Harbor Chase of Long Grove

Members of the community, Historical Society, and downtown Merchants Association gathered to hear a presentation on local history and welcome Harbor Chase to Long Grove.

Members of the community, Historical Society, and downtown Merchants Association gathered to hear a presentation on local history and welcome Harbor Chase to Long Grove.

Earlier this year Long Grove’s newest Senior living community, Harbor Chase of Long Grove, held their grand opening celebration. While I was unable to attend the big party, it was great to be invited for a personal tour and to speak at a luncheon this past week at the newly built assisted living and memory care facility. Enlisting the help of my husband Aaron (who writes for Long Grove Living magazine and loves to tell a story or two…) we gave an educational program on “The History and Architecture of Long Grove.” The Historical Society enjoyed partnering with our new neighbors at Harbor Chase to provide some community enrichment, and I hope this will be the first of many opportunities to work together.

Everyone who attended the free luncheon was also given a full tour of the beautifully decorated facility. During my years on the Village Board I dealt with the many plans, renderings, approvals and resolutions needed to get this development underway. The end result is very elegant, with attention to detail and amenities like live music, beautiful flower arrangements, and homemade macaroons, not just on special occasions but as part of the everyday lifestyle. There is even a resident puppy to bring smiles and lively energy!

Having this new business in downtown Long Grove is a key piece of the redevelopment efforts that are funding current infrastructure improvements, such as extending the water system. Just one more reason for us all to say, “Welcome, Harbor Chase!”

 

Aaron Underwood stands next to the "Covered Bridge Room" at Harbor Chase. The "Crackerjack" lounge/bar area also pays homage to local history--it's the name of Long Grove's 1906 baseball team.

Aaron Underwood stands next to the “Covered Bridge Room” at Harbor Chase. The “Crackerjack” lounge/bar area also pays homage to local history–it’s the name of Long Grove’s 1906 baseball team.

 

St. Paddy’s Day at the Brewery

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day at Buffalo Creek Brewing with owner Mike Marr (left) and local historian Aaron Underwood.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Buffalo Creek Brewing with owner Mike Marr (left) and local historian Aaron Underwood.

Long Grove is a great place to celebrate your Irish heritage on St. Patrick’s Day. Whether it’s a trip to Paddy’s on the Square for beautiful Ireland-inspired gifts, green beer at the Village Tavern, Corned Beef at the Chatterbox, or a mint chocolate chip cone at the new Covered Bridge Creamery, our Village is a festive spot to gather for the holiday. This year features another new option as Buffalo Creek Brewing hosts a day-long St. Patrick’s Day Party, featuring free Green Eggs and Hash, a special price on their “Burning Red” craft beer, and evening entertainment.

My husband Aaron and I stopped by the party this afternoon to congratulate Mike Marr, owner of Buffalo Creek Brewing and the newly installed President of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association. In appreciation of his commitment of time and leadership to the downtown, (and being that he is a next-door neighbor to the farmhouse museum) the Historical Society presented Mike with a gift of a framed historical print of his choice. His selection, shown in the photo above, is of the Long Grove Crackerjacks baseball team, circa 1908. This was one of several “town ball” baseball teams that existed a century ago, with games played against other local teams such as Palatine and Lake Zurich. Mike likes to distinguish his craft beers with clever names, often a play on words or with a local significance. His newest creation is called “Muttersholtz,” the name originally given to Long Grove in the 1840’s by the early settlers who came here from the Alsace-Lorraine region in Germany. Maybe the picture will inspire a future craft beer that pairs well with baseball games and caramel corn?

Mike also mentioned that he is starting his canning operation in the downstairs of the Brewery starting this coming Tuesday. Compared to bottles, cans have many advantages for beer, two of which are keeping out unnecessary light and oxygen. So not only will your favorite beers be crafted right here in downtown Long Grove, but they will soon be canned locally as well.

However you choose to treat yourself, have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Springing Forward

Lori and Mike Lyman took to the dance floor in support of the Long Grove Arts and Music Council at their March 10th Jazz & Dance Fundraiser.

Lori and Mike Lyman took to the dance floor in support of the Long Grove Arts and Music Council at the March 10th Jazz & Dance Fundraiser.

The transition from winter to spring is a long and drawn-out process in our part of the Midwest. Each day we are gifted with a few more minutes of sunshine to enjoy, but our gardens and open spaces remain brown, drab, and lackluster. One week we are seduced to leave the heavy coats behind as the promise of warmer weather beckons, only to have another round of sub-freezing temps and snow flurries slap us with a reminder that, in fact, winter is still in charge. Setting our clocks ahead one hour this morning is another positive indication that a new season is on the horizon. The Long Grove Arts and Music Council provided a great opportunity last night to enliven yet one more cold and dreary winter night in the best possible way–with a Jazzy array of food, music, dancing, friends and philanthropy.

