Thomson Business Ready for Prison to Re-Open - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Thomson Business Ready for Prison to Re-Open

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After years of sitting empty, the federal government bought Thomson Prison Tuesday for 165 million dollars. The state of the art facility in Northern Illinois was built in 2001, but never reached it's full capacity because of state budget troubles. It was closed and put up for sale several years ago, collecting dust until now.

The sale is something businesses from Thomson, Clinton, Savanna, and Fulton have all been waiting for. The federal government plans to re-open the prison, bringing 1100 jobs to the area. That means more customers and more money, which will be a big boost to the local economy. However, while this is going to mean a lot for many small business owners, there's one man in particular who may just have the most at stake.

"I've never seen him smile so much," said an employee of Mr. Z's Restaurant and Bar in Thomson.

She is talking about owner, Zendel Zendeli, and these days he has a lot to smile about.

"This is not the happiest day, but it's one of the happiest days I have had," Zendeli said.

Zendeli bought his restaurant and bar, which sits right in front the prison, three years ago. He said he spent $220,000 to buy the building and $170,000 of his own money to renovate it, after hearing Thompson Prison was supposed to open back up.

"That's the only reason I opened the restaurant and bar," he said.

 A month in, Zendeli said he got the devastating news the prison would not open after all.

"This is a pretty big space here and for a small town to support it, it's just not enough."

Employees Zendali had hired were laid off, and his vision of a bustling business turned into a business barley getting by. However, his hope never left him.

"I had hope yes, I had faith it was going to open. I don't give up that easy."

While Zendeli said he has kept his faith, when Governor Quinn stopped by for lunch after the big announcement Tuesday, he had to double check the news was true.

 "I asked him the same question four times, 'are you sure, are you sure?' he goes 'I promise, we got the check.' I just can't believe it."