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!!
After taking the last month off for some travel, relaxation, and recharging, I am glad to be back home in Long Grove and starting the next chapter of my “Life In Long Grove” blog!
Just to help get back up to speed, I will use this first post to re-cap a few of the things that have happened in our Village while I was away on vacation:
Changes on the Village Board
Along with my retirement as Village President on April 25th, Trustees George Yeager, Lori Lyman, and John Marshall were honored for their service to Long Grove. Between the four of us, we represented a collective 33 years of volunteer experience given to the Village. On May 9th, Bill Jacob was installed as the new Village President, along with new Trustees Rita O’Connor, Bobbie O’Reilly, Anne Kritzmire, and Chuck Nora. Trustee Stanley Borys resigned his position on May 23rd. An additional new Trustee will soon be appointed to fill the remaining two years of this term.
The cold and rain kept the crowds at bay on Friday and Saturday last weekend, but Sunday the weather cooperated and the attendance was robust! Chocolate in many delicious forms was enjoyed by all and the event featured the introduction of another candy company opening up in town later this year, Morkes Chocolates. Along with the expansion of the Long Grove Confectionery going on near Towner Green, residents and visitors will soon have many more chocolate options to choose from in Long Grove. Lucky us–the more chocolate, the better!
Craft Beer and Dancing Coming Soon
Great progress has been made on renovations to the new Fred Astaire Dance Studio (in the former Red Oaks building) and Buffalo Creek Brewing (in the former Studio of Long Grove property). Brewery owner Mike Marr was kind enough to give me a personal tour of the renovations, which feature a beautiful bar and tasting room area, large outside deck & gazebo, special event space, and production areas for fermenting, bottling, and cold storage. Opening day is scheduled for July 15th and I know that I am only one of many, many residents who are eagerly awaiting both of these new additions to our downtown business district.
New and exciting changes abound in our Village this summer. Strawberry Fest is just around the corner June 23rd-25th, followed by Vintage Days on August 19th and 20th. There is so much to look forward to in the months ahead–hope to see you in Long Grove this season!
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!
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!
On Valentine’s Day, passion is a good thing. The love shown for our covered bridge by over 3500 petition signers and 150 attendees at the February 14th Village Board meeting proved strong enough to sway our six Trustees to move towards preserving our local landmark. After weeks of “Save the Bridge” efforts by our downtown merchants, residents, and the Long Grove Historical Society, the Village Board voted in an informal straw poll to discontinue spending any more time and money looking into demolishing the one-lane bridge and building a new two lane bridge to conform to federal standards.
This action came after the Village learned late last week that the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has deemed our 1906 covered bridge eligible to be placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. This is great news for all of Long Grove and opens up the future possibility of grants and other funding sources for preservation. In addition, during public comment the largest property owner in our historic downtown, Gerald Forsythe, pledged to donate $25,000 to kick-start restoration efforts, and called on the community to create a private fund.
This week, I have had the pleasure of hearing the grateful voices of two prominent Long Grove residents who were active in efforts to preserve the bridge back in 1973, when the wooden covering was added. Both Barbara Reed Turner and Robert Parker Coffin made personal requests to me to “Save the Bridge,” and between passionate public expression, notice of historic status, and pledges of financial support, I think we may have just granted their wishes.
To watch a video of the 2/14/2017 Village Board meeting click here:
To read an article published by the Chicago Tribune on 2/15/2017 click here:
To read an article published in the Daily Herald on 2/15/2017 click here:
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.
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!
In July of 2015 I wrote a blog post about the expansion of our Long Grove water system, entitled Tapping into the Future. Fifteen months after our Village Board approved the preliminary engineering contract, we now have fire hydrants in the historic downtown! The construction crews have been busy working all summer and fall to extend access to public water, and the new infrastructure is now in place. In the next 30 days the system is expected to be pressurized.
Bringing quality water from the deep well at Sunset Foods into the downtown has been a long-term goal and priority of many individuals who have served on the Village Board. The Trustees who came before me had the initial vision, and through the years numerous Boards have been diligently working towards opportunities to make this a reality. The sale earlier this year of the four lots on Archer Road and the development of the Harbor Chase assisted living community at Routes 53 and 83 have helped fund this capital project, with tap in fees and future water usage charges to fund the system going forward. The additional water supply will now provide better fire safety for our historic buildings, and help retain and attract new businesses to Long Grove.
