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The doors to Ats-A-Nice Pizza opened on March 1, 1988 by two people who had never owned or operated their own business nor had they ever cooked for tens or even hundreds of thousands of people before! Paul Heatherington and Bill Grace knew each other from way back when. Bill was President of a bank and a member of Riverside Country Club and Paul was an ambitious teenager working weekends at that same country club while during the week he attended high school and worked another part time job in the tool and die business. After graduating high school in 1984, Paul took some college classes believing he wanted to go into the criminal justice field. In 1985, after realizing this was not the future he desired, he started working at a little Italian restaurant known as Tufano's in the Little Italy section of Chicago. Joey DiBuono is the owner of Tufano's and was also a member of the same country club that Paul worked at as a teenager. Upon starting his job at Tufano's, Paul made a three year commitment to work for Joey and told him he then wanted to open his own restaurant. Knowing Paul's diligent work ethic, Joey accepted and was happy to be Paul's mentor for the next three years. During that time, Paul worked his way from busboy to waiter while learning all the aspects of the restaurant business. A frequent diner was none other than Bill Grace and his lovely wife Geri. Over the years they watched Paul grow from the hard working teenager into the determined young man.

In the course of conversations, Paul told the Graces of his dream to own his own restaurant. Bill was looking for a career change and began thinking that the restaurant business may be in his future as well. After numerous dinners and conversations, Paul and Bill entered into a business partnership, scouted some areas and on that day back in 1988, the old Turnabout Pizza business was sold to them and the keys were handed over. The first thing they wanted to do was change the name. How do you come up with a name for a pizza place with so much competition out there? Well, they wanted to be first in the "yellow pages" back when people used phone books! So, hence then name "A"ts-A-Nice Pizza! Next, they needed to hire some employees, so the "help wanted" ad was placed in the front window written on a cardboard pizza circle. With the help of family and friends and now some teenage employees, the business was ready to run. Next was the menu. They continued to serve the same pizza with the famous "braided edge", but expanded the menu to include appetizers, salads (including the famous "Atsa" Salad), sandwiches and pasta's. The operating hours changed from 4 p.m. to now offering lunch and started opening at 11 a.m. Then there was some decorating to be done! They wanted to change the look of the dark wood paneling and brighten it up with some fresh paint and pictures on the walls. This was all in the first year.

The first year proved to be the most challenging. Long hours, long commutes and trying to build the business. But it happened! They had survived one year in a very competitive business and were very proud of their accomplishment! At that time, Bill was missing the banking business and had decided to return to the career he loved so much. Paul was forever grateful to Bill and Geri Grace for believing in his dream and helping him get his start. To this day, they share a very special friendship. You can always find the Graces at their special table on any given Friday night and the notice the plaque outside the party room dedicating it in their honor as "Grace's Gathering Place". In 1989, Paul began operating Ats-A-Nice Pizza as the sole proprietor and starting meeting many of the residents of Romeoville as customers. With his growing business, he determined he needed more room - a larger kitchen and a larger dining room. Not wanting to leave the location, he needed to wait for additional space to open up.

In 2001 when the pet shop next door closed it's doors, it opened a new door for Paul - EXPANSION! The amount of combined space was double what Ats-A-Nice had started out as. The existing space allowed for a much larger kitchen and lots of additional equipment and Paul's own office - no longer having to do his paperwork in a booth! Paul dedicated the new space to a larger dining room and a spacious private room for banquets, parties, showers, business meetings or any other reason to have a gathering of family and friends! The new dining room became Paul's new niche. He love's to welcome his customers and enjoys table hopping to catch up on what's been going on in their lives. Friends bring more friends and Paul enjoys meeting them all! The party room has hosted thousands of gatherings over the years. Paul can recall hosting wedding rehersal dinners and years later also hosting baby showers for some of those same couples as expectant parents - and when some of those kids are old enough, they will probably have a part time job at Ats-A-Nice. There have also been hundreds of birthday parties over the years - many families hosting several each year. Paul is always happy to celebrate another year in his customers lives. In the end, he has also hosted the funeral luncheon for many of these customers as well. This is one of the hardest parts of the business - losing not only a loyal customer, but also someone who has become a dear friend over the years.

Another heartbreak was in 2003 when Ats-A-Nice suffered a kitchen fire which forced Paul to closed the restaurant until repairs were done. He was told this would be several weeks. Contractors, family, friends and customers all came together and worked around the clock - cleaning up and repairing damages. With Paul's determination to reopen with little downtime and the dedication of those that believed he could do so, the doors to this pizza place were opened just five days later and that evening the dining room was packed! One of the greatest highlights in Paul's career was in 2005 when he hosted the World Series Trophy when the Chicago White Sox were the champions. Another dream would be to host the the Stanley Cup, better know as "Lord Stanley". Maybe this year - 2014 - when the Chicago Blackhawks capture the championship title once again! If you didn't already know it, Paul is an avid sports fan! You can tell this when entering the foyer of the dining room by all the sporting event photo's that grace the walls. He enjoys attending baseball and hockey games and loves meeting the athletes. Proud to be an American, it has become a tradition to dim the lights and rise for the singing of the Star Spangled Banner during any home Chicago Blackhawks game that is being televised in the dining room at Ats-A-Nice. The customers take a two minute break from their meal, but everyone proudly participates and then continue enjoying their dinner while also rooting for the hawks! Paul also enjoys his involvement in the local schools - especially Valley View School District and Romeoville High School. He has been involved with the boosters and along with his good friend Rudy Luevano, they have donated a brand new scoreboard for the baseball field. His school involvement also reaches into the Lemont school district where his two sons, Lucas and Zachary attend school. Both now in high school, Ats-A-Nice has supported numerous school functions from the time his children were little. Speaking of his children, you can see them both hard at work at Ats-A-Nice on the weekends. Looks like they may be following in dads footsteps and may be the next generation of pizza makers! He also has the love and support from his high school sweetheart and wife of 23 years, Cathy. On March 1, 2013 Paul celebrated 25 years in business. With March 1, 2014 quickly approaching, Paul will celebrate another year in business - his 26th year in business. Thank you to the residents of Romeoville, all the other Romeoville business owners, the Village of Romeoville Board and the Chamber of Commerce for your friendship, your continued support and for this prestige award. I am proud to be a part of your great town. Looking forward to a great 2014 and beyond! Through "thick and thin", it has truly been a "slice"!


Paul & Cathy Heatherington



Phone: 815.886.5200     |     Address: 334 N. Independence Blvd #A Romeoville, IL 60446      |     atsanice.com