It was a bustling lunch hour in the Moline Adolph’s Mexican Foods and busier than usual on Thursday. Most tables were taken and the line to order consistently almost reached the door with more cars waiting outside in the drive-thru lane.
Nicholas Carter worked the front counter, taking orders and rarely getting a pause to breathe. Many people had made their way to the restaurant after hearing that it would be closed by the end of the year and shared their sadness at the news. For Carter, who’s spent 27 years there, the closure is a mixed bag of emotions.
“It comes and goes,” he said. “Sometimes I’m glad to be moving on, but at the same time it’s been a such a main part of our lives. It’s kind of like you’re losing a family member.”
Adolph’s Mexican Foods, 2903 Avenue of the Cities, Moline, will close its doors for the last time Christmas Eve, the restaurant announced Dec. 7, and owners Leslie and Robert Carter will retire from the business. The East Moline restaurant of the same name, 4030 Kennedy Drive, will remain open with no changes, owner John Perez said.
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The main reason for the restaurant’s closure is the fact that the owners, along with some employees, are ready to move on from running the business and focus on other aspects of their lives. Business hasn’t slowed down through the COVID-19 pandemic, Nicholas said, and they haven’t had the time for anything other than the restaurant for a while.
“A lot of things kind of pointed to this being a good time for us to move on,” Nicholas said.
Adolph and Louise Perez opened their first restaurant, El Sombrero, in 1952 in East Moline, later expanding to Moline with Adolph’s Mexican Foods and transitioning the East Moline restaurant to match. Adolph retired in 1996 and died in 2000, and Louise kept working until her death in 2007, and now two of their children, Leslie and John, run the restaurants, and Nicholas, Leslie and Robert’s son, works as manager for the Moline location.
Nicholas said he grew up in the restaurant, coming in with his grandparents to help set up Christmas decorations like the ones hanging up now. Large ornaments and paper snowflakes hang from the ceiling, metal poinsettias adorn picture frames and a Christmas tree topped with a sombrero is proudly lit in the center of the seating area.
Him, his family and fellow employees have seen generations of customers eat at Adolph’s, coming in with their parents as young people, then growing up and bringing in children of their own. The restaurant means a lot to the community, which was evident in the outpouring of support online and at the order window.
To the customers who have stuck with the restaurant for all these years, Nicholas said, “Thank you for letting us be a part of your lives.”