A Decade and a Half of Community, Cuisine, and Cheers: ROCKS Lakeview’s Journey

ROCKS Lakeview – Located at 3463 N. Broadway is open Sunday – Thursday: 12PM – 11PM and Friday – Saturday 12PM – 11:30

Get ready to embark on a flavorful journey celebrating the incredible 15-year milestone of ROCKS Lakeview! In the ever-changing culinary landscape, running a successful small business is no piece of cake. It takes passion, dedication, and a zest for innovation, just like the founders, Tim and George, who transformed their dream into a beloved neighborhood gem. As we raise our glasses to their enduring success, let’s not forget that the path to prosperity is often filled with challenges. According to recent statistics, only 50% of small businesses make it past the five-year mark, and only 25% make it past 15 years, making ROCKS Lakeview’s 15-year achievement even more commendable. As part of an ongoing project to support and shine a spotlight on our long-standing institutions, we aim to learn from their triumphs and struggles to help nurture future small businesses in the Lake View community. So, grab a seat at the table and join us for a delectable exploration of how ROCKS Lakeview has mastered the recipe for longevity, and why they are the embodiment of a thriving and cherished establishment in our vibrant neighborhood.

ROCKS Lakeview has been a fixture in the neighborhood for 15 years. Can you share the story of how it all began?

Tim and I opened our first location on October 25th, 2005 in ROCKS Lincoln park. Working every day bartending and managing there together along with an all-star staff, we built the base of a brand we thought was perfect to expand on. And then in 2008 the opportunity was presented to us to bring the ROCKS concept into the Lake View neighborhood into the long-time Samuel’s Deli spot. We opened at the end of July that same year after building the space out from scratch. We hit the ground running and were ready to expand already in 2010. And then in 2014 we had that chance again as we took over the Anthos flower shop next door. We closed the day after the Superbowl and were open by St. Patrick’s Day with not only a larger space but completely redesigned into what you see today (even after having to do it again after the fire of 2017).

Over the past 15 years, ROCKS Lakeview must have become a beloved spot for many. What do you think has been the key to your longevity and success?

I think the biggest thing that has enabled us to be around this long more than anything has been the folks that we’ve been lucky enough to employ throughout the years. We wanted to have a place that was welcoming to everyone, we wanted to have a food and drink menu full of fresh, fun and creative options. That alone can only get you so far unless you have a crew there that can provide a high end level of service to go along with it. This is an industry known for its turnover. But we have people that have been with us for over a decade. People can eat and drink wherever they like, but if you can do it somewhere where you feel like you’re with friends in a fun and safe environment, then you’ve really created something.

Owners George Manta & Tim Shepardson

Throughout the years, have there been any standout moments or events that have defined the spirit of ROCKS Lakeview?

The journey for ROCKS Lakeview has been a rollercoaster. For better or worse, seemingly every high we experienced was met with adversity. We had several years from the start that were strong that we could keep building on. After our final expansion in 2014, we were able to really enjoy the Cubs ascent culminating with the 2016 World Series Championship. But four short months later we had a fire and had to close for over almost 300 days and gut the place to rebuild it again. It took time to regain our footing, but once we did the pandemic hit and the world stopped. We finally feel like we’re back on track now but we still face challenges in this current climate. I think our strength to this point has been having the ability to adapt to changes and pivot when necessary.

Since opening ROCKS Lakeview, you’ve expanded to a North Center location. Can you tell us about the decision to open a second location and what led you to choose North Center as the destination for this exciting new venture?

So after opening ROCKS Lakeview in 2008, we operated both our original location and Lakeview for several years. In 2014, our lease was up and we didn’t see a way to continue it in the original Lincoln Park space. So we looked to move that operation entirely rather than shuttering it. Tim had already been living in the North Center neighborhood and knew there was an opportunity available at what was then Corner 41. The timing worked out perfectly to close one door and then open another without missing a beat.

Over the years, customer preferences and dining trends have evolved. How has ROCKS Lakeview adapted to these changes while staying true to its roots?

