Dan Harriman tells me the Quonset hut once home to Casper’s at 601 W. Walnut St. might once again be put to use, possibly as a restaurant.
Harriman and his wife Belinda owned the business, then sold it in 2013 to a team headed by Shawn Kraft, who owns Nonna’s Italian Cafe. Kraft moved out in 2022 and is planning, still, to open in the building that once housed Anton’s Coffee Shop, 937 S. Glenstone Ave.
Both Casper’s, which opened in Springfield in 1909 and was known for its chili, and Anton’s, which opened on April Fools Day 1974 and was known for its breakfasts, were city icons.
Anton’s closed in March 2020, a few months after owner Anton Tasich died at age 88.
Like interviewing a Magic 8 Ball
It’s Harriman who still owns the hut and the sliver of land — .221 acres — where it’s located for several decades.
No, Harriman tells me, he has no plans to sell the hut or the land.
“I have made tentative arrangements,” he tells me.
Of course, I asked about those tentative arrangements, and — as business people often do — he proceeded to tell me very little. We spoke over the phone.
I asked if he thought the hut would ever again house a business.
“Oh yes,” he said.
Question No. 2: Will that business be another restaurant?
“I think that is most likely. Time will tell.”
No time like the present, I suggested.
“Check back with me later,” he said.
I felt like I was talking to a Magic 8 Ball.
Harriman said he couldn’t chat longer because he had to go to lunch.
Asking again: When will Casper’s open?
In writing this column, I felt obliged to also speak to Kraft to ask the question he says he is asked daily: When will Casper’s open in its new location?
A Casper’s “coming soon” banner has been on the building since June.
In October, when I spoke to Kraft, his estimate was mid-November.
He told the News-Leader in November it would likely open in mid-December.
He told me Monday that, well, it’s coming soon.
Kraft said mistakes were made in the paperwork involving the remodeling project. It was mistakenly described as new construction when, in fact, it is not.
One of the changes being made to the building is the addition of a drive-thru.
In fact, he says, that was one of the main reasons for leaving the Quonset hut.
Kraft wanted more space — the Anton’s location is double the size. He also wanted a drive-thru.
He also said he wanted to escape the growing maintenance costs of doing business in the hut.
This is Pokin Around column No. 107.