To raise funds and excitement for the 2018 Summer Concert Series, a benefit was held at the newly opened Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Long Grove. It was heartwarming to see the many donations local merchants and residents provided for the silent auction. A live jazz band was on hand to provide upbeat entertainment, as supporters and council volunteers mixed and mingled and generally enjoyed the congenial atmosphere. To me, it was another encouraging example of the revitalization efforts in our historic downtown these past several years paying off. Long Grove residents now have many options to come together and socialize locally, and in the case of last night, to also support a group that provides free summer concerts benefiting the broader community at large. And despite the current reluctance of winter to give way, it’s enough to put a little spring in my step!

Ethel Berger, Arts and Music Council Artistic Director (on the left) and Mary Prekop of the Long Grove Confectionery check out the bidding competition on the silent auction items.

Ethel Robey-Berger, Arts and Music Council Artistic Director (on the left) and Mary Prekop of the Long Grove Confectionery check out the bidding competition on the silent auction items.

The Original Gloria Jean

Long Grove entrepreneur Joanie Shunia (on the left) is pictured here with the original Gloria Jean.

Long Grove entrepreneur Joanie Shunia (on the left) is pictured here with Long Grove resident, Gloria Jean.

Guest blogger Aaron Underwood returns with the following story which originally ran in the December 2017 issue of Long Grove Living:

Once upon a time, Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder, noticed his goats dancing with unusual fervor after eating the red fruit of the coffee shrub. He tried some beans himself, and he too, had more pep in his step. He shared the discovery with some local monks and they tried boiling the bean and drinking the result, and then noticed they were unable to sleep that night. Coffee and humans have been intertwined ever since.

America got its first commercial coffee roaster in 1793. Beans were hard to come by and expensive, so coffee was really only something for the wealthy elite. The advent of steamships improved the supply and quality and brought the price down to something most people could afford. After World War II, production in Central America boomed, and by the 1950’s, coffee was an everyday staple in homes throughout the country. Maybe you’re like me and remember coffee coming in those big red tins with name brands like Hills Brothers. While this was, no doubt, an efficient way of getting coffee consumed by the masses, it wasn’t the tastiest end product. By the late 1970’s, a space in the market was opening up for specialty and gourmet offerings.

In our neck of the woods, there was a young enterprising mom from a gritty Chicago neighborhood, busy with her successful beauty parlor, but chasing her dream of a custom home. She had acquired a lot in Long Grove, and as her savings accumulated, the idea of opening a second business in the quaint little town of Long Grove became a passion. Back then, there were no available store fronts, and if you wanted a store, you had to grab one the moment someone decided to close up shop. The first one to come available for our young mom was the Coffee Bean. It was located across from Red Oaks in what had been a garage. The little shop sold antiques and coffee beans. The antiques were sold off and coffee beans and the trappings to grind and brew them became the sole focus. For variety, she started making her own flavored beans, which was unheard of at the time.

She was on to something – people were buying it, and the word spread. Woodfield mall called asking for her to open a store. Then Northbrook court called. Then Randhurst mall. This was big. For legal purposes, Coffee Bean was too common a name, so the lawyer suggested the prefix it with their own name. Her husband Ed suggested Ed’s Coffee Bean, but the young mom’s middle name was Jean and that rhymed with bean, so Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean it was. Over the next dozen years, well over a hundred stores opened around the country. Long Groveresident Gloria Kvetko had turned Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean into the most recognized coffee franchise in America.
In 1993, an offer she couldn’t refuse for the company was put forth, and, somewhat reluctantly, she sold her coffee empire in 1993. The new owners eventually ran into difficulty, but the brand remained strong and positive, and today, under new owners yet again, it’s making a comeback.

The little Long Grove garage that was store #1 was sold as well. The new owner Karen Krahn, renamed it Beans and Leaves. A couple of years ago the store was acquired by Ethel Berger. Ethel has recently started working with the Long Grove Confectionary to create a new coffee shop next to Towner Green, to be called The Long Grove Coffee Company. A new company is moving into the little garage that Ethel vacated and will offer coffee and ice cream. The name Covered Bridge Creamery will now adorn the little garage.

