Business owners in McHenry take advantage of facade grants to beautify their buildings
After a decade in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, Kurt Eldrup likes to have things just so.
"I am a perfectionist," said Eldrup, owner of Aviation Flying Furniture in McHenry. He creates specialty furniture pieces using aeronautical parts on customer requests.
That perfectionism is one reason that when he bought a shop building at 2902 W. Route 120 last fall, he wanted it to look nice for the public. That meant putting a new face on a building that hadn't seen an update in 38 years, Eldrup said.
Eldrup is one of eight business owners who have taken advantage of the city of McHenry's revamped facade grant program in the past year. The program set aside $100,000 to help business owners improve the outside of their buildings.
Aviation Flying Furniture received a $15,526 grant. Other businesses that received grants include Whiskey Diablo, After the Fox Restaurant, Cantaritto's Tequila Bar and Grill, Black Orchid Boutique, The Cottage Boutique, and Ye Olde Corner Tap.
The facade work does not have to be only for the front of the building. Any side facing a public way, including the riverwalk, can be upgraded.
Jim McConoughey, president of the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation, said many businesses are taking advantage of the program now because the city has a lot of momentum behind it.
"(Mayor) Wayne Jett and the city council have done a good job of creating a culture of fun in McHenry," McConoughey said, "and people are investing in the community because they are seeing those returns."
Concerts in the park, developing the Riverwalk and Riverwalk Shoppes, community events and investment in city roads and other infrastructure are part of that "culture of fun," McConoughey said.
He said it creates a sort of "local patriotism" and pride in the community when residents and business owners see the city invest in itself.
After the city's riverwalk was extended behind his business, Shawn Summers knew it was time to redo his patio. Summers owns After the Fox Restaurant at 1406 N. Riverside Drive.
"It became very apparent to me that people want to sit outside since the pandemic," Summers said.
According to city documents, Summers spent $28,926.12 to replace the front door, replace the door to the deck, and rebuild the deck with more seating. The city grant repaid Summers for $10,000 of the work, according to the documents.
Summers was already thinking about the facade when he got a letter from the city informing him that grant money might be available.
"I was trying to figure out how to put a better face on the facade" when the letter arrived, he said.
For other businesses, the grants allowed them to offer a better product.
Siriphote Kaewnopparat and her family own the Green Peapod Thai Restaurant at 1225 N. Green St. and the building next door that houses the Black Orchid Boutique.
Replacing the siding and canopy on the Black Orchid building cost the Kaewnopparats $39,279, according to city documents. The grant covered $19,639.50 of the cost.
The siding on the building that covered the front and facing the restaurant's parking lot was peeling away. Insurance would not cover the cost of replacement.
"We had to pay for it out of pocket," Kaewnopparat said. "The price was just too expensive."
Dan Hart has been working on building out his new restaurant, Whiskey Diablo, at 1325 N. Riverside Drive, for the past year. He received $30,000 in city grant funds for exterior facade work.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, construction costs have doubled, Hart said.
"Had it not been for the grant being available, I would have gone in a different direction," he said. "We wouldn't do the window system that we did."
Hart said that window system has fully retractable panels to open the dining room to the outdoors.