Crowd gathered for Wahlburgers grand opening Tuesday morning

Dozens of community members, Hy-Vee employees and area business owners flocked to the Hy-Vee in Sycamore on Aug. 22, 2023 for the grand opening of the Wahlburgers location inside the grocery store.

SYCAMORE – The Wahlburgers location inside the Hy-Vee in Sycamore is officially open after a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning by the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce that brought dozens of community members to the Midwest grocery chain.

Wahlburgers is owned by three brothers: chef Paul Wahlberg, whose name is featured heavily among his Wahlburgers menu creations; Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block fame; and actor Mark Wahlberg.

Some individuals staked out the front of the Hy-Vee at 2700 DeKalb Ave. in Sycamore, hoping to meet a member of the Wahlberg family; however, none of the Wahlberg brothers were in attendance.

Hy-Vee district store director Andrew Cochran, who manages Hy-Vees in Sycamore and Peru, said this wasn’t the first Wahlburgers location he’s opened inside a grocery store. In January 2022, Cochran announced the celebrity-owned burger joint would open inside the Hy-Vee at 1651 Midtown Road in Peru.

“These grand openings are always a big event, and we get a lot of people. I have one in Peru, I’ve opened one previously in Bloomington, so I’ve had a little bit of experience with them,” Cochran said. “Great food, and it’s a new offering to people. I mean, it kind of brings people back in to try something different.”

Valerie Cranden, owner of Ollie’s Frozen Custard shop and Little O’s Frozen Treats food truck, attended the Wahlburgers grand opening Tuesday morning alongside Ollie’s general manager Eric Karl.

Cranden and Karl will be working their food truck at Corn Fest in DeKalb this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and also will be at Sycamore’s Ribs, Rhythm and Brews Fest on Saturday evening.

Still, Karl said he wanted to take time to check out and support a new Sycamore business.

“We were across the street at Ollie’s cleaning our trailer for the coming week, so [we’re] just supporting local businesses,” Karl said. “We’ve been to the Wahlburgers in St. Charles. I think it’s good for the community.”

Cody Dale, 34, of Rochelle was hired as the Wahlburgers lead after working almost 20 years as a chef at various food establishments. He said he initially wasn’t sure about working for a corporate brand, but he was blown away as soon as he was put in contact with the company.

Just before the quick-service restaurant opened, Dale said “it feels really cool” to work for the celebrity-created brand.

“I’ve worked for a lot of different corporate places, and you never really get that whole, you know, ‘Well, who’s the next one up?’ Like you don’t even know the name of your regional manager let alone the owners and stuff like that,” Dale said. “This is one of those where we’ve all watched the [‘Wahlburgers’] TV show, we’ve all grown up with them, we’ve watched the movies. It’s one of those where it feel like friends to us, to everybody.”

The Wahlburgers in the Sycamore Hy-Vee is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Cochran is hoping the food option will bring in more consumers.

“It’s all made-to-order, fresh food. It’s really good food. If you get a chance to try it, you should,” Cochran said. “And that’s really what it comes down to. That’s what people want. We’ve kind of moved from a hot case model where you used to come, and people just don’t want that. They want food cooked fresh, and this is a way for us to offer that and have a little celebrity name to go with it.

“And, like I said, at the end of the day, it’s just really good food.”