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Penny's a new experience in video gaming

Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 12:02 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 12:17 a.m. CDT
(Monica Maschak –
Owner Mike Thiessen and manager Lyndsay Parrish (both center) cut the ribbon among Sycamore Chamber of Commerce members at the grand opening of Penny's place in Sycamore on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

SYCAMORE – DeKalb resident Andre Renteria won $135 the first time he ever gambled in his life while dining at Penny’s Place, 2694 DeKalb Ave., Sycamore.

Renteria heard about Penny’s from his girlfriend, Hannah Burgess, who works at video-gaming establishment.

“When Hannah was working here, this was a new experience for me,” Renteria said. “Then when I tried [the slot machine] and I won the money, it’s entertaining. It’s fun.”

Penny’s Place opened Feb. 27 and held its grand opening April 29 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and menu tasting. The restaurant has five slot and video poker machines, the maximum the state of Illinois allows, and limits customers to three alcoholic beverages during their stay.

Mike Thiessen is a partner in the Blackhawk Restaurant Group, the parent company that owns the Sycamore location along with 35 others in the state. The Sycamore shop is between 2,100 to 2,200 square feet, bigger than the average location, he said.

Thiessen said the business tends to attract more women than men. They also like to be located near a grocery store so that customers can shop and then dine at Penny’s. The Sycamore location is just a few steps from Hy-Vee.

The restaurant offers sandwiches, pizza and desserts such as chocolate chip cookies and beer, wine and champagne.

“[It’s ideal] if you want to have a glass of wine or a sandwich,” Thiessen said. “It’s just a different environment.”

Employees and customers say that environment includes a friendly staff. Burgess, who has worked in customer service since the beginning of April, said she greets customers and checks on them every 20 minutes or so.

Burgess even has the drink choice of some customers memorized so that as soon as they walk in the door, she can pour them a glass.

“It’s a little hangout,” she said. “It’s quiet and peaceful. I think it’s really good for that, if you just want to sit in peace.”

Garry Lafever stopped in to check out the restaurant Sunday. He was impressed by the friendly staff, something he said he isn’t used to experiencing while dining at area bars.

Lafever works at College Bound Thrifts, 122 E. Hillcrest Drive, DeKalb, and said he likes to stop by other local businesses to see what they offer.

“I would rate this place No. 1,” he said.

As for Renteria, he said he will continue to gamble at Penny’s for another chance at luck.

“It gets your hopes up. You end up liking it,” Renteria said. “That’s what happened to me.”

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