Ashuelot Doppelgänger

Visiting the Ashuelot, New Hampshire covered bridge on October 15, 2018.

Visiting the Ashuelot, New Hampshire covered bridge on October 15, 2018.

In the early 1970’s Robert Parker Coffin looked for some inspiration when designing a cover for Long Grove’s 1906 metal truss bridge over Buffalo Creek. According to the story, the covered bridge spanning the Ashuelot river in New Hampshire provided some ideas to Mr. Coffin (an architect and former Village President) who oversaw the building of what later became the iconic village symbol in Long Grove, Illinois.

This week, finding myself in New England on a vacation to enjoy the fall colors, I had to satisfy my curiosity by paying a visit to Ashuelot to view the original bridge. In addition to the beautiful autumn foliage, we spotted many wild turkeys as we made our way into the tiny town, spread along the riverside. The bridge itself is quite long, painted white with a red roof and a covered walkway on both sides. I did notice a striking similarity in the appearance of the entrance, and in the way that the posts and arches over the openings felt familiar.

Another bit of nostalgia was the warm feeling of goosebumps that I got driving underneath the wooden covering from one side to another. I can’t wait until we are able to experience that once again in Long Grove. As we concluded our visit several cars of tourists arrived with cameras in hand, verifying the attraction feature this bridge also shares with our hometown symbol back in Illinois. There is no doubt that covered bridges evoke a special kind of charm appreciated across the country.

VTCoveredBridge0001-8832

Pardon Our Dust

Long Grove residents Dave and Amy Gayton (on the left) join me in checking out the giant excavation at the crossroads in Long Grove during Apple Fest 2018.

Long Grove residents Dave and Amy Gayton (on the left) join me in checking out the giant excavation at the crossroads in Long Grove during Apple Fest 2018.

Anyone who has dared to venture into the Long Grove historic downtown in the past several weeks can tell you that it’s been a challenge navigating around all the various construction obstacles. Storm sewers are being installed, pavement dug out, building foundations reinforced, utilities relocated, roads temporarily closed–you name it–everything is converging into one giant mess of inconvenience. While there has been a fair amount of road work going on since April of this year, crews have recently ramped up the pace in an effort to complete as much as possible before winter sets in and puts an end to the road paving season. The Old McHenry Road reconstruction and intersection improvements project is being undertaken by Lake County DOT. Starting this coming Tuesday, October 9th, at 6 a.m. a portion of Old McHenry Road will be closed to all through traffic with reopening anticipated in November. Click here for more details and to view a map of the detour.

All stores in downtown Long Grove have remained open during the construction, but as you can imagine, with torn up streets and sidewalks it has made getting from place to place an adventure. Shopkeepers that I spoke to this week are drawing on reserves of patience and optimism, and looking forward to brighter days ahead with freshly paved roads and sidewalks, new lighting and streetscaping, and a refreshed look to our historic crossroads. One big change on the horizon is the traffic signal soon to be installed on the corner of Old McHenry Road and Robert Parker Coffin Road.

The construction this summer has been a hardship on not just the Long Grove businesses, but for all those who need to commute through the area en route to jobs and schools. In addition, the local non-profit community groups have had to alter or cancel activities and fundraisers due to the disruption. The Arts & Music Council held an abbreviated concert series this summer due to work scheduled near Towner Green. The Rotary Club was unable to hold their annual Heritage Run this September and have replaced it with an Octoberfest fundraiser at Buffalo Creek Brewing this coming Saturday, October 6th. The Historical Society has unfortunately had to cancel their popular Ghost Walk this year due to safety concerns with walking groups of families in the construction zone amidst the Halloween darkness, detours, and pedestrian restricted areas. A much smaller (but still spooky) family event is being planned at the farmhouse on the evening of October 26th.

So what can we all do to help our village during the next couple of difficult months? Make it a point to patronize the downtown restaurants, shop for gifts in the local stores, pick up your morning latte at one of our downtown coffee shops instead of cruising the drive thru just because it is more convenient. Continue to contribute to our local non-profits, even if their signature fundraisers have been temporarily sidelined. By supporting each other our community can sustain through the construction disruption. In the meantime, pardon our dust, because one day soon this construction will all be in the past and the improvements will be well worth the wait!

Women, Gathering to Make a Difference

Mary Edly-Allen, Candidate for Illinois State Representative District 51 (on the left) is pictured with several Members of VOWs (Voices of Women, strong) at a Long Grove gathering on September 28th.

