More Chocolate to Love

Cathie Olson is shown helping me satisfy another chocolate craving at the new Morkes Chocolates shop  in Long Grove.

Cathie Olson is shown helping me satisfy another chocolate craving at the new Morkes Chocolates shop in Long Grove.

My relationship with chocolate is simple–resistance is futile. As a child, I always tried to give it up for Lent and almost never made it the 40 days. As an adult, I try to cut back from time to time when I need to lose a few pounds. But in my opinion, it’s not really a perfect day if it doesn’t include a little chocolate somewhere. Imagine my delight to discover that we have one more shop in town to satisfy my sweet tooth, Morkes Chocolates!

This week Long Grove welcomed our newest candy store with a celebratory ribbon cutting. Open since August 1st, Morkes is located in the red schoolhouse building on Fountain Square that formerly housed the Long Grove Confectionery. The Morkes family originated in France and started in the candy-making business back in 1920. Further generations continued the family tradition and opened the original Morkes Chocolates in Palatine, Illinois in 1967. Today, the Palatine location also serves as headquarters and production for the company, with additional stores in Huntley and now Long Grove. Current owner Rhonda Dehn is the 3rd generation of the Morkes family to craft delicious chocolate treats here in the northwest suburbs. I have personally sampled many of the mouth-watering choices available (I know, it was a tough job, but doing this blog requires painstaking research!) and my favorites so far are the lemon creams and signature white chocolate pecan “puppets”.  Later this fall Morkes plans to offer classes and private parties in the upper floor of their building. I am intrigued by the prospect of learning how to temper chocolate, dip & decorate, and I really need to know what ingredients are involved with “extreme” fondue!

Morkes joins our two other village candy shops, Ma & Pa’s Candy and the Long Grove Confectionery. The Confectionery has moved to another location in our historic downtown and after a summer of renovations is slated to reopen in October. Is this potentially too much of a good thing? I view having additional chocolate stores the same way as being blessed with another child– more to love!

“I Wanna Put On my, my, my, my, my Boogie Shoes”

Putting on our "Boogie Shoes" for a dance lesson at the new Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Long Grove.

Putting on our “Boogie Shoes” for a ballroom dancing lesson at the new Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Long Grove.

I have to admit that I’ve been having a lot of fun this summer. One of the main reasons that I stepped away from the demands of being Village President was that I wanted to have more time to spend with my loved ones, doing things that I enjoyed and that were important to me. The last few months have been filled with travel, hiking, camping, downtime in the pool, and some very satisfying community service. I have also recently discovered something new that allows me to spend time together with my husband, have some fun, and contributes to our goal of staying healthy–ballroom dancing!

Yes, we have started taking lessons at the new Fred Astaire Dance Studio in downtown Long Grove. Located at the former Red Oaks property, owner (and former “Dancing with the Stars” pro) Jesse DeSoto has transformed a barn into a grand ballroom. Both Aaron and I have gotten to know Jesse over the past year as he has been renovating and getting the new property up to speed. So when we recently received invitations to our niece’s Quinceanera and a neighbor’s wedding, I knew just who to call to get us ready for the dance floor. I usually have to drag Aaron out when the music starts at special events, but he agreed to give our new dance studio a whirl. We have found both the staff and our fellow students to be extremely friendly and very welcoming. Our instructor, Brianna, is patient and encouraging and we have learned the basics of the rumba, fox trot, waltz, and push-pull. So far, we are having a blast!

Not sure that we will ever strike as lovely a pose as our dance instructors Vlad and Brianna Nalyvaychuk, but we are having fun trying!

Not sure that we will ever strike as lovely a pose as our dance instructors Vlad and Brianna Nalyvaychuk, but we are having fun trying!

Polly Pureheart Prevails

The back porch of our Historical Society farmhouse will serve as a stage for the upcoming production of "Polly Pureheart Prevails."

The back porch of our Historical Society farmhouse will serve as a stage for the upcoming production of “Polly Pureheart Prevails.”

Last summer a new festival debuted in Long Grove, known as Vintage Days. The entire event was a huge success, pairing old-fashioned fun with community group volunteerism to produce a hometown festival put on by locals, for locals. Right now, organizations such as the Long Grove Community Church, Long Grove Performing Arts Academy, Long Grove Historical Society, Long Grove Arts & Music Council, and the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association have partnered together to plan a weekend full of family friendly entertainment and shopping, August 19th and 20th. Over 40 antique, vintage, upcycled, and/or reclaimed dealers will have unique items for sale on the Robert Parker Coffin Road street market in front of the covered bridge. The bridge crossing will be open to pedestrians, bikes, and vintage tractor traffic only, so it will be the perfect opportunity to come linger under our iconic bridge, which is poised to be listed on the National Register. Admission and parking are free, as well as the live music, historic tractor rides, ice cream social on Saturday at the church, and penny carnival on Sunday at the farmhouse.

