Tag Archives: Sears

Maintaining Mayberry

Elburn wants to keep historic downtown alive
by Martha Quetsch
Many Elburn residents wish their historic downtown was still as bustling as Mayberry. In response, locals have adopted strategies to make it happen.

The latest initiative to boost downtown vitality is the Shop Elburn First program, which the village is working on with the Elburn Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s to promote businesses and let residents know what we have here,” Community Development Director Erin Willrett said.

Through the program, residents will receive coupons for local shopping, highlights about new and existing businesses, and information about how retail sales tax can help the village. The promotional materials will be enclosed in residents’ water bills, so the program will not require mailing costs.

“It’s all about getting the word out,” Willrett said.

Panel’s advice pans out
Elburn was the subject of a study on growth planning conducted in 2004 by the Technical Assistance Panel of Campaign for Sensible Growth. As part of the study, residents shared with the panel characteristics they wanted to preserve in Elburn, one being the village’s hometown “Mayberry” atmosphere.

The fictional TV community of Mayberry, which some people compare to Elburn, had a barber shop and a diner downtown, just like Elburn does. Mayberry also had a lot of other stores, including a pharmacy and a grocery, which downtown Elburn no longer has.

After Jewel-Osco opened at Route 38 and Main in 2007, downtown Elburn lost two retailers, Gliddon’s Pharmacy and The Grocery Store, both in the 500 block of North Main Street. Another store in the same block, Sears appliance store, shut down in 2008 after less than two years in business.

The advisory panel suggested that the downtown not try to compete with new big-box stores; instead, the village should promote a niche market in its historic business district, keeping it vital with specialty shops.

Indeed, stores that specialize have fared well in downtown Elburn, while other non-niche shops have struggled or closed. Among those specialty-shop successes are Ream’s Meat Market and Party Animals. Ream’s owner Randy Ream’s decision to specialize in sausages has been a boon for business, he said. Party Animals, a gift shop that also hosts children’s parties, is doing so well that its owner, Cindy Thul, moved it down the block last fall to a larger space at 166 N. Main, the former Gliddon’s.

More measures designed to boost retail
To ensure that if retailers want to open in Elburn they have prime space including downtown sites, the village adopted a new ordinance in 2008. The ordinance prohibits new financial institutions from locating in prime retail sites or within 1,000 feet of the same type of business. The village’s goal is to keep retail space available for stores and restaurants that will produce sales tax and draw people to town, Planning Commission Chairman Pat Schuberg said. The village already has five banks in Elburn, and two others are slated for construction.

To make the downtown more attractive to new businesses, the village several years ago started a façade improvement program. Through the program, the village splits the cost with business owners for improving their storefronts.

Organizations help promote downtown
Elburn Lions Club is doing its part to bring more people to the downtown. In 2007, the Elburn Lions Club hosted a farmer’s market every Sunday during the summer at Lions Park. Opening the farmer’s market was among suggestions four years ago from the Technical Assistance Panel for community revitalization. The Lions had such success with the first farmer’s market that the club brought it back again in 2008.

The chamber created a new event in 2008, Aleburn. Chamber member Leslie Flint said the beer festival last fall had a good turnout, so the organization may hold it again this year.

Photo: By Sarah Rivers

Elburn deals with economic downturn

Finances in forefront in 2008

by Martha Quetsch

            The community of Elburn showed confidence on some fronts and restraint on others in 2008, reflecting optimism as well as uncertainty about the economy.
 
Smoking ban effect evident
            A new state law prohibiting smoking in businesses started Jan. 1, leaving some local restaurant and tavern owners wondering what effect it would have on them.

            For Blackberry Inn in Elburn, the smoking ban led to more food sales and less bar business this year.

            “We have had a lot of new customers who wanted to try our food for a long time but didn’t come in before because we were a smoking establishment,” manager Dawn Faber said. “But when the kitchen closes, it’s dead.”
 
Village, county officials make choices
            Also in January, Elburn trustees hired Erin Willrett as the village’s first community development director, for an annual salary of $73,000.

            “Ms. Willrett will work with developers, business owners and stakeholders to assist in implementing the Village Board’s policies on carefully managed growth,” Village Administrator David Morrison said at the time of the hiring.

