Tom Butcher closed his deli-style restaurant so he could fight cancer. Now healthy, he hopes to make a new start by helping others.
Tom Butcher plans to reopen his deli-style restaurant, Impressions, downtown and will add a nonprofit program to assist displaced individuals.
For Tom Butcher, 2011 was a “convenient” year to close his deli-style restaurant and fight cancer.
“It was a godsend, really, in the timing,” Butcher says. “After my surgery, I wasn’t even ‘there’ for four months.”
Butcher, who opened Impressions Restaurant in 1978, moved it to the Oil Capital Building, 507 S. Main St., in 2002 after closing for four years. In September 2011, Impressions closed again after the property owner sold the building.
Before closing the restaurant, Butcher was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer — a growth on his lower spine — that affects about one in a million people.
He underwent an 11-hour surgery in Baltimore to remove the growth and spent four months in bed before starting proton radiation therapy at ProCure ProtonTherapy Center in Oklahoma City, where he also taught himself to walk again.
“It was really a physical, spiritual and emotional battle to get better — one step forward, two steps back,” Butcher says. “I’ll never be what I was again, but that’s OK. I’m 61 and I still have the initiative to do something.”
For Butcher, “doing something” means reopening Impressions with a salad bar and grocery store — and launching a program that would train and employ displaced individuals.
Butcher is working to gain nonprofit status for the program, which, he says, he hopes will help the homeless, veterans, the elderly and individuals suffering in the economic downturn through training, counseling and employment.
His vision includes a housing component that would help people get back on their feet, and the restaurant will offer employment and training opportunities.
“I want to get them exposure and build confidence,” Butcher says. “Or maybe they need someone to watch them so they don’t make the mistakes they may have made on their own.”
Although Butcher says his idea for the program came before his diagnosis, surviving cancer taught him to put faith in everyone.
“You have to have faith from those that are close to you all the way down to the customers that recognize you,” he says.