After nearly 60 years, the proprietor of one of the West Side's most iconic restaurant is retiring, but before she leaves, she looked to say thank you to her customers in a unique way.
Louise Dixon Harper has been running New Pine Valley Restaurant, located in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood in the 1600 block of South Pulaski, since all the way back in 1962. She recently announced that she would be retiring after 58 years, but she wanted to throw a party to mark the occasion.
“I come every morning at 3 o’clock and I leave at 5:30 in the evening,” she said. “If I got tired, the customers would never know the difference. I just keep going.”
On Saturday, Harper and the restaurant held a food giveaway to thank customers for their loyal patronage, complete with a DJ and with social distancing guidelines in place.
The restaurant has drawn some big-time celebrities over the years, including President Bill Clinton and former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Harper’s business has made it through relocation, riots and even the coronavirus pandemic. Along the way she married twice and had two children, who speak glowingly of their mother’s commitment to them, and the community.
“You know when you’re a little kid and you go off to school and learn your phone number?” her daughter Leola Westbrook-Lawrence said. “This was the number I learned.”
When Harper’s son passed away earlier this year, she took it as a sign that it was time for her to move on.
“I’m just ready. I’m so tired,” she said. “I’m ready to go.”
The restaurant will remain open under new ownership, but as Harper prepares for life after the restaurant business, she has some parting words for her customers.
“Grow stronger, and be good,” she said. “I want y’all to still act good!”