Tag Archives: Ryan Wells

Moving day

The Elburn Herald to reopen at new location Monday, Oct. 1
Elburn—After five decades at its current location in the center of downtown Elburn, the Elburn Herald offices are moving.

The 104-year-old community newspaper offices will close effective Thursday, Sept. 27, and will reopen at 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 1, at 525 N. Main St., Suite 2, in Elburn. The new location consists of two adjoining units inside the Elburn and Countryside Community Center.

“This change in location gives us a much stronger opportunity to reach our potential,” said Ryan Wells, owner/publisher of the Elburn Herald/Kaneland Publications. “It gives us more space and more flexibility, and also creates the opportunity for us to work directly with a significant nonprofit organization in the Elburn community, as well as with all of the other businesses that are part of the community center.”

While closed, direct all communications to either info@elburnherald.com or ads@elburnherald.com.

‘Where is everybody going to park?’

Church’s plan to close parking lot stirs business owners into action
by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—For anybody coming through Elburn on a given day, it’s noticeable that the downtown is experiencing a boon. The streets are lined with parked cars, and the lot on the corner of Shannon and Main Streets is nearly full. The merchants couldn’t be happier with the rise in the number of customers coming to their establishments. But when the church that owns the property announced its decision to close the lot to public parking, effective March 15, downtown business owners knew that something needed to be done-and fast—to continue to provide convenient parking for their patrons. They got together on Monday afternoon, talked the problem over and attended the Elburn village meeting that evening to ask the village for help.

“When the merchants met, I asked, ‘Where’s everybody going to park?’” Business owner Kevin Schmidt said. “We’ve got a good downtown going. We feel the village needs to buy the lot.”

Other business owners reiterated the uptick in business that Elburn is experiencing.

“Elburn used to look like a ghost town,” Wiley Overly said. “Now we’re starting to get out-of-town money. We’re getting local money. There are a lot of jobs downtown. We’re on the cusp of something very good right now. It (closing the lot) could be fatal to what’s going on, and when it’s gone, there’s no replacing it.”

Elburn Herald owner and editor Ryan Wells commented that closing the lot would create a chain reaction.

“We would have to park in potential customers’ spots. The only spots they’d have would be taken up by employees who hope to have their business,” Wells said. “It’s our consensus that the village needs to get involved in some shape or form.”

Schmidt said that if the 40-space lot closes, that leaves 30 spaces on the street and a parking lot behind his business that he owns. The other lots are farther than most people will want to walk. Village President Dave Anderson countered by saying that people walk farther than that to shop at Geneva Commons.

Anderson made it clear that the village doesn’t have money to purchase the lot. According to Church Moderator Sharon Lackey, both the village and the Chamber of Commerce turned down their offer to sell them the property several months ago.

“We don’t have the funds. It’s pretty hard to justify to the taxpayers of Elburn to buy a parking lot. I know how critical parking is, but it’s private property,” Anderson said. “If the Village Board decides to do it, that’s fine, but I think it’s a mistake. Is it the taxpayers’ responsibility to provide parking for businesses?”

Trustee Jeff Walter suggested that the village use its resources to lead the movement to keep the lot open and provide some direction toward a solution that both parties could agree to.

Several people offered possible solutions, such as checking into grants and redevelopment or financial vehicles, a lease-to-own option while charging patrons to park, and a land swap with the village.

“There are a million different options involving the chamber and the businesses. We’re not ready for solutions yet. We need to put direction and structure around it,” Walter said.

Village Administrator Erin Willrett volunteered to coordinate a public meeting between the business owners and the church to talk about what could be done to keep the lot open.

“We all agree that having downtown parking is important,” Wells said. “We’re seeking engagement and acknowledgement that the Village is concerned.”

Editorial: A thank you and an introduction

I entered 2011 with a sense that it was going to be a life-changing year for me, one way or another. I had been discussing the idea of buying Kaneland Publications Inc.—and thereby the Elburn Herald—off and on for years, and the discussions had essentially ran their course. It became clear to me that 2011 was going to either be the year that it happened, or it was going to be the year I had to move on and pursue other endeavors.