Gloria Jean is happy to share her experiences and did so recently with a group of downtown merchants. Pictured is Gloria Jean with one of Long Grove’s current female entrepreneurs, Joanie Shunia, of Joanie’s Pizza. While Joanie currently doesn’t have any national expansion plans, you never know. Perhaps you should grab a slice now, so you’ll have bragging rights if Joanie’s Pizza ever becomes the household word that Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean did.

On Living

While my husband Aaron and I are no Fred and Ginger, we are adding more joy to the time we have left together by learning how to dance.

While my husband Aaron and I are no Fred and Ginger, we are adding more joy to the time we have left together by learning how to dance.

If you were down to the last weeks and months of your life, what kinds of stories would you tell? Perhaps you would have regrets, or the need to release a secret held too long. Maybe you would find the strength to make amends, or the will to finally grant compassion to others, or yourself. Kerry Egan is a hospice chaplain and the author of a beautiful and thoughtful book on this topic, called “On Living.” Recently recommended to me by a friend, I sat down after dinner last night to quickly skim through the 200 pages and found myself coming up for air four hours later deeply moved and in need of a tissue or two. This book was not sad. I found it to be an inspiring and sometimes humorous set of stories on how we as humans can find more meaning in our lives now, before we reach the end of our days.

By sharing many of the insights from her work counseling hospice patients, the author reveals what she has learned by listening and simply being present. I loved her chapter on “living in the gray” which dealt with judgement and the importance of kindness (which is not the same as niceness). Another section of the book that was meaningful to me detailed the contrast between toughness and strength, which are often thought of as being the same thing, but in fact are opposites. A favorite quote: “You have to be tough because you’re not strong. Being tough makes you mean. In most of life, you can be weak inside and get through by putting on a tough outer shell. But if you work in hospice, you have to stay soft on the outside. So in order to stand up straight, you have to have a spine of steel. Two ways to go through the world, two ways to deal with the loss that is an inevitable experience in life–with a hard shell or with a rock-solid backbone.”

My favorite chapter is entitled, “if I had only known, I would have danced more.” The author describes how many dying patients express regret that they had spent time hating their bodies for various reasons and wished that they had appreciated them more in the course of their lives. Egan writes, “They talk about their favorite memories of their bodies. And dancing. So many stories about dancing. I can’t count the hundreds of times people–more men than women–have closed their eyes and said, “If I had only known, I would have danced more.”

I am personally taking this last lesson to heart. I have always regretted not knowing how to dance. Six months ago, my husband Aaron and I started taking ballroom dancing lessons at the new Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Long Grove, and we have added one more joyful thing to our lives because of it. As a result of reading “On Living” I am also inspired to bring more peace into my life right now by working harder on forgiveness and compassion. My hope is to die with few regrets and I wish the same for you.

Cocoa Crawl

Long Grove residents (L to R): Miles Tyer, Kristen Wojicik, Pam Pasminski, and Katie Tyer are all smiles after completing the Cocoa Crawl held in downtown Long Grove on February 3rd.

Long Grove residents (L to R): Miles Tyer, Kristen Wojicik, Pam Pasminski, and Katie Tyer are all smiles after completing the Cocoa Crawl held in downtown Long Grove on February 3rd.

Like most of Long Grove, I’m taking a “snow day” today by staying inside and off the roads so that the snowplows can dig us out before the next predicted wave of snow hits later this evening. And while a herd of deer are obviously having fun cavorting through the snow drifts in my back yard, I’m choosing to stay indoors and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate while blogging and reading. It’s the perfect opportunity to tell you about the Cocoa Crawl.

Held last Saturday, February 3rd, the Cocoa Crawl was a new idea initiated by the Historic Long Grove Downtown Business Association. On a typically slow winter weekend, residents and visitors were encouraged to come to our village crossroads and explore all the unique shops, restaurants and businesses with the enticement of free chocolate flavored samples at each location. Who does not love free chocolate? Apparently no one, because the event was a hit and downtown Long Grove was literally crawling with hundreds of families out to enjoy the treats, snacks and hometown ambiance. My friend Pam and I had a great time catching up with friends and neighbors that we haven’t seen for months as we hibernate our way through the winter season.

Here are just a few of the goodies we enjoyed: Chocolate Macroons at Within Reach, Hot Chocolate Popcorn at Signature Popcorn, Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar at The Olive Tap, Chocolate Pudding cups topped with Baileys Irish Cream at Unwined, and Hot Chocolate Bark at the Long Grove Confectionery.  We would have had more but mercifully (for our diets) some of the locations had run out of samples by the time we got there due to the large number of attendees to this inaugural event. At the end of our afternoon we stopped back to register for the raffle prize drawing, with 20 of the local businesses donating gift baskets or gift certificates to the festivities. It was great to see so many people enjoying our downtown and becoming acquainted with the newly renovated and opened shops. A tip of my snowman shaped cocoa mug to you, downtown merchants, for an inspired idea!

