Mike’s Italian Grill, after 39 years as a Kokomo staple, is closing.
Owner Mike O’Connor confirmed to the Tribune on Tuesday the restaurant will close “when I run out of food,” which he estimated will be sometime between Friday and Sunday.
“I’m devastated,” said O’Connor about his reaction to the restaurant’s closing. He declined to answer further questions about why he is shuttering the business.
O’Connor first opened for business at the corner of Alto and Dixon roads – as a produce stand – in 1980, after he was laid off by Delco Electronics Corp., according to a history recap posted on the Mike’s Italian Grill website.
O’Connor would soon incorporate a small pizza joint into his burgeoning operation. After opening the pizza shop, he went back to work at Delco and continued to run his restaurant in the late afternoon and evening.
After getting laid off by Delco again in 1982, O’Connor began to focus solely on the restaurant and produce stand.
By 1985, he owned the property and was expanding his menu, and by 1988 construction was underway on a building to house his ballooning business. That structure would need its own expansion in the early 1990s.
The name was eventually changed from Mike’s Pizza to Mike’s Italian Grill. O’Connor made the restaurant a recognizable public brand, in large part by sponsoring more than 150 youth athletic teams since 1980.
"My favorite part of owning the restaurant is serving folks I know, meeting people I don't know, and being able to help local charities. It has all been very rewarding for me,” said O’Connor on the restaurant’s website in 2011.
But, as he noted Tuesday: “This is it.”