Mary Edly-Allen, Candidate for Illinois State Representative District 51 (on the left) is pictured with several members of VOWs (Voices of Women, strong) at a Long Grove gathering on September 28th.

It has been a difficult week for anyone following the news headlines or televised senate hearings relating to the current supreme court nominee. I belong to a group of Long Grove ladies who gather on a weekly basis to discuss state, national and local politics. This week I was particularly grateful to have this caring, strong and smart huddle of female powerhouses to process together the events of the moment. But rather than wallow in the unpleasantness being created on the national political scene, this week we also focused on making a positive difference in the state of Illinois.

Long Grove is represented in the Illinois 51st District. Last month, our former State Representative suddenly resigned from office due to a girlfriend’s allegations of misconduct. Running for this seat in November is candidate Mary Edly-Allen of Grayslake, and our group of women has been eager to hear more about her. Mary graciously accepted the invitation to join our coffee on September 28th, and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her, what motivated her to run for office, and her stand on the issues. Kudos to Mary for stepping up to run for office and giving us all hope for a better tomorrow. One thing that our opinionated group of individuals can all agree on is that having more women on the ballot, in elected office at all levels, is a step in the right direction. Instead of just getting frustrated by the current state of affairs, we can all do what we can to work towards positive changes. It starts by asking questions and seeking to become better educated, so that your informed choice is counted at the polls in November.

Here’s to Strong Women:

May we know them, May we be them, May we vote for them!

Hawk-Eyed

We have a feathered friend who has taken up residence in our yard this summer.

Pictured above is the feathered friend who has taken up residence in our yard this spring and summer.

There are few things that I find more peaceful than spending time in nature. Luckily for me, I live in a place where it is possible to do that on a daily basis. But like so many of us, I get busy and over-booked and forget to really pay attention sometimes. This week however, I finally took a cue from a very observant creature.

We often have hawks visit our yard, the adjoining prairie lot, and the creek and conservancy that border it. They can be spotted circling overhead or perched in nearby trees at all times of the year. Besides being majestic to behold, we love the hawks because they help keep down the local field mice population. And while I appreciate all of God’s creatures, every rodent snack a hawk snatches from my yard is one less rodent to keep out of my basement this fall. Happy hunting, hawk-eyed friends!

This spring, my husband and I first noticed one particular hawk who seems to visit our yard more frequently, and who has a favorite perch on the top of a large evergreen tree at the back edge of our lot. It has been fun to watch her (I’m deeming it a her although I really have no clue) all summer long from the back windows and outside deck. Seeing her fly over the prairie or spotting her perched on a limb in vigilant watchfulness has been a happy reminder that we share our little corner of Long Grove with wildlife free to come and go. Or is she really as wild as we think?

A couple of days ago we realized that nearly every morning around 8:00 am she is there, perched on top of the evergreen. Aaron goes out and fires up the John Deere for his 3 minute commute across the prairie path to his office. The hawk flies over him and perches on a tree in the hedgerow between the lots, then she hunts in the prairie after Aaron has effectively “scared up” her breakfast. It has not only been us who have been watching the hawk. She has been watching us, using her keen eyesight to observe our routines and patterns and learn just when to wait for her most opportune hunting moment. The hawk helps us to keep the mice population under control, but we help her to feed her family. How many weeks has it taken me to notice the connection? The hawk had it figured out months ago!

There are so many lessons to be found in nature, sometimes we just have to take the time to really look.

The Drama and the Trauma

 

LILG-BridgeDamage0002-8624

Picture of the damage to the covered bridge on June 27th, 2018, taken soon after the accident. The wooden covering has continued to slowly collapse in the days since. The long term work needed to stabilize, open the road to traffic, and repair the damage is still being evaluated.

Shock, sadness and disbelief only begin to describe the emotions felt by those of us in the Long Grove community, Chicago area, and other parts of the country as the news of the severe damage to our covered bridge spreads, coming less than two weeks after the Historical Society was informed of the bridge’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. For those of you who have not yet heard the details of the accident, the following report from WBBM CBS Chicago, which aired on Thursday, June 28th gives a good synopsis:

The day before the accident, the Village Board had approved plans to temporarily close the bridge on July 12th so that the community at large could celebrate the new federal listing. Plans were already underway by several community groups to participate in the party, and excitement among residents was high. Just look at these smiles below…

LILG-BridgePlaque0001-8619

Former Trustee John Marshall (left) and downtown businessman Ryan Messner are shown installing the National Register marker on the bridge exactly one week before it was severely damaged.

