Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Ike Sanders hospitality and foodservice success, as a person of color, in Bloomington, Illinois.

Isaac "Ike" Joshua Beasley Sanders (1878-1929), a negro, opened a restaurant and rooming house located at 306 South Main Street in Bloomington, Illinois in 1903. It was known as “Ike Sander’s Restaurant Short Order House.” The restaurant not only provided good meals and courteous service but provided people with boarding and lodging by the day of the week with clean and well-ventilated rooms for reasonable prices.
The interior of Ike Sander's first restaurant in Bloomington, Illinois. Ike's first wife, Allie Headley is behind the bar; Ike's sister, Lillian is on the right and Ike is in the rear.
Lue Anna Brown Sanders Clark recalled that his restaurant served both blacks and whites and that Ike was well-liked by all people in Bloomington which was likely why his business was so successful. Ike and Allie continued to run the restaurant until 1911 when Allie passed away. Shortly after Allie’s death Ike sold the restaurant and moved back to Boston, Massachusetts.

Ike returned to Bloomington around 1915 and opened another restaurant. This lunchroom, the "Cafe and Pool Hall," was located at 410 South Main Street. In February of 1916, an advertisement appears in The Weekly Advertiser (a local black publication) that lists Ike’s pool hall and café at 107 South Main Street in Bloomington, in the central business district. 
Ike Sanders (left) and another man in front of Cafe and Pool Hall at 103 S. Main St., Bloomington, Illinois.
Note the Ringling Brothers circus posters in the windows.
A few months later during the summer of 1916, Ike opened the last restaurant he would operate, "The Workingman’s Club" (also known as the Colored Men’s Club) of the City of Bloomington. The restaurant was first located at 408 South Main Street. In order to open his restaurant at that location, Ike (because he was a Negro) had to get permission from the citizens and businessmen in the 400 block of South Main Street. In the statement, the people who lived and worked on that block stated that they were willing to allow Ike’s Workingman’s Club to open.

The club was at this location for a short time until Ike moved the club to 1101 West Washington Street around 1917 where it remained until he was forced to close in late 1919.  His second wife, Lue Anna Brown, and Ike worked as equal partners at the Workingman’s Club.
Owners Ike and Lue Anna Brown Sanders and the interior of the Working Men's Club located at 1101 W. Washington Street, Bloomington, Illinois at 11:25 am. Circa 1917
The Workingman’s Club was open 7 days a week from 7:00 am to midnight. The Club “provided rooms, recreation, and food for the working man.” At first, the Club was a “private affair.” Men who wished to come in would sign their names in the book and give a $1.00 per year membership fee. However, Lue Anna recalled that after awhile everybody came in. She said “you know how people are. They just rush in whether it’s private or not.” Not only did the Workingman’s Club have a restaurant, but it also had a pool hall, barbershop, and rooms for working men to stay overnight. While Ike was the President of the Workingman’s Club (managing the pool hall, the barbershop, the drinks, and all of the finances) he gave Lue Anna control over the restaurant.

Lue Anna recalled that meals were served whenever anyone came in, including breakfast. She said there were three small tables in the restaurant and she helped cook and serve customers. Lue Anna remembered that they did not serve “fancy foods” such as greens, chitlins, barbeque ribs, or potato pie. Pig feet and pig ears were favorite menu items, but they “served most anything customers wanted including beef stew, hamburgers, neckbones,” and fish every Friday. They also served Bohemian, Crown, and Budweiser beers.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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