Libertyville honors eight businesses for contributions to community, local economy

Eight Libertyville businesses have been honored for entrepreneurial qualities and contributions to the community and local economy.

New and established businesses were among those selected for recognition based on public nominations in five categories: community impact; economic impact; development excellence; notable new business; and, advancement.

The inaugural Business Excellence Program held earlier this month was created by the village's economic development commission, an advisory group of business owners and managers that makes recommendations and assists with village programs or actions to retain and attract business.

"The program is an important component of the village's effort to help educate the community about the unique and exceptional businesses in Libertyville," said Mayor Donna Johnson.

It also highlights the importance of the partnership between the village and local business in promoting the economic survival of the downtown area and the Route 137/Peterson Road corridor, she added.

In his opening comments, commission Chairman John Cortesi said there are nearly 1,000 businesses representing a variety of sectors in town.

"Success in this market doesn't just come from a good idea and a full staff - it comes through dedication, drive, grit, creativity and the willingness and versatility to adapt to ever-changing market conditions," he added.

The commission wanted to showcase businesses the community believes have embraced those qualities while making important contributions, he added.

"They (commissioners) wanted the community to be aware of some of these businesses in their own backyard," said Heather Rowe, the village's economic development manager.

A listing and video featuring the business owners is posted at Here's a recap by category:

Community impact: Contributes to well-being through volunteerism, sponsorship or other actions.

• Improv Playhouse: Founded in 2000. Offers youth and adult acting classes, team building and more.

"It's really a place for the next generation of artists to explore their creativity in a safe and secure environment," said David Stuart, executive director and founder. The mission is to "entertain, educate and elevate," he added.

• Our House of Hope: Rescue, rehabilitation, placement facility and animal food pantry founded 17 years ago. Specializes in dogs, reptiles and exotics, and just started a new program called "coffee and cuddles," said Lisa Krinninger, executive director.

"What can we do to make things better in the animal welfare system?" she said.

Economic impact: Investment grows local economy.

• Reclaimed Artisans: Has nearly 100 vendors of antiques, home decor, furniture, jewelry and art. Quality and variety as well as outdoor events has made Libertyville a destination for customers and visitors.

"You'll find a lot of things from your childhood," said owner Eric Struif.

Notable new business: In operation a year or less.

• The Mixto Cuisine: Father-son-owned restaurant just celebrated a year in business.

The name "comes from the mix of different cultures," said co-owner Oscar Rebollar. The menu features Italian, American and Mexican dishes. Customers noted the genuine welcome and chefs' pride in their dishes.

Development: Completes construction to expand to improve a commercial corridor.

• HG Studios: Has grown from the initial business, Heather's Gym, to include RPM Cycle & Bootcamp and Zen Yoga.

"A trifecta of wellness," said owner Heather Fahrenkrog.

Customers note a genuine desire, tenacity and caring to bring health and wellness to participants. Noted for bringing wellness and connectivity to customers during the pandemic and community fundraising.

• La Villa Lofts: Conversion/rehabilitation of a 1903 bank building to eight second-floor apartments and three ground-floor retail spaces. Vision, design and investment shows commitment to preserving the downtown character. Work included reviving large arched top windows and restoring other features.

"The historical renovation was really important to us," said Ben Lovinger, general contractor.

Advancement: In operation more than 5 years and have created new or modified approaches to strengthen the business.

• How Impressive!: For 17 years, the shop has helped Libertyville celebrate special occasions with custom invitations, gifts and other offerings.

"We're a local gift shop but we do so much more," said owner Kristine Knutson.

• Murphy's Health Foods and Juice Bar: Full service health food store for 28 years. Carries an array of refrigerated and organic groceries, health and beauty aids, smoothies and other items. Footprint and product offerings have expanded to include a juice bar and private consultations.

"Many don't realize with the narrow storefront - you see that from the street (but) we actually are quite large inside," said owner Lori Murphy.

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