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updated: 5/23/2011 5:13 PM

Geneva History Center shuts gift store

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  • The Geneva History Center is experiencing some challenging financial circumstances.

      The Geneva History Center is experiencing some challenging financial circumstances.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer


The Geneva History Center has closed its museum store.

The gift shop in the lobby at 113 S. Third St. sold books, souvenirs, ornaments, children's toys and decorative items.

It is yet another change for the history center. The Geneva Historical Society, which owns the center, laid off archivist Ron Rawson several months ago, combining his duties with that of the curator. And it filled its executive director vacancy last month by hiring Terry Emma, a longtime center volunteer.

"We are making some changes that are necessary to move us forward so we can continue to serve our mission, which is to preserve the past, enrich the present and shape the future of Geneva," a prepared statement released by the society said.

"It may come back in one shape or another," said Emma, saying the society would have some "exciting changes" to announce shortly.

It is in talks with a possible tenant that would rent space from the center, with the center offices moving to the store space. The would-be tenant confirmed the talks but declined to comment officially, as they are still in negotiations.

The Geneva Historical Society's federal tax records show that for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, the society spent $74,016 more than it took in, with revenues of $243,477 and expenses of $317,493. The year before, it ran a $187,683 deficit.

"That's been our struggle," Emma said.

According to its 2010 annual report to the state attorney general, the society has a $55,627 letter of credit coming due at the end of June.

The store does not appear to have been a big moneymaker for the center, judging by the 2009 tax return. Under sale of inventory, it listed gross sales of $53,558 and costs of $49,689. for a net profit of $3,869.

In 2009, historical society directors and staff started sounding a public alarm about the state of the society's finances, by soliciting the help of Geneva-area taxing bodies including the city, the school district, the park district and Geneva Township.

"We need a reliable and consistent public revenue source," said board member Dick Lewis, a former Geneva mayor. Then-executive director Dave Oberg noted the society was being hit financially on several fronts due to the recession: Donations had decreased, and because the value of investments in the society's endowment funds had dropped, they were earning less interest income.

While sympathetic to the society's plight, none of those public bodies offered any money.

The society and its center are privately funded.

"We need help keeping us alive," Emma said.

In the same announcement about the store, the society also asked for volunteers to act as greeters at the center's front desk. Help is needed from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The shift can be split in half. To volunteer, call Judy at (630) 232-4951 or email