The recent news of the National Register status had seen major media attention in the Chicago area, and it was picked up by the Associated Press last weekend. Many individuals had reached out to the Long Grove Historical Society following the National Register news with congratulations and elation over this story. The feeling in the community had been one of pride and happiness.

Which makes the turn of events this week so incredibly dramatic. At the scene of the accident just an hour after it occurred, I talked with a woman from California who was a history buff and had heard the news of the National Register listing. She flew across the country specifically to see our iconic bridge, only to arrive minutes after it was severely damaged. I met a resident from a neighboring community who works nearby and purposely goes out of his way to and from work to drive over the bridge because he loves it. He was devastated. Again, our inbox has been full of emails from bridge aficionados near and far, expressing sadness and anger at what has happened. I heard today from a gentleman who is the Vice President of the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania, with, “support for your efforts to see that the bridge is repaired.” He also stated that, “this is a bridge that I now have on my list to visit.”

As disheartening as the past few days have been, I know without a doubt that this community is resilient, and that we will rally and come together once again to save our bridge and restore it. Many, many passionate people have worked very hard to get the bridge on the National Register, and we will work just as hard to have that long-awaited celebration when the repairs are completed. I am looking forward to it! In parting, be heartened by the lovely image below, recently taken and sent to me by someone who grew up loving this bridge and loves it still today. Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words.

LILG-Bridge-Fishing

A beautiful picture of local boys searching for crayfish in Buffalo Creek under the bridge, taken and sent to me a few days before the tragic accident.

Why History Matters

Members of the 2018-2019 Long Grove Historical Society Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting on  April 25, 2018.

Members of the 2018-2019 Long Grove Historical Society Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting on April 25, 2018.

The Long Grove Historical Society has a website, and we are contacted fairly often by people all over the country with inquiries relating to our Village, past and present. I would like to share with you an email that we recently received, because it underscores the importance of remembering and honoring our history. I read this correspondence at our Board meeting last month so that all those who work so hard to preserve our past know that their efforts really do matter. Last week I paid a visit to Barbara Turner who will turn 99 next month, and had the pleasure of sharing these fond remembrances with her:

“We raised our three sons on Old McHenry Road in Long Grove until the 1970’s. When they went off to college, my husband John and I moved to Oregon in 1976.

Looking back, those were the years where we really matured. I worked closely with Barbara Turner to turn the local school library at Kildeer Countryside into a vibrant and relevant school library. My husband John was one of the first volunteer firemen who took the paramedic training. We really became contributing adults there. It was a wonderful learning experience.

Now I am living in a high rise retirement home in Portland, Oregon. I had dinner tonight with a couple who I knew but had no idea her family was originally from Buffalo Grove. We had a nice time exchanging reminiscences, so I came up after dinner and reread Virginia Park’s book on the area, Long Grove Lore and Legend. I had kept it all these years–I am so glad I did! For some reason, it made more sense tonight than when I was active living among the people mentioned in the book.

These days I am pretty ancient. I suspect Barbara and Virginia are long gone. But I wanted to make sure that their descendants, and you who are working to ensure that history is not forgotten realize that your work is SO worthwhile. I will now share this material with my Buffalo Grove friend. Who would have imagined?

If any of you are still in contact with the Turner and Park descendants, let them know. Even after all of these years, they will never be forgotten. If it had not been for Barbara, she and I would never have decided to pursue our advanced degrees in library science–and I would never have received a lifetime achievement award in the field. She was an amazing leader and loved Long Grove.”

Sincerely,

Sybilla Cook

On May 29th, while vacationing Greece, I got a personal tour of the local history museum in Kaloxylos, on the island of Naxos. I'm pictured here with museum founder Flourios Horianopoulos who gave me a personal tour and some awesome lemonade he makes from his lemon trees. Hats off to local historians world wide. Opa!

On May 29th, 2018 while vacationing in Greece, I got a personal tour of the local history museum in Kaloxylos, on the island of Naxos. I’m pictured here with museum founder Flourios Horianopoulos who gave me a personal tour and some awesome homemade lemonade he makes from his trees. Hats off to all of us world-wide with a passion for saving local history. Opa!

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.

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!