A couple of new activities this year include the Pop-Up Car Show and two entertaining dramatic presentations at our farmhouse “back porch” stage. The car show will feature registered VIP parking for classic cars in the Stemple parking lot. On Saturday at 4:00, our farmhouse stage will host “A Salute to Old Glory,” as narrator Mike Dvorak takes audience volunteers back to 1814 to tell the story of the Star-Spangled Banner, followed by “Old Glory in Barnwood,” a presentation by artist Marie Roth featuring stories and selections from her celebrated collection of historic flag recreations.  On Sunday, trade in your pennies (if you don’t have any, we will give you some!) for a chance at old-timey games and nifty prizes at the Penny Carnival from noon till 2:00, then stay for a wacky 1-act melodrama, “Polly Pureheart Prevails,” presented by the summer session theater students of the Long Grove Performing Arts Academy. Showtime for the half-hour performance is 2:00. Cap off the day by attending the 4:00 Arts & Music Council concert on Towner Green featuring the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. And don’t forget–all of this is free of charge! Visit longgrove.org for a full listing of all the weekend activities.

Plan to bring the kids and grandkids to downtown Long Grove Saturday and Sunday, August 19th and 20th, for one last blast of summertime memories before school kicks into gear once more. Vintage Days will be rocking and rolling fun for the entire family–be there or be square!

Welcome, Buffalo Creek Brewing!

Members of the Long Grove Historical Society  celebrating at the Grand Opening on July 15, 2015.

Members of the Long Grove Historical Society celebrating at the Grand Opening on July 15, 2017.

It was so great to see the Stempel parking lot filled today, and not because of a festival but because so many locals showed up to welcome a new business in town. It has been nearly ten years since the former Studio of Long Grove closed their doors, and this property next to the Historical Society farmhouse has sat vacant much of that time. We are all thrilled to see Buffalo Creek Brewing up and running, and the crowds checking out this new local hot spot were in a celebratory mood at the Grand Opening today. The event featured a ribbon cutting, samples of featured craft beers brewed on site, and bands on the outdoor lawn throughout the afternoon and evening. The weather could not have been more perfect for the festivities and it was wonderful to run into so many friends and neighbors toasting to the success of this welcome addition to our historic downtown. Here’s to owner Mike Marr and his family and staff as they continue to work hard to build a new business in Long Grove and help with the revitalization of our Village–Cheers and Best Wishes!!

L to R: Dale Perrin, Director of the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce, Mike Marr, owner of Buffalo Creek Brewing, and Angie Underwood, President of the Long Grove Historical Society.

L to R: Dale Perrin, Director of the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce, Mike Marr, owner of Buffalo Creek Brewing, and Angie Underwood, President of the Long Grove Historical Society. Mike was presented with a “welcome to the neighborhood” gift of a historical print of his choice from our archives.

One Yuuuge Check

Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Business Association presents a ginormous check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society.

Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Business Association presents a ginormous check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society.

Last weekend’s Strawberry Fest featured lovely weather and a healthy attendance. The Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association generously pledged to donate a portion of the admission fees to help offset the costs of needed restoration for our Historic Covered Bridge. The happy result is pictured above, as Ryan Messner, President of the HDLGBA presents a giant check to Diane Trickey, Treasurer of the Long Grove Historical Society, during the June 27th Village Board meeting. It is exciting to see donations such as these–earmarked for covered bridge restoration–start to accumulate, and this is only the beginning. Stay tuned as efforts continue over the summer and into the fall as the residents, merchants, Historical Society, and other community groups work together in raising funds to “Save the Bridge.”

Say Hello to Pub 83!

Jimmy, the General Manager of Pub 83 welcomed me to the newly reopened restaurant last night.

Jimmy, the General Manager of Pub 83 welcomed me to the newly reopened restaurant last night.

For many years now the former Gridley Grill restaurant on the corner of Rt. 83 and Gilmer road has remained closed, despite the addition of a new entrance and expansion of the parking lot. That is, until this past Monday, when the doors opened once again to the new Pub 83. The current management has reinvigorated the space to cater to contemporary casual dining, featuring pizza, burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads. The dining room is family friendly, and the bar has additional large screen T.V.’s for a sports-pub atmosphere. My husband and I enjoyed our recent dinner there, and with only five days in business so far, they were full on a Friday night. Based on all the inquiries I have received over the past few years, I know that we are one of many families who were eagerly awaiting the reopening of this Long Grove dining spot.