Taking a break from our crawling, Pam and I enjoyed a short rest under the "chocolate hot tub" outside of the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Taking a break from our crawling, Pam and I enjoyed a short rest under the “chocolate hot tub” outside of the Long Grove Coffee Company.

Award Winning Excellence

Left to Right: Citizen of the Year John Kopecky celebrates with fellow award winners Jenny and Rich Wierzchon of Primrose School of Long Grove, Best New Business.

Left to Right: Citizen of the Year John Kopecky celebrates with fellow award winners Jenny and Rich Wierzchon of Primrose School of Long Grove, Best New Business.

Don’t you just love it on those rare occasions when the stars align and good things happen to truly deserving people? Long Grove was shining bright last night at the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Evening of Excellence event. What a thrill it was to celebrate John Kopecky as he was presented with the Citizen of the Year Award, and to cheer the success of Jenny and Rich Wierzchon of Primrose School as they were recognized as the Best New Business. In addition to awards, the night was filled with friends, good food, dancing, and pride in our community.

It is a generally held opinion in town that John Kopecky is an amazing volunteer who helps out anyone and anywhere he sees a need. It is impossible to list all the wonderful ways in which John has helped our village over the many years he has owned his downtown business, The Country House, and even prior to that growing up in the Long Grove area. Need a dozen or so creative mini golf holes for the Lions putt-putt fundraiser? John will design and build them. Clever marketing ideas and a giant teddy bear to promote the downtown festivals? Done. How about acquiring a historic tractor (or two) and wagon, then tirelessly driving loads upon loads of visitors throughout the historic downtown for Vintage Days, on your birthday? His pleasure. Emergency repairs to brewery equipment? Just call him MacGuyver. Another truck has hit and damaged the covered bridge? John is getting out the ladder and paint bucket as we speak. Need someone to portray “crazy” Jake Eisler or Mrs. Bigfoot in the annual Ghostwalk? Say no more. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture of just how indispensable John is to the fiber of our village. And beloved. Several of us from the community were moved to nominated John for this award and it is so richly deserved. Congratulations!

Jenny and Rich Wierzchon have parlayed their passion for early childhood education into the creation and establishment of the Primrose School of Long Grove. I was there for the ground breaking in October of 2015, and have been delighted to watch this new business grow into a real asset for our community. See my earlier post here about the Primrose Promise. Here’s to many more years of success!

While it is exciting to be recognized with an award, the real prize for our community is having John, Jenny and Rich giving every day in their own winning ways to make Long Grove such a great place to live. We salute you! Check out a short clip of the awards presentations below:

 

Attendees at the Evening of Excellence (L to R): Angie Underwood, John Kopecky, Aaron Underwood, Amy Gayton, and Vicki Kopecky.

Attendees at the Evening of Excellence (L to R): Angie Underwood, John Kopecky, Aaron Underwood, Amy Gayton, and Vicki Kopecky.

Covered Bridge Creamery

IMG_1721

The namesake mural at the new Covered Bridge Creamery provided the perfect backdrop for our Historical Society committee meeting this week.

After spending the first several weeks of 2018 in a warmer climate, it was a pleasant surprise for me to return to Long Grove and find two new businesses in our historic downtown. I’m very excited to be able to feature one of them today, Covered Bridge Creamery.

Located in the former location of Beans & Leaves (on Old McHenry Road next to the Chatterbox), this new shop offers a variety of premium ice cream flavors as well as coffee, tea and assorted pastries. New counters and seating complement the classic wood paneling with the addition of a giant mural showcasing our beloved and iconic covered bridge. It provided the perfect spot and perfect inspiration for our recent Covered Bridge Preservation Committee meeting. Our group enjoyed the ambiance and the delicious lattes while also getting some advocacy work underway. Business owner Eric Wallor was gracious enough to sit with us and tell us a bit about his new venture.

Manager Nicholas Modlin and crew member Rachel Temple are two of several friendly faces  waiting to greet you at Covered Bridge Creamery.

Manager Nicholas Modlin and crew member Rachel Temple are two of several employees waiting to make your experience great at Covered Bridge Creamery.

