Yorktown Center may put Lombard on the suburban shopping map, but there's more to business in the Lilac Village than national chains and department stores.
Small shops downtown, local retailers along commercial corridors, industrial uses, offices in business parks, and restaurants, restaurants, restaurants also contribute to Lombard's business landscape.
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While each type of business has its challenges, property managers, business owners and village staff are beginning to see some positives.
Sixteen new businesses have received zoning certificates in 2011, according to Lombard's community development department.
Some strip centers along Roosevelt Road are improving their facades and filling vacancies, said Bill Heniff, director of community development. Existing retail stores are investing in "invisible" improvements, spending on interior elements such as heating and ventilation systems.
"Last year, even though we didn't see a lot of visible changes in the business community, we had a lot of changes happening," Village President Bill Mueller said.
These trends and changes combine to position Lombard as a community where businesses can prosper as the economy begins to recover.
"We're at least holding our own or, if not, seeing somewhat of an improvement," said Keith Giagnorio, a village trustee and owner of Gianorio's Pizza, 434 S. Main St. "We're even seeing a little bit of an uptick with my pizza business."
Lombard officials are working to fill vacancies, make downtown a destination, improve commercial corridors and continue supporting the successful restaurants and shopping customers have come to expect.
A combined 1.5 million square feet of office, retail and industrial space was vacant in Lombard in December, according to the community development department.
Not too many of those vacancies reside at Yorktown Center, where shopping space is 92 percent occupied -- a pretty high percentage given the economic situation, said Lindsey Burke, marketing manager.
The mall, built in 1968, got a facelift in 2006 with the addition of a line of outdoor stores called the Shops on Butterfield and free-standing restaurants Claim Jumper, The Capital Grille and Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, she said.
As of January, downtown Lombard had 19 vacant spaces. In an effort to fill and enliven the area, the village board in March approved a downtown plan for economic development, redevelopment of certain sites and improvements to streetscapes, facades, signs and transportation.
"Economic development is much more than throwing money at a project," Heniff said.
It also involves forming partnerships with business owners, something Lombard Towne Centre, a mainly volunteer downtown promotion organization, strives to do.
Amy Madsen, owner of Night and Day Salon on St. Charles Road downtown, said these efforts have worked during her shop's first year, helping her make connections with other business owners and potential clients.
"I love being in a community where people are willing to work together," she said.
While efforts to improve downtown are often seen as Lombard's economic development focus, Heniff said upgrading the appearance of commercial corridors such as Roosevelt Road also is an important goal.
The challenge with Roosevelt Road, Heniff said, is public perception that it's nothing but rows of strip malls. Property owners are overcoming that perception by rebuilding facades and interiors to entice tenants, he said.
"A lot of retailers now are demanding lower rents and a lot of tenant improvements," said Tony Youshaei, owner of CP Management, which manages shopping centers across the suburbs, including locations on and near Roosevelt Road in Lombard.
To lure Sherwin-Williams into a vacant storefront, CP Management renovated the facade of the building at 743 E. Roosevelt Road, Youshaei said. That improvement started a trend, he said, as other tenants -- Rosati's Pizza and Lover's Lane -- also have renovations in the works.
And while interior renovations may not be as noticeable as new construction, they promote creative reuses of existing spaces and signal strong investment by retailers and restaurants, Heniff said.
"I think, for the most part, the businesses are doing well," said Yvonne Invergo, executive director of the Lombard Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "Particularly the Lombard restaurants are doing well, even though there's a lot of competition."
Mueller said he expects prosperity, build outs and new business recruitment to continue.
"Coming into this year, I'm just very positive about everything," Mueller said. "Business is good for Lombard; Lombard is good for business."