However, seeing Pub 83 finally back in business is bittersweet for me since it is the result of the most recent tie that I had to break on the Village Board. On August 23, 2016 owner George Calis came to our meeting to ask the trustees for a class V liquor and video gaming license, which our Board had established by ordinance earlier in the year. He stated that knowing he could have video gaming was the incentive he needed to reopen the long-shuttered establishment. Three of the trustees voted against allowing George his liquor and gaming license, and the remaining three trustees (who will all be leaving the board this month) voted to grant his request. While trying to be responsible for what is ultimately best for the village as a whole, I cast my tie-breaking vote to once again fill the vacant restaurant.

This week, it was great to enjoy a meal again at “Gridleys” surrounded by other residents socializing and having a good time in our village. I am glad to have played a small part to help empower this to happen, and I wish the all best for Pub 83. Stop by and give it a try!

On the Endangered List

Speaking at a press conference in Springfield on April 6th with Ryan Messner.

Speaking at a press conference in Springfield on April 6th with Ryan Messner.

Every year, the nonprofit organization Landmarks Illinois creates a list of the Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. This is done to provide a focus for the organization’s statewide advocacy efforts. Over the last 22 years, a third of all properties and sites included on the annual Most Endangered list have been saved. This year the spotlight involved Long Grove, as our covered bridge was featured as one of the historic bridges on the list to be saved. Landmarks Illinois made the announcement of the list during a press conference in Springfield earlier this week, and a group of nine residents and merchants traveled to our state capital to participate. Ryan Messner, President of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association, and I were both asked to speak at the press conference about our local efforts to save the bridge. We are grateful for the public awareness that being on this annual list generates, as well as the help provided by Landmarks Illinois going forward as we advocate together for national historic register status and restoration funds.

While in town, I met with our State Representative Nick Sauer in his Springfield office to discuss the covered bridge and other local issues. After the press conference our group of nine visited with State Senator Dan McConchie, who graciously gave us a personal tour of the senate floor and posed for pictures. I even had the opportunity to stand at the podium in the senate chamber, hold the gavel, and pretend to break a tie. Personally, I was dreaming of bringing down the gavel to accept an Illinois budget, but alas….not my jurisdiction.

With only two weeks to go in my term, this trip to Springfield will be remembered as one of my last and best experiences as Village President. We even caught a glimpse of Governor Rauner as he passed across the rotunda in front of us! At dinner the night before, I had the chance to talk with State Senator Melinda Bush about a bill that I am following, and she offered to introduce me, Village Clerk Amy Gayton, and Amy’s two daughters Alex and Nikki to the sponsor of the bill (who happened to be eating in the same restaurant) so that we could thank her. The female legislators took the opportunity to encourage the young girls to run for office themselves one day. Truly, it was inspiring.

Our Long Grove contingent surrounding State Senator Dan McConchie in the senate chamber (L to R): Jim Unzler, Aaron and Angie Underwood, Dana and Ryan Messner, Amy, Alex, Nikki and David Gayton.

Our Long Grove contingent surrounding State Senator Dan McConchie in the senate chamber (L to R): Jim Uszler, Aaron and Angie Underwood, Dana and Ryan Messner, Amy, Alex, Nikki and David Gayton.

A New Home for the Confectionery

Owner of the Long Grove Confectionery, Craig Leva, is shown here in the middle, with me on the left and Marian Ward, owner of Within Reach, on the right.

Owner of the Long Grove Confectionery, Craig Leva, is shown here in the middle, with me on the left and Marian Ward, owner of Within Reach, on the right.

For the past 42 years, the Long Grove Confectionery has housed it’s flagship retail location in the basement of the little red schoolhouse on Fountain Square. Chocoholics in Long Grove and the Northwestern suburbs have known just where to go to get their sweet fix. But later this year, the Confectionery will debut a new retail store here in our historic downtown, at 128 Old McHenry Road, adjacent to Towner Green. Why the move?

Back in 2013, about a month after I became Village President, the former owner of the Long Grove Confectionery sold the business and the plant in Buffalo Grove to Craig Leva, owner of Arway Confections, based in Chicago. The little retail shop was part of the deal and Craig has gone to a lot of effort to keep the store a part of our local business economy, as well as personally participating with his family in all of our major festivals. But he has been paying rent these past four years to the new owner of the Fountain Square parcel, so this upcoming move gives Craig the opportunity to truly make the Long Grove retail store reflective of his new combined business. I am very excited that the Leva family has decided to further invest in Long Grove and become a property owner in the downtown, and I think this is a positive sign for revitalization. Even more, I can’t wait to see what the newly renovated and updated Confectionery looks like and has to offer in the way of sweet surprises! In the meantime, we can all get our chocolate cravings satisfied during the major festivals this year in Long Grove as the Confectionery still plans to participate.  It just wouldn’t be the same without chocolate covered strawberries and apple cider donuts!