Eric, along with his sister, brother in law and another partner first came to Long Grove this past summer to open Signature Popcorn, which is located next door to the new Creamery. Signature Popcorn started as an online business three years ago, and when the opportunity for a storefront in Long Grove became available they jumped at the chance to add a brick and mortar store to the expanding business. They were very attracted to the history and potential Long Grove provided, so much so that they now own two businesses and are very optimistic about the future of our town. Excited to, “bring our passion for ice cream, coffee and tea and our concept for Covered Bridge Creamery,” to Long Grove, Eric is definitely filling a need. One request that I repeatedly heard from residents during my term as Village President was to bring back a spot to get ice cream treats in our downtown. Thanks to Eric and his team, your wish is now reality. While I can vouch for the tasty hot beverages, I will be returning soon to sample the sweet stuff.

Covered Bridge Creamery is open currently, M-F 6:30 am to 4:30 pm, Saturdays 8:00 am to 4:30 pm and Sundays 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, they will eventually be open later into the evening hours. Stop by and check it out!

Let it Snow!

The elves at the Long Grove Historical Society decorated this downtown holiday tree at the farmhouse.

The elves at the Long Grove Historical Society decorated this downtown holiday tree outside the farmhouse.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know a number of things that I love about Long Grove. Add to that list, the positive odds of experiencing a white Christmas. When I peered out the window this morning, my heart skipped a beat. To those of us enjoying the holiday in Long Grove this year, we are in luck!

With a snowfall, our open spaces and wooded preserves such as Reed-Turner suddenly transform into a winter wonderland. The beautiful holiday lights and decorations at the historical crossroads look so much more magical with a dusting of snow, as do the 80 outdoor fresh Christmas trees decorated in festive splendor by our merchants and business owners. I missed the tractor rides yesterday due to a family gathering, but I’ve spent the past week finishing up the gift list by shopping in some of my favorite stores. One Long Grove shop owner mentioned that sales are up 10 percent for the year and 25 percent for the holiday season. Two more indicated that things are going so well this year, they are close to running out of Christmas themed merchandise. Not to worry…orders have already been placed for additional new and exciting inventory in the year ahead! Being warmly greeted by smiling faces in our downtown shops and restaurants has truly helped make my holiday season extra merry and bright. There is just something so special about a small-town at Christmastime.

And even though the fluffy white flakes that lift my spirits can dampen the joy for those who have to travel, for all of us celebrating the holiday in Long Grove…let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Long Grove Coffee Company

Two of the friendly faces that will greet you at the Long Grove Coffee Company are (L to R) Ethel Berger and Ellee Leva.

Two of the friendly faces that will greet you at the new Long Grove Coffee Company are (L to R) Ethel Berger and Ellee Leva.

Ever since my favorite Long Grove coffee shop, the former Beans & Leaves closed this summer, our weekly women’s huddle has been forced to meet elsewhere for caffeine fortification while we solve all of the world’s problems.  Well, life in Long Grove just got a whole lot better for those of us who have been missing our favorite gathering spot with the recent opening of the Long Grove Coffee Company. Located at 126 Old McHenry Road, the new business is part of the renovations being undertaken by the Long Grove Confectionery with their expanded properties near Towner Green. The Confectionery has officially reopened as of last Friday, and is chock full of treats for those Christmas stockings as well as sweet gifts for the holidays.

Right now, the buildings look a bit naked as the old siding was removed this week in anticipation of a new upgraded exterior coming very soon. As I was getting my latte today, I asked barista Ellee Leva what happened to their “skin,” and she told me her Dad (Confectionery owner Craig Leva) wanted the outside to look just as beautiful as the newly renovated interiors of the buildings. The coffee shop features large tables for groups (one of which is a cool vintage treasure from local shop Scout and Forge), smaller tables for meet-ups, and a comfy couch and chairs for casual conversation. I happened to be there when the new couch was delivered so I can vouch for the coziness! Long Grove resident Ethel Berger, who ran Beans & Leaves, has returned to head up the operations at Long Grove Coffee Company and her regulars have already started to settle in to the new location. Plans are underway to add some additional food offerings in the months ahead and to continue the tradition of live music that the community enjoyed at the former location.

As you finish your holiday shopping in our historic downtown, stop by for a warm beverage and piece of chocolate and get acquainted with one of the many new businesses that have opened this year in Long Grove. The new couch awaits you!!

Testing out the brand new couch on December 8th (L to R): Angie Underwood, Marie Roth, and Ethel Berger.

Testing out the brand new couch on December 8th (L to R): Angie Underwood, Marie Roth, and Ethel Berger.