Jimmie Schindler, Bandidos founder

Schindler

A local restaurant legend has died.

Jimmie Schindler, the founder and president of Bandidos, the popular local Mexican restaurant chain, died March 26. He was 85.

Schindler’s family and employees remembered him as a man who was quick with a joke, fast with a smile, and even quicker to lend a hand to anyone in need.

The restaurant’s Facebook account posted simply: “We lost our founder today. Mr. Bandido: James Schindler. Please pray for Jimmie and the Bandidos family! We have some big shoes to fill! We were so grateful to have him in our lives.”

Schindler’s son, Jimmie II, said last week the post had gotten more than 50,000 views, and almost as many shares as news of his father’s death quickly spread around the community.

Family members remembered him as a deeply religious man who cared profoundly about his business, his family, his employees, and his fellow man.

“He just never had a bad word to say about anybody,” said Schindler II. “His attitude was always just, ‘I don’t care how people treat me,’ and he always just treated them incredibly no matter how they treated him.

“He truly loved his employees and his fellow man. He touched a lot of people.”

Bandidos office manager Holly Tapp said Schindler wasn’t just someone his hundreds of employees respected as a boss, but someone they truly revered as a good person.

“I feel really lucky that I got to work with him all these years,” said Tapp, who’s been with Bandidos since 1998. “He was so well-liked and so well-respected. He was just a genuinely good guy, and he really cared about his people.”

“He loved so many of his employees, because he was such a father figure to all of us.”

And his son noted that Schindler was never stingy when it came to helping friends, family, or even fellow employees in need.

“You could go in and tell him a sob story,” Jimmie II said, “and he’d write you a check right there.”

Tapp also recalled fondly how emotional and caring he was.

“I remember going into his office one day, and just seeing him sitting at his desk, crying,” she said. “And I’d be like, ‘Oh my God, what’s wrong?’ And he’d just be looking at a bulletin board full of pictures of his kids and family, just in tears because he loved them so much.’

Born in 1934, in Geneva, Schindler was the youngest of nine children. He was placed in an orphanage at the age of 3, and then in a foster home when he was in fifth grade with his brother, Joe.

He attended John Carroll University, a Catholic university in Cleveland, Ohio, and served in the U.S. Army afterward as a tank commander.

He founded Bandidos with his first restaurant at 7510 Winchester Road in Waynedale in 1980. He married the former Fry Freistroffer on June 3, 1981, in a ceremony at Lakeside Park in Fort Wayne. Next year would have been the couple’s 40{sup}th{/sup} anniversary. Together, the couple had four children – one boy and three girls – although Schindler also had three children from a previous marriage.

His Mexican eatery became enormously successful around Fort Wayne, spawning four locations in Fort Wayne, and one in Lima, Ohio. Three of the Bandidos locations still are open, and a new restaurant in the company, Guadalupe’s Mexican Grill — a fast-casual Mexican spot — recently opened at 10345 Illinois Road, Fort Wayne.

Schindler even parlayed his restaurant achievements into a writing success. He authored seven books, and offered the volumes for sale at his restaurants.

Schindler suffered a stroke in February, according to his son, and had been in hospice care ever since. He died quietly with his wife at his bedside.

Services for Schindler have not been scheduled yet, as COVID-19 precautions still prevent any large gatherings. A funeral Mass is expected to be held at St. Peter Catholic Church at a later date. Burial will be in Trinity Cemetery, Bryant.

His son says the company plans to put up pictures of their founder at all their locations as a memorial.

“When I told him that, it brought a big smile to his face,” Schindler II said.

Fry Schindler said she’ll miss her husband’s benevolence and humor.

“I’ll just remember his generosity and quick wit,” she said. “No matter what you said, he was always quick with a joke as a response.”

Tapp said it’ll be hard to replace his leadership at the company.

“He was really inspirational,” Tapp said. “He made me a better employee, a better mother, and a better person.

“And I’m really going to miss him.”

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