Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Secrist is returning to a somewhat changed Chet’s Dog House. When he was forced to close its doors, friends and loyal customers rallied, pulling off a massive fundraiser for the Secrist family and debating, for a time, whether to try keeping the business going in Chet’s absence. Instead, “Chet’s Heroes” arranged a diner makeover, to give Secrist additional motivation to recover and return as soon as he could.
Bill Baier, Dave Scott, Joe Foltz and Brian Bower championed that effort, through which the diner got new tables, lighting, floor covering and wall paneling, recovered stools for the counter, rehabbed fixtures and some new appliances. The work was done in 2009, while Secrist was recovering from a bone marrow transplant.
Since then Chet’s landlord, next-door business owner Jack Martin, said he’s declined a number of offers from other business operators who wanted to rent the improved space. So long as Secrist planned on returning at some point, he had dibs on it.
“Mainly, I wanted to see (Chet’s) reopened. Everybody did,” Martin said. “He’s an institution.”
Secrist is going back to work profoundly moved by the community’s investment in him.
“It’s inspiring. To be able to come back to a restaurant like this is amazing,” he said. “I can never say ‘thank you’ enough to the people who made it happen ... . I suppose there’ll be a lot of free food for a while, for those who’ll let me.”
Secrist is aiming to reopen the diner before the start of summer. An exact date isn’t circled yet, because with the relaunch, he’s doing something he’s never done before: hiring help. He wants Chet’s Dog House to be open on its old schedule, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 to 2 Saturday, and to maintain it he’ll need a cook, a dish washer and two waitresses.
Finding the right candidates for the jobs — people who will show up ready to work before sunrise, and work hard to keep the customers happy — is his biggest worry.
“We will pray and we will see what the results are. There are good people out there, it’s just a matter of time to find them,” he said.