As the year and those discussions progressed, the difficult economy continued to place pressures on the paper. Like most media companies, we are understaffed; and like most independent small businesses, we have limited resources. That means the small staff we have do not receive the compensation or benefits as they might otherwise receive if they worked at one of the larger, corporate-owned media entities in our area.

Yet, for the most part, the staff remained loyal to the community and each other, and the community remained loyal to the paper. Very few staffers left the company, and our circulation and ad revenue numbers stabilized after shrinking significantly when the local economy went over its cliff a couple of years previously.

While everything did stabilize, the struggles continued and a thought began to grow in the back of my mind that maybe these difficulties were a sign that I should move on. Yet, while I struggled with that thought internally, I continued the pursuit of purchasing the company.

It seemed like every time I prepared to move on, something would occur to remind me of why we do what we do, strengthening my desire to put down roots here. I would connect with a reader about a story we wrote, or disagree with a government official about an editorial that we published, or see a reporter get captivated by a story or a photographer capture a moment perfectly.

For an individual, buying a hometown newspaper is more than a mere business investment, it is a public commitment that says that the paper and those who work so hard to put it together each week will continue to serve our communities for the years and decades to come.

It is not an asset acquisition based on a corporate financial decision made in a boardroom miles away, and our readers and advertisers are not merely numbers in a spreadsheet.

You are all real people with real lives pursuing your real hopes and dreams and overcoming your real challenges. Our focus is to live and/or work among you, sharing in your stories, reveling in your successes and supporting you in your challenges.

It was these realizations that kept me here through our challenges, and on Sept. 2, I was fortunate enough to purchase the company and put down those lifelong roots in the community.

I haven’t second-guessed that decision once, because I know I get to work with a great staff serving wonderful communities of people each day for the rest of my career. For that sense of peace, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to each member of the community and each member of the Elburn Herald staff.

One member of the staff deserves a special mention this week—Keith Beebe. He joined the staff a few years ago as an unpaid intern, desiring to practice the craft of journalism while strengthening his connection to the communities in which he lived.

After putting in his time as an unpaid intern, he left for a “paid gig” elsewhere. We were happy to have him return as a paid staffer last November, and he was happy to rejoin us.

Since then, he has steadily taken on new and more responsibilities. He has covered both the village of Sugar Grove and the Kaneland School District consistently, including the Sugar Grove Library District’s personnel issues that occurred at the same time as the village’s TIF District issues. He juggled both ongoing stories while also pursuing the stories about the people that make up our communities, and really showed what it means to care about the communities we cover and the coverage we provide our readers.

He spent this entire year emerging as a leader, and we are proud to say he has taken on a new role as the Elburn Herald’s Assistant Editor.

2011 was a crossroads year, and now that we’ve picked our path, we’re excited to grow and develop with you in 2012 and beyond.

Ryan Wells
Editor

Editorial—Community: More important than ever before

With the economy struggling like it is, combined with the unique struggles of the newspaper industry in general, now does not the seem like the right time to get into the business.

Newspaper companies are merging—or folding altogether—and news coverage is becoming less and less local as a result. As the local coverage receives even less focus than before, the more general coverage that remains competes with other forms of content, such as the Internet, TV and radio. This places more negative pressure on traditional newspapers, forcing them to cut back even further, which continues the cycle of getting away from local coverage.

In the face of all of that negativity, why would someone choose now as a time to get into the newspaper business?

As someone who just did—on Friday I completed the purchase of Kaneland Publications Inc., the publisher of the Elburn Herald—let me give you my reason for doing so: Independent, local, community newspapers are more vital now than ever before.

It is because of that shift away from local coverage that the need for a community newspaper is bigger now than ever before. It is because media outlets have been merging and/or folding at obscene rates that the need for an independent newspaper to remain out of a corporate entity’s hands is vital.

