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!

Coffee + Cooperation = Community Success

LILG-CoffeeCup

 

I would like to share with you something that I learned today, something that warmed my heart. First a little background:

Ethel and Tim Berger are Long Grove residents and the owners of our independent, “mom & pop” coffee spot, Beans & Leaves. For many of us here in town, this is our local place to hang out or meet up with friends, and I often joke that it serves as my unofficial “office” since I don’t have a dedicated space at Village Hall and I regularly use Beans & Leaves as a place to meet with residents or others who request a one-on-one with me. Besides serving great coffee and tea drinks, Ethel and Tim host free music nights for the residents every month, featuring local talent. Another way I know that they serve the community is by supporting and sponsoring activities at the Montessori School of Long Grove.

Arboria is a newly constructed residence and business here in our Village. Expected to open early in 2017, it will provide assisted living and memory care to new and existing members of our community. As with any new development that presents change, particularly in a community that values native trees and open space, this sparked lively discussions. Our Village Staff, plan commissioners, and elected officials worked together with the property owners and developers and after several public hearings the project was granted approval. I feel that when a new neighbor comes in, it is always in the best interest of the entire community to welcome them graciously and partner together to make as many benefits and good relationships come forward as possible.

Recently, Ethel was invited by the executive staff and owners of Arboria to present a “coffee tasting seminar,” in an effort by the new development to engage with the Long Grove business community. According to representative Jordan Glazov, Arboria has already partnered with Joanie’s Pizza and the Grove Country Club to host and cater events leading up to the grand opening. When I stopped in for my latte this morning, Ethel was beaming as she shared her excitement at being recently asked to supply Arboria with custom “Arboria Blend” coffee beans, created especially for their residents to be featured during meals and available at their in-house bistro-patisserie. This is a welcome new opportunity to grow her business, and a great example of a collaborative relationship that benefits everybody in the community–merchants and residents alike. It’s a win-win-win in my book:  Arboria gets high-quality custom coffee, a downtown Long Grove business flourishes, and the residents are gifted with a merchant who serves and supports the community. Seeing positive efforts like these, by those willing to work together in a spirit of mutual support, shows me that things are moving in the right direction. It is possible that by cooperating, we will ALL succeed. Today, Long Grove, you made me smile!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Decorated Christmas trees are popping up all over our historic downtown!

Decorated Christmas trees are popping up all over our historic downtown.

If you need some inspiration to get in the holiday mood, look no further than downtown Long Grove! The elves have been busy decorating 80 fresh evergreen trees scattered throughout our historic crossroads. Jump-start your Christmas cheer at two special events tonight only–both of which are FREE! Santa himself will be making a visit to Beans & Leaves coffee shop from 3-5, and he will be taking gift requests from both the naughty and the nice. Enjoy the beautiful lights and decorations as you shop till 7:00 this evening as the stores have extended hours. As a special holiday treat, from 5:00 till 7:00 the merchants are sponsoring free lighted wagon rides of our downtown, pulled by a vintage tractor. Top the night off with dinner or drinks at one of our Long Grove restaurants or gathering spots. Even the Grinch could not resist this much seasonal spirit!

Long Grove is charming any day of the year, but at Christmastime it really shines. For the next three weekends strolling carolers and complimentary carriage rides are available from 1 to 6 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Happy Holidays!

 A festive holiday scene awaits in Long Grove!

A festive holiday scene awaits in Long Grove.

Zombies, Wolves, & One Seriously Scary Doll

Long Grove merchants and residents worked together to create this display of hand-carved jack-o-lanterns welcoming those brave enough to experience Red Riding Hood's haunted trail.

Long Grove merchants and residents worked together to create this display of hand carved jack-o-lanterns welcoming those brave enough to experience Red Riding Hood’s haunted trail.

