Antioch OKs $250,000 grant to fill vacant department store with Lovin' bakery

Antioch is making a big investment in what is hoped to be an anchor destination downtown.

Village officials Monday agreed to provide Lovin' Oven Cakery a $250,000 grant to renovate and retrofit the vacant former Hannah's department store, 455 Lake St.

The grant is a first for the village in terms of incentives and represents an aggressive move by Lovin' Oven, a longtime family-owned business which also operates in Libertyville and Round Lake Beach.

"I'm sure it (overall investment) will be over $2 million when it's said and done," said Ken Slove, the second generation owner-operator. "We're all in."

His parents opened a bakery in Chicago in 1946 and moved to Lindenhurst in 1960. Slove grew up in the area and regards Antioch as a second hometown. He founded Lovin' Oven in 1989.

"I went to high school there and met my wife there. We look at it as a good opportunity," he said of creating a flagship location in Antioch.

The operation is expected to create 30 or more new jobs. Slove said he would like to be open by Nov. 1, but added that is an aggressive construction schedule.

The move surfaced publicly last March and Slove has been working through details. He has a contract on the 40,000-square-foot building, which is much larger than current operations, and hopes to close on the purchase in a week or so.

"We have been fighting a battle of getting our costs in line regarding our loan. The village (grant) was the last step to bridge the gap," he said.

Village Administrator Jim Keim previously said the building housed the largest Ben Franklin store in the world and is the single-largest retail space downtown.

Built in 1974 but vacant about four years, the building presents a challenge to retrofit because of its condition, said Michael Garrigan, the village's community development director. It is functionally obsolete, he said, and will require new mechanical, heating and other systems as well as a new roof that will cost an estimated $250,000.

"The overall build out is substantial," Garrigan said. "The $250,000 only covers a fraction of what Lovin' Oven's investment will be."

While it has a facade program for downtown properties, this is the first grant for an interior renovation, according to Garrigan.

One of the conditions requires 80 percent of the grant be refunded if the bakery is out of business in two years, he added.

"We see this as being an anchor for the western part of downtown," Garrigan said. "I think this will bring new energy to Lake Street."

The resolution approving the funding says such grants are to maintain a vibrant downtown business climate. Earlier this year, the village hired Business Districts Inc., to focus on downtown improvement efforts.

Slove said the bakery in Round Lake Beach is 6,000 square feet. The Antioch location will allow for more opportunities, such as baking for wholesale customers, he said.

"We're hoping our presence in town will bring more business to the area," he said.

Lovin Oven Cakery to expand in Antioch

  Antioch officials hope a Lovin' Oven Cakery planned for a vacant building on Lake Street will help spur more development in the village's downtown. Paul Valade/
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