            Meantime, the health of the economy was declining, with housing starts dropping, meaning less revenue for Elburn from utilities connection and building fees.

            Nevertheless, in July, the Elburn Village Board approved 4.1-percent pay raises for all village employees and even more for some staff. However, trustees Patricia Romke and Gordon Dierschow voted against the pay hikes because they were more than those received by average people in the private sector this year.

            Citing the same reason, local resident Drew Frasz, right after being appointed to the Kane County Board, voted against a similar pay raise for county employees. Frasz won in the Republican primary against incumbent Jan Carlson, who stepped down after his defeat, leaving his position open. The board appointed Frasz to fill the District 14 position in May.
 
Recreation spending decisions made
            Using money from its limited recreation fund, the Village built a new tot lot at 215 W. Shannon St. this summer, naming it after after former village police chief and longtime local public servant Wayne Byerhof. The village purchased the Byerhof Park site, formerly a residential lot, two years ago for $165,000. The village spent more than $50,000 on site preparation and playground equipment for the tot lot, the first park on the northwest side of the Elburn.

            During October, the Village Board also tabled a proposal for a skateboard park in Elburn because of its more than $100,000 cost. Trustees said the remaining money in the recreation fund could cover the cost, but the village might need it for other purposes because of expected financial constraints.
 
Business changes occur
            Bucking the belt-tightening trend, Party Animals expanded its business in downtown Elburn, moving in October to a larger location a couple of doors down to the former Gliddon’s Drug Store location at 116 B. Main St. There, Party Animals offers its children’s celebrations and a new coffee shop.

            The downtown lost two businesses this year, Sears and Emma’s Pub and Cantina. Emma’s gave up its liquor license in May after the Police Department cited the restaurant for illegal gambling. The Sears appliance store at 107 N. Main St., Elburn, closed in October after less than two years in business.

            Four months earlier, a longtime Elburn business changed hands. Ehlers Lawn & Recreation sold its 51-year-old family business to another John Deere dealer, Hogan Walker.

            Despite the economic downturn, Walgreens continued with its plan to build on the northeast corner of Route 38 and Route 47. The store is expected to open this spring.

            Likewise, two planned developments pushed forward, Keslinger Plaza and Elburn Station. Village officials in September approved design plans for the first phase of Keslinger Plaza, a commercial development whose site is at Keslinger Road and Route 47. Elburn Station, a Sho-Deen Inc. development, received Village Board approval of its concept plan in July.

Whistle ban measure approved
            In April, village trustees agreed to pursue the least costly method to silence train whistles in the village in compliance with federal safety regulations. They decided installing wayside horns at the First Street and Route 47 rail crossings were the solution. The wayside horns will cost an estimated $100,000 per crossing, compared to $400,000 for a previous proposal—to install a center barrier of pylons at the First Street crossing, village engineers said.

            “It won’t be a quiet zone, but it will be a better situation than we have now,” village trustee Craig Swan said.
 
When it rains, it pours
            More economic uncertainty faced the village after unusually heavy rains in September led to sewer system backups in the village. The village is conducting a study of residential sewer systems to determine the cause and potential cost of resolving the situation. 

            The village’s new public works superintendent, John Nevenhoven, will be among village staff members working on the study. Village trustees hired Nevenhoven in September to replace Art Sanchez, whom they asked to retire four months earlier, saying they needed someone more experienced in the position. Nevenhoven was assistant village manager in Huntley from 2004 to 2005. The village is paying Nevenhoven $78,500, compared to Sanchez’ $88,993 final salary.
 
Hold-ups hit home
            Citing possible financial hardship on the part of the robbers, FBI statistics show that recently, bank hold-ups have risen significantly. An Elburn heist was among several area bank robberies this year in towns including Union, Huntley and Campton Hills.

            Thanks to the FBI, the village of Elburn did not have to bear the entire cost and burden of investigating the bank robbery that happened March 25 at Fifth Third Bank. Elburn police and the FBI are continuing to cooperate in trying to apprehend the “Backpack Bandit.”

            “We are just still waiting for some lab reports. The case is still under investigation,” Elburn Police Chief Jim Linane said Monday. “We’re still making progress, but it’s slow.”