Reading the title of this post might cause you to ask, “What do these three things have to do with Long Grove?” On the Historical Society’s October 28th Ghost Walk, not only could you find zombies, wolves, and an evil doll residing in our village, but the Ghost of Cuba Road materialized as well to scare the nearly 300 children and parents who participated. The Halloween fun kicked off Friday afternoon with Trick-or-Treating in the historic downtown shops. It was delightful to see so many cutely costumed kiddos as I was purchasing embellishments to add to my own witch getup for later that evening.

Serving as a tour guide, it was my job to safely navigate families of willing “victims” through our haunted historic district. The route took us past the line of scarecrows on Towner Green, some of which were not quite dead. The zombie dancers at In-Motion returned again this year to entertain, as did crazy Jake Eisler and his stick of dynamite. Good thing Jake was a die-hard Cubs fan, coming back from the grave to listen to the world series game and give us updates on the score! The Long Grove Community Church welcomed us in for a tour of their 1800’s cemetery, featuring the real-life tombstone of one past Long Grovian named Fredriche Krueger. Yes, “Freddy Krueger” was indeed lurking about, as well as many other spirits of the past. A trip back to the safety of the village involved crossing our haunted covered bridge, and a journey through Red Riding Hood’s spooky, wolf infested woods. The tour concluded this year with perhaps the most spine-tingling story of the evening, as Mike Dvorack used sound and light effects to tell the tale of “Arabella” the seemingly sweet yet secretly sinister doll. One father of a 5 year old confided in me that his daughter would probably now be sleeping in Mom & Dad’s bed for the next night or two! Having fun scaring the children….accomplished.

Here’s hoping that your Halloween is equally thrilling and chilling!

Attending the 2016 Ghost Walk are Long Grove residents (L to R): Doug and Jane Primack, Ellie, Jennifer and Collin Russell, Angie Underwood and Georgia Cawley.

Attending the 2016 Ghost Walk are Long Grove residents (L to R): Doug and Jane Primack, Ellie, Jennifer and Collin Russell, Angie Underwood and Georgia Cawley.

Mel’s Gas Info-Station

Long Grove resident Randy Towner, carrying on the family gas station at the crossroads, Mel's.

Randy Towner helps carry on his father’s business, Mel’s Marathon Mini Mart, at the crossroads in downtown Long Grove.

Every small town has a “hub” from which all real information flows. In my central Illinois hometown, circa 1970’s, it was the local diner, Kathy’s Kitchen. The grain elevator was another hotspot for local news, and I got to witness this firsthand during the summers when I worked for my Dad, who managed the elevator, and my cousin Rita, who managed the office help. Farmers would come in every day to “check the grain prices” but I suspected another reason they stayed and visited with each other so long was the desire to “check the latest chatter” going on around town.

In Long Grove, the undisputed central source of information is Mel’s, our crossroads gas station. Originally owned by long-time residents Mel and Dee Towner, the station is built on family property that dates back to the 1920’s and includes the open area now known as Towner Green. The station is currently managed by Mel’s sons Randy and Wendall, who run a mini mart in addition to the traditional gas pumps. Nothing much happens in Long Grove that Randy has not caught wind of almost immediately. When I truly want to find out what is going on in town, I go fill the car up, or better yet…send my husband to find out the latest report. Aaron loves to come home and inform the Village President what information hasn’t yet made it to Village Hall. And if I ever feel the need to verify the advance intelligence, it always checks out.

It helps that Mel’s also provides a tow truck for use in emergencies, so communications with the Lake County Sheriff officers are frequent. Case in point:  recently a local youth drove a car into a neighborhood pond, and one of my Trustees happened by the scene as the rescue was in process and phoned me. I felt like I had some breaking-news information to tell my husband as he walked in the door, only to have him fill me in with even more details gleaned as he was getting gas for the lawnmower.

The Towner family has long held a role in helping our community prosper. Mel Towner served 44 years as a volunteer fire fighter, and Dee Towner’s father donated the land to build our first fire department. The gas station today is a touchstone to our roots as a rural community. If a business in the historic downtown is closing, or a new store opening up, 9 times out of 10 I will hear the news from Randy first. I think it is great that we have a hometown merchant who provides a place to check in and take the pulse of the community; a place where you can experience both a friendly greeting and some local flavor. Mel’s is located at the heart of our crossroads and is in a variety of ways the center of what keeps many of us in Long Grove connected.

