‘One icon replacing another’. Jack in the Box to take over Arby’s Countryside location

Jack in the Box will replace Arby's in Countryside, which closed on July 8

As Countryside Mayor Sean McDermott put it, “One icon replacing another.”

The first icon is Arby’s, with its distinctive, bright, towering sign that resembles a 10-gallon hat.

The final day of curly fries and beef sandwiches was July 7 at 5656 S. La Grange Road.

In its place will be another icon, Jack in the Box, a national chain with more than 2,200 restaurants in 22 states that is returning to the Chicago area after a 40-year absence.

Last week, Jack in the Box announced plans to open eight 24-hour restaurants in the area, one in Chicago and seven in the suburbs. Countryside was said to be in the mix.

”They haven’t been in the Chicago area for over 40 years. It’s an iconic chain. It’s nice to see they’re interested in coming to the city of Countryside,” McDermott said July 6.

McDermott confirmed Jack in the Box is coming, but he was reluctant to say where pending notification of Arby’s employees.

On Saturday night, July 6, Arby’s manager Joe Lance, 58, of Berwyn confirmed the closure.

“Take a good look. Once we close at 10 [o’clock] tomorrow night [July 7], that’s it,” Lance said while taking a break in the parking lot about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, nodding toward the restaurant’s sign.

The Daily Herald reported last week that Jack in the Box had 20 restaurants in the Chicago area into the late 1970s and then left the Chicago area in order to focus on locations In the southwest U.S.

”We learned a month ago that they were planning to come to Countryside,” McDermott said.

The fact that Countryside does not levy a municipal property tax on businesses or residents probably helped attract Jack in the Box, he said.

”I think that would be very appealing to any business looking to open up in the area,” McDermott said.

Customer favorites include burgers, tacos, chicken sandwiches, milkshakes, breakfasts and late-night snacks, according to the Jack in the Box website.

Fans of Arby’s in Countryside will have to travel to Downers Grove, Elmhurst and points beyond to get their fix of curly fries and beef sandwiches, Lance said. The manager since November, Lance said he is being transferred to the Arby’s on Finley Road in Downers Grove. He does not own a car, so he is happy a bus runs from Berwyn to Downers Grove.

”I enjoyed it. We had fun here,” said Lance, a Morton East High School graduate.

Noting the Arby’s in Hickory Hills at 95th Street and Roberts Road also is closing, Lance wondered if “the prices for everything going up” played a role. A classic beef and cheddar with curly fries and a soft drink meal deal costs more than $10.

”Look at McDonald’s, they’re empty. Taco Bell, they’re empty. Lucky Dog, they’re empty. The Halal Guys, you never see no business in there,” Lance said of fast food restaurants on the east side of La Grange Road in Countryside.

However, he noted that Arby’s has loyal customers who have been asking about potato cakes since he arrived in November.

The company “brought the potato cakes back and everybody’s been going nuts for them,” he said with a smile.

In a statement in the Daily Herald story, Darin Harris, CEO of Jack in the Box, said, “We’re excited to bring our unique menu where customers can order any item at any time – day or night.”

One thing for certain is Jack in the Box will face stiff competition on La Grange Road, where it is practically impossible for anyone to ever go hungry.

With Arby’s closing, there are 22 places to eat on La Grange Road from Buona Beef at Plainfield Road to White Castle near Joliet Road. That’s a span of less than one mile. Actually, the number of places to satisfy hunger jumps to 23 on weekends when a Rainbow Cone ice cream truck is parked in the Buona Beef parking lot. A woman working there said business had been slow during the day Saturday but picked up in the evening.

The new Jack in the Box locations will offer dine-in, drive-thru and mobile ordering options and plan to be open 24 hours a day, according to the company’s website.

Back at Arby’s on Saturday night, Al Mackey, 71, of La Grange Park pulled into the lot and asked Lance if he could use some coupons.

“Long as they’re not expired,” Lance said.

News of the closure surprised and saddened Mackey.

”Aw, jeez. You’re kidding,” Mackey said. “This guy [Lance] is a great guy. He gives me extra ketchups.”