The entrepreneurial spirit reaches out sometimes and points us to where we need to go, or where our community needs us to go. Even in the times where our experience might be minimal or the idea vague, but the need is great, the entrepreneurial spirit pushes us forward to simply try.
When it came to a building on the west side of Niles’ downtown corridor and a serious lack of quality vegan and gluten-free options in local restaurants, the Smith family stepped forward with optimism and a fledgling idea to try something new.
Brother and sister Chance and Sage Smith can remember when Niles was not on the up and coming mend. They grew up during the recession when new businesses were not common and many of the old had to close their doors.
“When we first moved here, [Niles] looked like a ghost town,” Chance says. “To see how it’s grown over the last 15, or even just the last two years, is amazing. It’s grown immensely.”
In the last several years, as new ideas have breathed life into formerly vacant spaces, and Niles has made a name as a town on the return, Chance and Sage had a vision from the entrepreneurial spirit — a restaurant with a millennial vibe that served food appropriate for their own dietary restrictions.
Chance has celiac disease, or a gluten intolerance, and finding hearty gluten alternatives is still difficult even in many new restaurants. Sage is vegan, and finding a Midwest restaurant with anything better than a tossed iceberg lettuce salad remains quite the scavenger hunt.
So when the siblings bought the Riverfront building, now called The Rage, with their parents, Melissa and Steve Smith, their business idea became a solution.
“For the four of us, [The Rage] is really for us to go out to eat,” Chance says. “My sister is vegan, my mom is vegetarian. I am celiac and can’t have any wheat or gluten. My dad eats anything put in front of him… so it’s hard for us to go out to eat. We decided, ‘Let’s open something a little more unique, for family like us, because they can’t go out to eat with allergies or stuff taken out of their diet.’”
The transition from vacant building and hot new idea to the family-owned restaurant that opened in late July was long, however. It was three years worth of renovations after buying the building and growing curiosity as to whether the sign out front meant Niles would soon have a hopping nightclub before The Rage opened its doors. Chance, however, thinks it was worth the wait.
“If we opened first year when we were planning on it, we would have fallen flat on our faces,” Chance says. “Every setback was perfecting something to where we wanted it. We always tasted or designed something until we thought it could be better. That’s why we pushed [the opening] back.”
Chance and Sage’s imprints are all over The Rage. Although the building is owned by the whole family, the two siblings are the creative soul and mind behind the restaurant.
“I would say [Sage] is definitely the more detailed one,” Chance says. “She thinks of things I would never think of. I think of big ideas, and she keeps me grounded. She’s very good with the business side of it. I’m the big thinker, and that’s where we keep each other in check.”
From the building design to the diet-friendly twist on American fare, The Rage is a classic family-owned, hometown raised restaurant with young ownership and a fresh emphasis.
Chance and Sage will now remember both the time when Niles was hurting for small businesses and when they opened their own. χ
The Rage is located at 219 N. Front St. in Niles. The cafe and restaurant are open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and closed Sunday and Monday.