Owner’s son dies as La Creperie restaurant gets ready to close
BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporter August 6, 2013 6:46PM
From bottom to top: Jeremy Roignant; his wife, Yasmina Ksikes; their son, Riyan, and their daughter, Amina, on their last family vacation. | Family photo
Updated: September 8, 2013 6:17AM
The little French bistro on the North Side was a symbol of many things to Jeremy Roignant.
It symbolized the spirit of his mother, a Joliet native who met a waiter in Germany and married him in Chicago. Together, they opened a restaurant in 1972 that might now be the oldest of its kind in the United States — La Creperie — which is getting ready to close its doors Aug. 22 in Lake View East.
To Roignant, La Creperie also symbolized his childhood memories, said Yasmina Ksikes, his wife of 10 years, who was a manager at the restaurant. Ksikes said Roignant, born in 1974, grew up with his two sisters in an apartment upstairs.
“More than anything,” Ksikes said, “it was his home.”
But now an already difficult moment — the shuttering of a 40-year-old family-owned neighborhood institution — has turned tragic. Weeks after announcing that the restaurant would close, Ksikes said Roignant’s father, Germain Roignant, found his 39-year-old son dead Thursday.
Ksikes said her husband died of a heart attack. They had a 7-year-old son, Riyan, and 4-year-old daughter, Amina.
Now she said her father-in-law’s “heart is sinking.”
Germain and Sara Roignant opened their one-room, 10-table restaurant just north of Clark and Diversey on June 1, 1972. Sara Roignant died on the restaurant’s 30th anniversary — June 1, 2002 — and her picture still hangs on its wall. Last month, a year after its 40th anniversary, news broke that La Creperie would close.
Ksikes said she wanted to move closer to her family in Los Angeles. And Jeremy Roignant, a University of Illinois at Chicago creative writing major who played saxophone, wanted to teach.
“We wanted kind of a changing of career,” Ksikes said.
When they told Jeremy Roignant’s father they planned to move west, Ksikes said, he told them he would sell the restaurant and move back to his native French province of Brittany.
“It was very heartbreaking for him,” Ksikes said.
Jeremy Roignant and Ksikes moved to Los Angeles last month, she said. But her husband decided to return to Chicago on July 29 to help his father close the restaurant. She said he got a one-way ticket east because he didn’t know when he would return to Los Angeles.
His father found him Thursday, Ksikes said, and he was buried Saturday — his mother’s birthday.
“It’s very, very tough,” Ksikes said. “It’s a very hard time for the family.”
Germain Roignant couldn’t be reached Tuesday by phone or at his restaurant. It was busy with diners, some still learning for the first time that La Creperie would soon close. A sign at the door announcing the news encouraged them to “stop in and say Au Revoir.”
Ksikes said she expects La Creperie to remain open until Aug. 22. And while staff there said Tuesday the menu hasn’t changed, Ksikes said her father-in-law has considered a smaller selection of fare for its final weeks.
That would let him “kind of gently and slowly” close the restaurant, she said. The one he opened with the woman he met as a waiter in Germany. The one where they raised their family.
“It’s such a bittersweet ending,” Ksikes said.