Restaurant owner makes dream come true

January 22, 2008 8:15:58 AM PST
Starting your own business requires financial resources and a good business plan.A Cicero man recently opened a pizza restaurant after being unemployed for 10 years due to his disability.

Angel's Place of Cicero opened three months ago. John Garcia named the restaurant for his 9-year-old grandson.

"I was taking care of him a while, and he was always wanting pizza?we're right next to a park, and I thought about it because I always wanted to be self-employed. I knew I could always open my own restaurant one day. Basically, that was my dream, and it did come true," John said.

At the age of 21, John became disabled.

"I was stabbed in the back three times. I was coming home from work, and out of all that, I was paralyzed from my waist down. I went to Chicago Rehabilitation for about six months, and they told me I wouldn't be able to walk, and I sort of proved them wrong," said John. "I've been walking with a series of different leg braces from my knee down."

Shortly after that, John got a job at Hines VA Hospital, where he worked for 13 years.

"I handled like a 3.5 million dollar budget. My background is inventory, dealing with hospital staff, sales reps," he said.

Unfortunately, John had to retire at 36 because it was difficult for him to get around.

"I developed my own business plan, and I went through Small Business Developing Center for that, which is free of charge. Then, I surrounded myself with different disability advocates programs," said the restaurant owner.

Shirley Morley from the Illinois Department of Human Services got John Garcia involved with the Ticket to Work program.

"The Ticket to Work program is a program where people are beginning to consider going back to work and are on disability benefits. We will assist them with counseling and helping them to know what programs are available through the Social Security Administration," Morley said.

John also got support from Marise Frawley, who is with the Health and Disability Advocates.

"He was having some difficulty working with the Division of Rehabilitation Services and having them understand that he, a person with a disability, could start and be successful at his business. I became involved in an appeal that essentially resulted in his ability to purchase the pizza oven for this restaurant. It was very exciting. It was, actually, ground breaking," Frawley said.

Now that everything has come together and John has his pizza place, his grandson Angel is so proud.

"It's very exciting to have a restaurant named after me because my friends get to see that I have a restaurant named after me. And, it's really cool, and I love the pizza here," Angel said.

"If you like pizza and other Italian food, check out Angel's Pizza of Cicero, located at 2521 South Central Avenue in Cicero.

For more information, visit hdadvocates.org and yourtickettowork.com.

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