Girls about Town

When I need to meet with the Mayor of Kildeer, Nandia Black, we do it in style--over high tea!

When I need to meet with the Mayor of Kildeer, Nandia Black, we do it in style–over high tea!

At a recent municipal gathering, I spent some time talking with my friend Nandia Black, the Mayor of our neighboring village of Kildeer. Nandia mentioned that she had not visited some of the newer shops and restaurants in Long Grove, so I offered to personally introduce her to some of my favorite places. Last week, we spent a delightful afternoon together as only two female “heads of state” can do; politics peppered with earl grey and scones, issues amid antiques, strong women supporting each other while simultaneously shopping. Our meeting started with a lovely lunch at High Tea with Gerri, complete with hats and a glass of champagne. In my book, it never hurts to extend a little genteel diplomacy!

Join us on our joyful journey, as chronicled in the following photos:

After lunch we worked off the calories shopping at some of our newer stores. We are pictured here at Epilogue, checking out the beautiful artistic gifts and jewelry.

After lunch we worked off the calories shopping at some of our newer stores. We are pictured here at Epilogue, checking out the beautiful artistic gifts and jewelry.

In between shopping for unique vintage treasures at Two Fancie Gals and Scout and Forge, we stopped to visit with Randy Towner at Mel's and lent some support to his local sentiments.

In between shopping for unique vintage treasures at Two Fancie Gals and Scout and Forge, we stopped to visit with Randy Towner at Mel’s and lent some support to his local sentiments.

After introducing Nandia to the staff at the Information Center, we could not resist a photo op with the cute Valentine teddy bear currently residing at our crossroads.

After introducing Nandia to the staff at the Information Center, we could not resist a photo op with the cute Valentine teddy bear currently residing at our crossroads. Our next stop was at How Impressive, where we were dazzled by the array of personalized gifts available.

What better way to cap off our day than by relaxing and enjoying the friendly ambiance at the Chatterbox.

What better way to cap off our day than by relaxing and enjoying the friendly ambiance at The Chatterbox. Next up, Nandia promises to take me on a tour of her favorite new places in Kildeer. I’ve had so much fun today, I’m even reconsidering building that wall….

Celebrating Small Business

Award nominees at the Lake Zurich Chamber of Commerce "Evening of Excellence" (L to R): John Kopecky of Country House of Long Grove, Jenny Wierzchen, Sarah Simon, and Rich Wierzchen of Primrose School of Long Grove.

Award nominees at the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce “Evening of Excellence” (L to R): John Kopecky of Country House of Long Grove, Jenny Wierzchen, Sarah Simon, and Rich Wierzchen of Primrose School of Long Grove.

I feel it is important in my role as Village President, and also as a member of my community, to do what I can to recognize, promote, and shop at our locally owned small businesses. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to put those words into action in a couple of different ways.

The Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors an annual “Evening of Excellence” awards dinner, in which individuals and businesses are honored for their successes and contributions to the community. I sponsored a table of Long Grove business owners to attend, especially to cheer for our home town nominees: Primrose School of Long Grove for the New Business of the Year award and owner John Kopecky of The Country House of Long Grove for Citizen of the Year. Even though our Long Grove honorees were not chosen as the overall winners this year, we all enjoyed celebrating many other excellent small businesses in the area. In fact, our group capped off the evening by sampling the food and beverages at Consume of Lake Zurich, the newly-minted best new business. When we mutually support one another, everyone wins!

This event also motivated me to do a little bit of last minute shopping in downtown Long Grove on Saturday afternoon. As I was mentally reviewing what I planned to wear that evening, I realized I did not have an appropriate evening purse to match my gown and shoes. Lynne Jankovec of Olivia’s Past was very helpful with stylish tips but did not have exactly what I needed on hand (however I did end up with a cute new blouse!) and suggested I check out fellow merchant Cleo Jewelry and Accessories. And there I found a beautiful cocktail purse that perfectly coordinated and was reasonably priced! That evening, I received several compliments on my new purse and I made sure to spread the word about the great local store where I found it.

We all have the ability to help our home town economies rebuild and thrive. Think outside of the (big) box and endless online options available. Sometimes, what you really need is right in your own backyard.

Congratulating my friend Lisa Warren of Kildeer (on the left), winner of the Citizen of the Year award.  Lisa and I go way back--volunteering together on the board of the Neighbors and Newcomers Club of Long Grove & Kildeer, almost 20 years ago!

Congratulating my friend Lisa Warren of Kildeer (on the left), winner of the Citizen of the Year award. Lisa and I go way back–volunteering together on the board of the Neighbors and Newcomers Club of Long Grove & Kildeer, almost 20 years ago. Way to go Lisa!