Breaking News Bar
posted: 4/14/2012 5:20 PM

Tough choice with Pure Oil building

Success - Article sent! close
    John Starks | Staff Photographer The Pure Oil b


Watching the television replay of the April 2 Geneva City Council meeting regarding the proposal to demolish the Pure Oil building at 502 W. State St. reminded me to never become a mayor or alderman.

The sometimes emotional proceedings to consider building owner Joe Stanton's proposal to make way for a St. Charles Bank and Trust drive-through at the site put elected officials in a no-win situation, even after voting to save the historic building.

It brought back memories of the debate nearly 30 years ago about how the historic Creamery building on the west bank of the Fox River should not be destroyed to become a hotel.

The circumstances are much different, of course, but when developer Kent Shodeen was proposing the Herrington Inn, it created plenty of debate about whether the city should tarnish such a historic landmark.

Then-Mayor Dick Lewis knew incorporating a nice hotel on the river would benefit the city much more than a decaying landmark. But could they somehow coexist? In the end, parts of the Creamery were built into the design and the city had its showpiece hotel.

Will it stay nice?: How can you not enjoy the "feel" of the Pure Oil station property as it now stands? Admittedly, it has a lot to do with the place being adorned with flowers and plants from current renter, the Pure Gardener.

Word has it that Pure Gardener may have to vacate in the fall, unless some arrangement can be made on rental payments. In short, the really nice look of the property could change dramatically before the snow flies next winter.

The spirit of those who spoke up about saving the building from a wrecking ball can't be denied. My first reaction to the news was thinking what a shame it would be for Geneva to lose that building on State Street. But was I fooling myself into thinking the property will continue to be an eye-catcher?

Hopefully, the city is not saddled with an eyesore a few years from now.

A major loss: Not much more can be said about Mary Bencini of Geneva that hasn't been expressed by hundreds of her friends. When this superwoman of a volunteer suddenly died last weekend, a major part of Geneva's heart and soul left with her. It is hard to replace a person who worked on so many different city, school, library, history center, cultural arts and other projects.

I was lucky enough to know Mary since she taught my son in second grade some 20 years ago. And even luckier to have worked on projects with her, most notably the "Dancing With the Geneva Stars" fundraisers.

She was a relentless and incredibly reliable worker. If you drove by Western Avenue School two weeks before school started when she was still teaching, Mary's car would the only one in the lot. She was getting her classroom ready.

If you went to the Memorial Day parade on Third Street, Mary was there because she knew nearly every kid in the parade, and every parent watching.

Cities don't get blessed with Mary Bencini types too often. We were lucky to have her.

Gift card answer: Two weeks ago, I asked if anyone knew what people who had Fat Rosie's gift cards could do, now that the St. Charles restaurant is closed. Petra Quiceno of Kurman Communications Inc. sent a note to inform me those cards are accepted at any Francesca's Restaurant.

Wish I had one. Francesca's happens to be one of my favorites.

Brighter bricks: With all of the wood piled up and a temporary protective wall in front of 23 S. Third St. in Geneva, it was easy to start thinking businessman Mike Simon was making way for new tenants at his empty store.

That may be the case soon, but for now Simon is having work done to restore the original brick front of the location that used to house Wool & Co., next to the Mossy Twig.

The original brick had been covered up with wood for years, but Simon had some research completed that indicated the brick facade was worth saving, said Neil Johnson of commercial real estate company Sperry Van Noss.

"For now, it is just a matter of making the facades look different and better," said Johnson, who is working with Simon to lease the properties along Third Street.

"Mike is so committed to his properties and the city of Geneva," Johnson added. "And we are talking to some potential tenants for these units."

Back in the swing: It was great to catch up with Rich Flores of Batavia last week as the popular golf instructor continues his recovery from primary amyloidosis, a rare heart ailment that, in Rich's case, included plasma cell cancer.

"I'm up to 155 pounds, if you can believe that," said Flores, who weighed about 178 when healthy and noted his weight was about 136 during the worst part of his illness last year.

He's getting back to providing golf lessons again, and he even hit the links when attending a PGA show in Orlando, Fla., last winter.

"I shot a 45 on my first nine holes, and then the next day shot an 85 for 18 holes, and I was thinking, OK, that's pretty good," Flores said.

For a guy who was in a fight for his life most of the past year, shooting 85 sounds like an amazing feat. And about 10 to 15 strokes better than I could ever score.

Old-fashioned games: You have to give the Geneva History Center credit for trying to make sure today's kids understand what kids of yesteryear did for fun.

No harm in that.

But parents have to respond by bringing their kids ages 5 to 12 for daily 3 to 4 p.m. activities at the center from April 23 to 27, during National Turn Off Your Television Week.

No registration is required for the programs, but the center would appreciate a $2 donation.

History center volunteers will teach kids how to play marbles, hopscotch, cats' cradle, pickup sticks and other games.

Questions can be directed to the Geneva History Center with at (630) 232-4951 or by email to

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.