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Vacant sports bar finds new life

Val’s Family Restaurant to open this summer

By Scott Bellile

After nearly two years of sitting empty, a former sports bar on Shawano Street will be transformed into a family restaurant.

The building at 1601 N. Shawano St., where Half Nelson’s Restaurant and Lounge closed up shop in August 2014, is the future home of Val’s Family Restaurant. Its new owners hope Val’s could be open for business by mid-July if work stays on schedule.

Local realtor Sandy DuFrane sold the building on June 1 to the Zendeli family of Yorkville, Illinois. Parents Imer and Valentina, son Arber and daughter Laura will operate the restaurant. They plan to hire on waitstaff, kitchen staff and bartenders later this summer.

Val’s will serve American breakfast, lunch and dinner fare, from omelettes to sandwiches to pasta.

“It’s going to be a little bit of everything,” Valentina Zendeli said.

Imer has been a chef for more than 20 years and Valentina (the restaurant’s namesake) has been working in restaurants for about 18 years. Having not owned their own establishment for a while, the two are returning to running a restaurant because, as Arber Zendeli said, business ownership provides more freedoms.

The Zendelis looked at cities throughout the Midwest for their next destination. They chose New London because Arber Zendeli said the former Half Nelson’s building was in the best shape. He said they also liked the city and found New London High School a good fit for Laura, who will be a senior this fall.

“It’s definitely been a very friendly vibe,” Arber Zendeli said about the city. “It’s been easy to get along with people so far.”

Now the family is putting in new flooring, paint and upholstery. While the dining area will be touched up more, the bar will retain a similar look to what it was before so as to remain a destination for televised sports.

“We’re going to try our best to make the people here in New London happy,” Valentina Zendeli said.

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