A Morris couple has purchased Big Bash Restaurants, the company that owns Morris Chop Shop, Big Fish Grille in Wilmington and Big Bash Catering. A third restaurant owned by the business, Pescolino in Channahon, was spun off on its own and was not part of the sale.
Tim Berner and Jackie Clisham finalized the purchase Dec. 3 and, after the Morris City Council approved the transfer of a liquor license, then went to the restaurant to tell the staff.
The new owners said they plan to continue how the restaurant is currently run.
"Nothing's changed except the name on the paperwork," Berner said.
The previous owner and founder, John Mathias, said he and his wife decided to sell the company because of some changes in their life that adjusted priorities. He said he will still be working at Pescolino, and he would stay on to work with the new owners of the other two restaurants for some time.
Mathias also plans to work with the weddings he booked for next year because they booked with him.
"This was my baby for 10 years," he said. "But I can't be its leader any more."
He said the new owners are passionate, and he didn't expect there to be much change in the staff.
"Contrary to popular belief, I wasn't the chef," he said. "I didn't cook the food."
Clisham worked as in-house counsel for an airline catering company and also has an MBA. Berner worked for AT&T for more than 30 years until retiring this July.
"I'm too young to sit around and do nothing," Berner said. "And I don't want to."
Clisham also works as a a health coach and said she hopes to bring some of her knowledge in that field into the restaurant — not to change things, but to add items like cauliflower rice or sweet potato mashed potatoes to provide options for health-conscious customers.
"We're super excited," Berner said, "obviously nervous, but super excited."
The couple moved to Morris about a year ago and said they fell in love with the town. When they saw Big Bash was up for sale, they said the community would be perfect to support it.
"It's all about small business," Clisham said.
Morris Chop Shop is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at 701 N. Liberty St. in Morris. Big Fish Grille has the same hours and is located at 27425 S. Will Road in Wilmington.