No one is served well if, when you want to read about your community, your school or your hometown, you have to turn to something created by a group of people more focused on what goes on in their distant, corporate board room than what goes on in your village hall, or ballfield, or church, or stage.

When corporate media companies treat individual newspapers merely like assets and entire newspaper staffs like commodities to be traded among those assets, it is the communities themselves that suffer. It is the communities themselves that are weakened when no newspaper exists that is really focused on helping strengthen those bonds that help transform a group of homes and buildings into a hometown.

A vibrant community newspaper can help transform the place in which you live into your hometown in much the same way as you can transform your house into your home: by caring about it more than anyone else and paying attention to everything, from the things that are wonderful just as they are to the things that need to be worked on.

An independent, community newspaper does the same thing—it truly cares by writing about the things that are wonderful as well as the things that aren’t so great; sharing the joys of success and the frustrations of struggles.

All of the things we produce in the Elburn Herald are designed to help better connect each of you with our Kaneland communities; and I am honored to have the chance to share in all of the joys and frustrations, triumphs and tragedies, with each of you—like we have been doing since well before I first came here in 1997, and for the rest of my career.

I am humbled by the idea that the Cooper family trusted me enough with their family’s legacy to give me the opportunity to create a new chapter in the 103-year book of history at the Elburn Herald, and I am motivated to ensure that we remain true to the mission to serve our communities to the best of our abilities, each and every day.

I hope you will help us write this next chapter together.

Ryan Wells
Owner/Publisher/Editor
The Elburn Herald

Editorial: Thank you, Elburn firefighters and Nicor

On Saturday afternoon, I received a voicemail that made a series of worst-case scenario images come to mind as I returned the call to the Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District.

Ultimately I learned that our building in downtown Elburn had a gas leak, and I was needed to provide the firefighters with access to the building. I live 30 minutes away, so the firefighters had a fair bit of time to wait for me.

I arrived assuming that they would be a bit impatient, wanting to get inside to either give the “all-clear” or to take whatever action necessary.

The opposite proved true. As I approached them with an apology on my lips, they each responded with a kind smile and apologized to me for bringing me to the office on a weekend. Here, I am the one that should be thanking them, and their focus is on thanking me.

While waiting for a crew from Nicor to arrive, I expected the firefighters to leave and return to their station. It was not terribly cold outside, but it was chilly enough that unless one was required to, there would be no reason to stand still outside.

Yet, the firefighters remained on the scene for at least another hour after Nicor confirmed they were on the way.

Each of the firefighters who responded to the call were friendly and gracious, and represent the type of people I would want to respond to scene if I was involved in an incident of real significance.

Here is just a small example of the type of people we have serving the community. When I told them that my oldest son, who is 4, thought I was “big-time” because I got to go to work to meet “real firefighters,” they immediately responded by giving me a plastic firefighter helmet for both him and his little brother.

The firefighters also remained on the scene until Nicor showed up and determined that there was enough of a leak to warrant an immediate resolution.

Once Nicor was on the scene, I was able to see another round of excellent service and graciousness.

I had to return later that night and remain well past midnight, and the Nicor crew chief was there. As they gave me the all-clear to lock up the building, the crew supervisor thanked me multiple times and apologized for keeping me away from home. Again, another example of someone thanking me at a time when I should be the one giving thanks.

When I returned the following day at mid-morning, the Nicor crew supervisor was still there, approaching 20 hours straight at the scene. When I saw him I assumed he would appear haggard and tired, likely impatient to leave and get some rest.

Instead, he remained as friendly as the first moment he arrived at the scene, and continued to thank me and apologize for the inconvenience.

Ultimately, we had to close the office on Monday due to lack of heat as the Nicor crew ran a brand-new connection to the building. And as the week has gone on, the crew has returned to restore the property back to how it was before the entire incident began.

This small occurrence demonstrates how much of an impact someone can have with a kind word and a smile; they can turn something negative into a positive and make us thankful that we have these types of people to rely on should something really bad happen.

Thank you, Elburn firefighters; and thank you, Nicor.

Ryan Wells
Editor