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Good customer service key to Screamers success

SHABBONA – When Waterman resident Teri Benson stopped by Screamers Ice Cream in Shabbona for a cheeseburger, she said it was the best burger she had ever tasted.

That might be because the burger's buns, just like all the bread in the restaurant, are baked fresh daily, and the barbecue sauce is homemade. The restaurant also boasts its own freshly cut fries.

"The hamburgers are excellent," Benson said. "If I ever want to get a hamburger ever again, I'll come here and get it."

That admission doesn't surprise Scot Ostrander who, with his wife Sandy, has owned the business for 10 years. They celebrated the restaurant's anniversary last weekend with an ice cream eating contest, bags tournament and raffle giveaways.

Ostrander's food industry background stretches back to when he was 14 years old and worked for a catering company. He also was a district manager for Subway at four locations in Plano, Yorkville, Plainfield and Oswego.

Ostrander's original intention was to open his own Subway restaurant, but after failed attempts at finding a suitable location – including a tornado in Utica thwarting hopes of opening a Subway there – he settled on opening his own business in Shabbona in July 2004.

Ostrander and his wife even moved from Yorkville to Shabbona in 2005 to make the commitment official.

"I totally fell in love with dealing with customers," Ostrander said. "We've always had the philosophy that the customer always comes first. Customer service is just as important, if not more important, than the quality of the food."

And the food on the menu keeps evolving. Every year, Screamers adds an item to its menu to keep things fresh. This year's new addition is the Quesadilla Burger.

"We try to do something different every day," Sandy Ostrander said. "Our customers come in and say, 'Oh, what's new?'"

The additions to the menu may provide answers as to why customers keep coming back. In 2006, when some businesses were starting to suffer, business at Screamers increased about 20 percent, Scot Ostrander said. Normal yearly increases range from about 2 to 5 percent, he said.

Employee Megan Flewellyn has seen plenty of business in her four years of working at Screamers. However, she'll be leaving the area in August to attend the University of Iowa to study health and human physiology.

Flewellyn said she plans to stop by at Screamers every time she is in Shabbona.

"It's really about the people you work with," she said. "They make working here not feel like a chore. It's fun ... and free ice cream's always good."

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