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updated: 1/11/2014 5:22 PM

Several empty storefronts to fill in Tri-Cities

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  • The Vertical Drop in downtown St. Charles sits empty after many years in business.

      The Vertical Drop in downtown St. Charles sits empty after many years in business.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer


Here we are, on our way into 2014. And what comes to mind?

When will some of our empty buildings that once housed restaurants or stores welcome new tenants?

Plenty of examples sit empty in the Tri-Cities, but the thought surely crosses one's mind when passing by a few apparent locations.

The scary part is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to envision what other type of businesses or restaurants might fill these now vacant locations.

What would be a good fit for the former Aldi grocery store building in Batavia located off Main Street and Randall Road? It's been sitting empty a few years, set off near a few tire and oil change shops and a stone's throw from the Golden Corral restaurant.

And what about the Mill Race Inn property in Geneva? At least this parcel has been the topic of some discussion, with various ideas stemming from an entertainment location to riverside townhouses. The townhouses have some merit, but I don't have a good feel for what that market is like at the moment.

Anyone have any ideas for the empty Vertical Drop retail location in St. Charles? It was Colson's and then Vertical Drop for so long, it's been strange seeing that key spot on Main Street sitting vacant. But what kind of store is ready to grab that spot?

Sadly, the White Castle in Batavia joined the empty-building syndrome last week by closing. I love White Castle, but as I got older, I cut back on that crave a bit.

Could 2014 be the year to start getting some answers to these questions?

If there is an empty storefront in your hometown that needs to reinvent itself and you have a good idea to share, send those thoughts to the email address that appears at the end of this column. I will share ideas in future columns.

Who knows? We may come up with some our city leaders have not considered.

Both quite good: In the aftermath of Batavia winning the state's 6A football title, of course someone asked me which running back was better: Michael Ratay of the 2009 Geneva Vikings, who finished second in Class 7A that year, or Anthony Scaccia of this year's champion Bulldogs.

I saw both players in action many times and found them to be similar in many ways. Both were worthy of the Daily Herald all-area team captain honors they earned. Ratay, in fact, had that title in 2008 as well.

Both had excellent offensive linemen carving holes for them, making this a real tossup. You'd have to input stats and intangibles into a computer to get your answer.

If forced to make an assessment, it would be this: Ratay probably knocked a few more people down while grinding out his yards, and Scaccia probably left a few more defenders frozen by his incredible shiftiness. If I were a quarterback facing a blitz, I would prefer Ratay blocking for me. But I'd be drooling at the prospect of hitting Scaccia with a screen pass in the open field.

Here's the truth: We've been treated to two of the most electric running backs this area has seen in a long time in the span of just four years. They were a key reason their teams were in a state title game.

Best wishes!: For Sharon Brazill, after her retirement last week from Arden Courts of Geneva.

We got to know Brazill a little better when my mother-in-law went into Arden for care early last year. It was easy to see why so many families dealing with loved ones suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's hold her in such high regard.

Lots of people also know her as a devoted Geneva Township trustee and an active member in various other organizations.

Other than pizza: Plenty of folks love the pizza from Aurelio's in Geneva, but I went for the Italian beef and sausage combo sandwich during my last visit.

Maybe not quite like what my Italian grandmother used to make in her South Side Chicago kitchen, but it certainly hit the spot on a snowy winter night in the Tri-Cities.

Hurts the resolutions: It's probably not fair to talk too much about food so soon into the New Year, considering this is when people make resolutions to lose weight.

But it's also not fair for places like Colonial Restaurant to come up with another dandy dish to lure us in. This time, the Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes caught my attention.

Lots of calories: It was only a matter of time before one of my readers would ask this interesting question: How many calories have I taken in doing my "research" on main courses, sandwiches and pastries so as to mention them in my column during the 10 years and five months I have been submitting "Talk of the Town"?

There is no way to provide a precise answer, of course. But for the fun of it, let's devise a best-guess formula. On average, let's say I mentioned one type of food item per week during the 125 months of the column. That would be roughly 500 columns, give or take a few, or 500 mentions of something I ate.

I am not certain, but fairly confident, that most of the food items mentioned have been in the 300- to 500-calorie range, which covers most of your cheeseburgers, pizzas, Italian beefs and chocolate cakes. So let's pick 400 as the "going rate" for calories of my column-induced treats.

That's 200,000 calories.

I am pudgier for sure but, give or take a few pounds, weigh about the same as when I started writing the column more than 10 years ago. Go figure.

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