PAXTON — Todd Thorstenson and Brendan Healey grew up eating meals from Paxton’s Just Hamburgers. Now the pair, operating as Heath Properties LLC of Champaign, will be able to eat there whenever they want. For free.
Thorstenson, of Champaign, formerly of Paxton, and Healey, of Wilmette, formerly of Bayles Lake near Loda, are the new co-owners of the popular hamburger business that closed April 1 when former longtime owners Cary and Connie Hasselbring retired.
“Being local, we’re happy to get it back open,” Thorstenson said.
Jonathan Frichtl, another area native, will serve as manager.
Thorstenson said the eatery could open as soon as next month.
“We want to open as soon as possible, but obviously we need to hire a staff,” he said. “I think some of the employees that had been with them will come back.
“We need to make sure Jonathan and the staff all know the product very well so you’re getting the same experience you were getting.”
Thorstenson said the business will employ eight to 10 people.
They will operate with a philosophy of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. That means don’t expect any changes at a business that has largely been unaffected by the sands of time.
“I can’t reiterate enough that nothing is going to change,” he said. “Everything will stay the same. There won’t be any in-store dining,” and the menu will remain intact.
“I grew up going to Just,” Thorstenson said. “We’d always have to get an extra bag or two of French fries. They were so good, we couldn’t get home without eating them all.”
But he said he and his family didn’t call it “Just Hamburgers” or “Just.” They called it “Skippy’s” after Skip Parcell, who started the business in 1971. Jim Parcell bought it in 1977, and Cary Hasselbring became owner in 1986. He and his wife, Connie, had operated it for several decades.
Thorstenson said the Hasselbrings will help train the staff so everything remains the same as much as possible.
“The Hasselbrings, they’ve been fantastic,” Thorstenson said. “They’ve said, ‘Whatever you need.’ They’ll train our staff. It was very important to us that they’ll be involved after the sale.
“I just saw them. They came by to take a photo in front, and they said, ‘We can’t wait to work with you,’” he added. “They’ve been super nice. They wanted it to be the same and successful and keep it going another 40 years.”
Thorstenson and Healey’s families have a history in the food business. Their fathers and other partners owned 25 Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants.
For the past 10 years, Thorstenson has owned and operated TCBY, a frozen-yogurt shop in Champaign that also sells at University of Illinois sporting events and the Rantoul Family Sports Complex. He formerly co-owned Boltini Lounge with Cody Sokolski and owned Hammerhead Coffee, which he named after Hammerhead Records, a label he started and ran from 1993 to 2001.
Healey is an attorney in Wilmette.
Thorstenson said a grand opening is planned.