By Sandra Dempsey Post
While Rose Smith may have wished on a star or two when she first arrived in Peoria as a teenager, she was more intent on working to have her dreams come true than wishing. “If you have a dream, nothing is impossible to achieve. Follow your dream,” she says, while cautioning that not very much comes easy in life. While she wasn’t looking for an easy path, it was important to her to “enjoy what I do.” Her dream took some time in the making, but she’s delighted and grateful about the results.
Owner of Pita’s Mediterranean Wraps in Peoria’s North Point Shopping Center, Rose came to this country not knowing any English. She was born in Lebanon and she and her parents and siblings came to Peoria in February of 1977 where they had family living. The war in Lebanon caused considerable upheaval, fatalities, and an exodus of many thousands. Rose went to night school to learn English and began working at Armato’s Pizza. When her family wanted to start saving money to purchase a house of their own, she also worked evenings at Burger King. Even then, she loved cooking. “It’s my passion,” she says, explaining the interest began when she was 12.
Rose knew that dreams can take awhile, sometimes a long while, before they come true. Undaunted she later went to Illinois Central College and the University of Illinois at Springfield earning an accounting degree. Following her own advice about goals, “Take your time, it’s worth waiting for,” she returned to Peoria after living in Springfield. On March 1st, 2021 she celebrates her 10-year anniversary of owning and operating Pita’s. Even with considerable experience in cooking for her family and church family, she still was concerned if she could be successful as a cook and business owner. After about a year she felt confident and credits her customers with helping her develop that sought after confidence.
“My Mom’s dream was to have a restaurant. (Her parents are deceased.) She had lots of cooking experience and she shared food with our neighbors as they loved the aroma of it cooking. That was her joy. I’ve made lots of friends through the restaurant. My reward is when someone enjoys my food. I aim to please as many people as I can.” Long hours, often 70 a week, are fine with Rose. “It doesn’t feel like work to me,” she says. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday and includes five part-time staff. “All our food is freshly made with no pre-packaged or pre-cooked food. We cook to order,” she proudly explains.
The menu is interesting and extensive, from French Fries to Veggie Grape Leaves; Green Beans to Falafel; Gyro Wraps, Meat Wraps, Chicken Wraps, Veggie Burger, Vegetarian Wraps, Lamb Kebob, Cabbage Rolls, and much, much more. Tables inside can accommodate some 50 people, and during warm weather, food can be enjoyed at outside tables. Catering is also available, but food must be picked up at the restaurant. There is no delivery. “We do a lot of carry-outs,” says Rose, “and we have a lot of loyal customers and I am so thankful for all our customers.” Proud of the food she serves, and pleased with her success, Rose is caring and concerned, doing her best to make certain people leave her restaurant satisfied and pleased. Her consideration for others extends to details such as telling a customer it might take extra time to fill a particular order, and making sure that won’t be a problem or inconvenience for the person.
Forever grateful that she is living her dream, she works hard to “try to do what’s right in God’s eyes. I pray each morning and I feel this is God’s blessing on my life. I don’t push my opinions on others. I will help if I can because we don’t know what people are going through.” She and her husband John, he’s retired from the Department of Human Services, have been married 20 years, and live conveniently near Pita’s. “We’re ordinary people, and I’m a healthy, happy person. I love to laugh and I like to read and garden. I’m a home person who loves to cook.”
Not necessarily one to give out unsolicited advice, she does recommend people keep their dreams in their minds. “Follow your dreams. You don’t want to regret your choices or wish later in life that you’d done things differently. You have to better yourself on your own,” and she believes firmly in encouraging others. And when those dreams come true, as they did for Rose, she is one of the first to acknowledge the importance of gratitude and generosity.
For additional information on Pita’s menu and hours of operation, please visit their website at www.PitasWrap.com or call 309-691-9727.
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