And we are already starting to see some results! The former Red Oaks property is under new ownership and being converted into a Fred Astaire dance studio and grand ballroom. Just behind on Historical Lane, in the home of the former Studio of Long Grove art gallery, Buffalo Creek Brewing is finalizing plans for a craft brewing operation, taproom, beer garden, and eventual banquet facility. The Village Board recently approved zoning, special use permits, and liquor licenses to put this in motion. The brewery will obviously be a heavy water consumer, and both new businesses have made a financial commitment to connect to the new water system.
Doing large scale infrastructure improvements in Long Grove is a particular challenge; we levy no municipal property tax so borrowing money to fund the improvements up front is difficult. But now that the downtown revitalization ball has started to roll, I have every expectation that it will gain more and more momentum in the months and years ahead. We are continuing to make progress towards the future, and by “tapping” into our resources….who knows how many more opportunities will start to flow?
Those of us who live in the village already know this, but this past week we received verification that indeed, Long Grove is the cutest town in Illinois. PureWow.com, a popular lifestyle website, just dropped their list of “The Cutest Town in Every U.S. State” and…wait for it…Long Grove took top honors for Illinois! There are many reasons that we might rank high on the charm factor–historic buildings, beautiful open spaces, a century old church and village tavern in continuous operation, and of course, the covered bridge. According to the website, one of the attributes that set us apart from the rest is our tradition of festivals celebrating our agricultural roots, such as the upcoming Apple Festival to be held on September 23, 24 and 25. The vintage tractors (pictured above) currently displayed along Old McHenry Road remind us of our farming heritage, and help set the tone for the Octoberfest celebrations kicking off this month as harvest season approaches.
My personal love affair with Long Grove began in 1985 when as newlyweds, my husband Aaron and I decided to take a drive outside of Chicago and discovered the village on a Strawberry Fest weekend. It reminded us of the small Central Illinois farming community where we both grew up, and when we had children of our own this is where we chose to raise them, amid the nature, top-notch schools, and yes…cuteness. This Labor Day weekend featured Irish Days celebrations including such diverse pleasures as: bagpipes, Irish dancing, outdoor Mass in Fountain Square, Irish bands, Guinness, “Best Men’s Legs in a Kilt” contest, and an Irish dog competition. Serving as Village President these past several years has brought a whole new level of appreciation to me about what makes our village unique and special, and through it all I still have an affection for our town and our residents that will endure. In the past week I have attended two Grand Openings of new businesses–How Impressive (personalized stationary and gifts) and Primrose School (early childhood education). There is a positive momentum going on right now in this cute little town, so make it part of your fall season to delight in the character and ambiance that only Long Grove has to offer.
In the year 1900, Long Grove’s first dance hall was built. Housed on a site next to what is now Kildeer Countryside School (and now serves as a parking lot for the old Zimmer Hotel building), this community building was erected at a cost of $2,500. Residents came together to help finance the construction of this social gathering spot, at a cost of $10 per share. According to local lore, dances were held upstairs on the weekends and refreshments were served downstairs, with a separate room to check coats and horse blankets in the winter. Known as Union Hall, dances continued to be held here into the 1940’s, after which it was sold to a turkey hatchery, then a manufacturing company that produced decorative wooden ducks. Years of accumulated sawdust and wood shavings helped fuel a spectacular fire in 1951 that burned the old Union Hall to the ground. Ironically, the fire department was located just down the street but the firefighters were away that evening attending a dance in a nearby town!
One century later, Long Grove’s popularity as a fun place to dance is about to come alive once again. I have recently had the opportunity to meet local resident Jesse DeSoto, a former “Pro” from Season 3 of the popular television show “Dancing With The Stars.” Jesse is in the process of purchasing the former Red Oaks property, and is currently working to relocate his Fred Astaire Dance Studio from Buffalo Grove to our historic downtown. In business for over the past 11 years, this franchise has been consistently ranked as one of the top Fred Astaire Dance Studios in the United States. The former big “barn” on the property is slated to be renovated and reconstructed into a Grand Ballroom, to be used for day to day lessons as well as accommodating social dance events. Future plans for the additional buildings on the site include possible retail and restaurant tenants. Jesse and some of his students recently appeared on ABC Channel 7 to help promote Chocolate Fest this past May. Click here to view a short clip of this.
I know that I speak for so many of the residents and merchants in Long Grove who are excited to welcome Jesse and his new business to our historic downtown. It is a great fit for our community, and truly a kick to see history repeating itself with a popular dance hall coming back to town. This time though, I say we skip the special cloak room for the horse blankets and opt for a disco ball instead!