Our food and drink menus have always been the result of a collaborative effort. Having multiple voices involved in them over the years has naturally lended itself to changes and new ideas. Our bread and butter has always been our burgers and whiskey selection. There are some items on the menu that have been there since day one in 2005. But you have to be willing and able to try new things. Sometimes you’re ahead of the curve and fall flat on your face. But tweaking our menu to provide new items and fresh takes has been a constant. Right now we’re doing a food menu revamp and incorporating more plant based options. But the key for us has always been to do these in a ROCKS way or style. We always want to make items unique enough so that you can’t get them anywhere else!

The Rocks Team Celebrating

Many patrons must have created fond memories at ROCKS Lakeview. Can you share a few heartwarming or funny stories from customers over the years?

There is a long list of customers and even staff who have come in and met people and created life long friendships, and even become lifelong partners. We’ve had staff get married and start families. We’ve had regular customers who’ve started families and we’ve watched their kids grow up. We’ve had birthdays, proposals, weddings, anniversaries and everything in between!

The staff and atmosphere play a crucial role in a restaurant’s success. How has the team at ROCKS Lakeview contributed to creating a welcoming and memorable experience for guests?

We have preached that atmosphere since day one. It is the backbone of our business. We have been blessed with great people leading our business for a long time and leading by example.

The food and drinks served at ROCKS Lakeview are undoubtedly a highlight. How do you approach menu innovation while maintaining the dishes that have become favorites over time?

It’s always been a collaborative effort. There is a balance you want to strike between giving folks what they want, while trying to stay fresh and ahead of trends. Our core management group has been together for over a decade. We all have different tastes, influences and dietary preferences. And we love getting together to taste out new ideas and ingredients. We even had a write in contest at one point for customers to come up with one of our burgers of the month. That was so successful, we brought that winning burger back again for monthly special and now it’s even on the full time menu!

Community engagement is often an essential aspect of local businesses. How has ROCKS Lakeview been involved with and supported the neighborhood and its residents over the years?

We were an active member with the Chamber for a long time, and it’s good to be back together again. We’ve supported numerous local charities and school functions throughout the years.

As you celebrate the 15th anniversary, what reflections do you have on the journey of ROCKS Lakeview? Are there any specific goals you hope to achieve in the coming years?

We can’t believe it’s been that long already. In many ways, it’s flown by. But when you think about it and hone in on some events or details, it’s been a wild ride and winding road. Experiencing our first Pride parade is something we’ll never forget. Being there for the Cubs World Series and seeing how that affected the neighborhood is something you can barely put into words. It feels like we’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and we’ve come out on top every time. We feel like we’re firmly entrenched in the Lake View community and we can’t wait to see what the coming years hold for us.

Celebrating milestones is an excellent opportunity to show appreciation to customers. Are there any special events, promotions, or activities planned to commemorate this anniversary with the community?

Honestly this summer has had so many things going on that we haven’t had the time to really plan out anything elaborate or specific. But what we are planning on doing to commemorate our anniversary is to bring back our storied and infamous golf outing sometime this fall. Our last outing was in 2016, and anyone who had the chance to attend one knows why I refer to it as storied and infamous. And if you haven’t had the chance to join us on one, you can find out what we’re talking about this year!

For aspiring entrepreneurs, what valuable lessons have you learned from running a successful restaurant for 15 years that you’d like to share?

Do something else! This isn’t for everyone, and it’s not easy. But when you can do it right, there’s no better job to have in the world.

Finally, what message would you like to convey to the loyal customers who have supported ROCKS Lakeview throughout the years?

Thank you. We wouldn’t be here without the long time and sustained support of everyone that has stepped foot in ROCKS lakeview these last fifteen years. Whether you worked with us and helped provide this experience for others, or you came in once or as a regular throughout the years, we are sincerely thankful for all of you. Here’s to feeling good all the time!

About ROCKS Lakeview:

ROCKS Lakeview is a beloved community gathering spot located in the vibrant Lake View neighborhood. Since its founding in 2008 by Tim and George, this restaurant has been enchanting locals and visitors alike with its warm atmosphere and enticing menu. From juicy burgers to a carefully selected array of whiskies, every dish and drink is a flavorful delight. With a commitment to creating a welcoming experience for all, ROCKS Lakeview has become an integral part of the Lake View community’s culinary landscape, offering a delectable haven for friends and families to come together.