and there’s nothing on the West side to eat. This project is about bringing some life back to the West side and showing students we know what we’re doing when it comes to food. There’s several good local places but nothing right in the middle of Carbondale unless it’s pizza,” Schmidgall said.

Carbondeli’s will stay open until 2 a.m. and it will start residential delivery service soon after, as well as catering, hoping to add a healthy option to the late night food choices in the area.

“It’s about providing a service to Carbondale and the students because they need something to eat at night when they’re studying,” Schmidgall said. “[In college] you’re going to be up late nights getting ready for your next day and you need a meal.”

Schmidgall has nearly 15 years of experience in the food industry and has acquired almost 40 recipes that have been passed on from his family and friends.

“I won’t say that all of them will be at Carbondeli’s, but we’ll try to work them in and cycle them in with the different seasons and try to get different stuff out there,” Schmidgall said.

Carbondeli’s will also be offering gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options so there is something for everyone. The owner is also working with the Jackson County Health Department to have an allergy menu at the front of the restaurant.

“We are going to have a couple vegan options as well as multiple gluten free breads, also we’ll have some kind of imitation vegan meat and cheeses as well as almond coconut paradise and lemon poppy seed vegan ice cream,” Schimdgall said.

Schmidgall said they will be happy to change their gloves for anyone with allergies or specific food needs.

Beverage wise they will offer RC Cola, bottled Coke, teas and juices.

“Growing up, the West side was the place you wanted to be, and I don’t see any reason why that can’t be again,” Schmidgall said.

Carbondeli’s is now taking applications with hopes to create more jobs for those in the community. They’re looking to hire 10-11 employees. Information about them can be found on Facebook.

So while some restaurants in the area have failed, new shops are popping up looking to create more food options for people in the Carbondale area.


Staff Reporter Joei Younker can be reached at [email protected].


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