Vintage Days

Our first ever Vintage Days is being held this weekend in downtown Long Grove.

Our inaugural Vintage Days celebration is being held this weekend in downtown Long Grove.

A perfect Sunday afternoon can be had today in Long Grove, because Vintage Days are in full swing! Our Village already offers several vintage and vintage-inspired stores year-round: Scout & Forge, 2 Fancie Gals, Olivia’s, Epilogue, the list goes on…But this weekend we are joined by over 25 vendors, live music, entertainment, children’s activities, free haywagon rides, and more! The fun is kicking off now and goes until 6 pm tonight, with an Arts & Music Council sponsored concert at 4 pm on Towner Green by bluegrass band Special Consensus. The Historical Society is sponsoring a kid friendly penny carnival on the grounds of their 1860’s restored farmhouse, located in the back of Stempel parking lot. No admission for any of these outdoor activities, so stop by for some old-fashioned, free family fun!

Yesterday I spent several hours checking out the scene, and the vibe was terrific. Despite a few brief cloudbursts, lots of happy families and bargain hunters were crossing under our covered bridge to check out the action at the Long Grove Community Church’s ice cream social. The bridge is closed to vehicles for this lower-key fest, so if you are ever looking for that perfect photo opp, today’s the day! The merchants that I spoke with were extremely pleased with all the shoppers in town who were not only happy to be here, but in the mood to make purchases! Pictured below are a couple of the pop-up vendors that I got the chance to meet:

Erin Conley, owner of Novel Nellie, which features vintage and handmade clothing. I purchased one of Erin's skirts and am wearing it to the festivities today! One more great thing about Erin--she grew up right here in Long Grove!

Erin Conley, owner of Novel Nellie, which features vintage and handmade clothing. I purchased one of Erin’s skirts and am wearing it to the festivities today. One more great thing about Erin–she grew up right here in Long Grove!

Ruthie Sudsalot was a delight, and her "Jackass Charm" soaps smell fantastic and are a hoot! With the tag line, "Clean Bodies, Soiled Minds," they are a perfect gift for that special someone.

Ruthie Sudsalot is a delight, and her “Jackass Charm” soaps smell fantastic and are a hoot! With the tag line, “Clean Bodies, Soiled Minds,” they are a perfect gift for that special someone.

Vintage Days is such a great fit for Long Grove, and the merchants, residents, and visitors I talked to yesterday really seemed to agree. It was heartwarming to experience so many elements of our town coming together and embracing a community spirited event, harkening back to simpler times. I hope this is the start of a new tradition!

Fantastic Fannie Farmer

John Kopecky (seated) introduces Aaron Underwood to Fannie, pictured outside of John's store The Country House.

John Kopecky (seated) introduces Historical Society President Aaron Underwood to Fannie, pictured outside of John’s store The Country House.

It seems we have a lady-about-town causing quite a sensation. Meet Fannie Farmer, the newest addition to our Historic Downtown Long Grove Association. Born in 1942, Fannie is a vintage McCormick Farmall tractor in a flashy shade of red, fully restored and operational. Downtown merchants John Kopecky and Matt Potempa recently acquired Fannie from a farm sale up in Woodstock, Illinois and introduced her to to her new home in Long Grove where she will strut her stuff during the various festivals. Fannie’s inaugural debut will be escorting visitors around town on wagon rides during our upcoming Vintage Days Festival, August 20th and 21st.

New this year, Vintage Days will feature music, shopping, and assorted vendors with a flavor of the past. The Long Grove Community Church is offering an old fashioned ice cream social and outdoor services near the Sunset Gazebo on Fountain Square. The Historical Society is participating with a family oriented Penny Carnival on the grounds of the Farmhouse, and historical wagon tours of the downtown (here is where Fannie gets in on the action!) Come check it out–Vintage Days is a free local festival that will appeal to all ages.