Updated name, floor plan better reflect Geneva store's focus

  • Strawflower Shop owners Mike Haas, his wife, Susie, center, and their daughter Kelsey Haas in their Geneva store. The iconic business is changing its name to Geneva Design House by Strawflower.

    Strawflower Shop owners Mike Haas, his wife, Susie, center, and their daughter Kelsey Haas in their Geneva store. The iconic business is changing its name to Geneva Design House by Strawflower. Jeff Knox/jknox@dailyherald

Posted10/16/2020 6:00 AM

Strawflower Shop has been part of the Geneva retail landscape since the early 1970s, and its iconic clock tower stands out in such a way that it should be included in any picture promoting the city to visitors.

That's why it wasn't an easy decision for owners Susan and Mike Haas to change the name of the business at 210 W. State St.


The official name is Geneva Design House by Strawflower, and that's how the store will be branded for store signs, ads, social postings and news releases.

"Marketers kept telling us we will drop the Strawflower name after a period of time, but we'll decide when we drop it," Mike Haas said. "We're known by so many as Strawflower."

Still, Haas and his wife decided it was time to change the look and feel of the store, in addition to its name, mostly to lure younger homeowners and more accurately describe what the business offers.

"They are so used to looking at Instagram and Google to locate stores, and when Strawflower comes up, they might think, yeah, my mom goes there and buys dried flower arrangements or a candle," Haas said of younger consumers. "And they pass it by and go to the next store suggestion."

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With Geneva Design House by Strawflower standing front and center, Haas figures he'll be able to get the message out that walking into this store is all about designing your house and picking out the furniture, rugs and accessories to do so.

Haas hates to see the store's display of area rugs not stand out. "We have one of the largest area rug selections in the Western suburbs, and the Strawflower name doesn't really fit that."

Daughter Kelsey Haas is the interior design expert and "is really taking this store into her hands because she loves putting things together for customers," Haas said.

Those who have shopped at Strawflower for years will notice changes that go beyond the name. For one, there's a kitchen inside that operates as a prop for showing people how to decorate that area of their home. Eventually, Haas is hoping he'll at least be able to make coffee in there to offer to customers.


They will also notice the second floor no longer features furniture displays because the first floor has been remodeled to make more room and create a new space for Susan's dry flower arrangements.

We can still expect to see the spectacular window displays the store is famous for, especially during the holidays.

"We will still have awesome Christmas window displays, regardless of the Christmas Walk likely not occurring this year," Haas said. "We know those displays are really inviting, and people take away some good ideas for their homes."

Another Colonial change:

A couple of weeks after noting that the Colonial Café on Randall Road in St. Charles had eliminated its dinner hours to close at 2:30 p.m., we now hear that site is closing to make way for a new Syrup restaurant.

Colonial will continue to operate its east-side Main Street location, as some of its staff has a chance to work for Syrup, while others will relocate to the east side.

The west side site closes for good at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18.

A Syrup restaurant, described as an upscale breakfast spot with a rural motif, currently operates in Algonquin.

The Christmas tree vote:

Realizing the Christmas Walk in Geneva is likely to unfold in a scaled down fashion over a longer period of time (we can't have that many people in one place at one time, after all), the Geneva History Museum is considering alternatives for its annual "Geneva Giving Trees" Christmas tree gallery.

The museum is being renovated and couldn't host the gallery anyway this year, so word is trickling through town that merchants are being asked to volunteer some window space or protected outdoor areas to display the trees.

As many visitors know, charitable organizations decorate trees for the gallery, and visitors vote for their favorite at $1 a vote. Many people voted on the night of Christmas Walk, while others voted online. The agency with the tree that collects the most votes keeps all of the money collected for that tree. The others share their vote money with the museum.

The idea of the trees being spread out through town for voting over a period of weeks helps the museum, the charitable organizations and the merchants showcasing the trees.

Hanging in there:

It's a story that likely could be told by any number of local merchants in any town across America. It's a story of the struggle in operating a business during a pandemic; altering your business model as much as possible; letting some employees go, then hiring them back, and maybe letting them go again; considering online ordering for products and services like at a restaurant, while including delivery, curbside pickup and makeshift outdoor seating.

Those scenarios are playing out all over with a backdrop that is a tough reality: Many business owners can't pay their rent, so some negotiation has to take place with the landlord.

They hold out hope that the government can help when it is most needed and that everyone will do their part to keep the pandemic in check.

Mary Barr, owner of Café & Barr coffee shop at 407 S. Third St. in Geneva, has a pretty good perspective on this. After all, it's been about a year since she opened her business with high hopes in a terrific setting in Dodson Place -- and excellent beverages and food items to sell.

From March through June, business at Café & Barr was down 80 percent, Barr said.

"We shut down the cafe completely for two weeks and honestly thinking it (the pandemic) would be over soon," she added. "When realizing it wasn't going away, my daughter Jacque came back and ran the carryout or curbside with no food items until we could bring back two of our other employees."

The business has climbed back "a bit," but the fear now is the upcoming winter months, Barr said.

Right next to the cafe, Barr's daughter Nikki operates Love Theory Bridal shop, 407 S. Third St., which surprisingly has been able to initiate some sales through Zoom sessions with clients.

But that business has also slowed down, as Nikki had her first child.

"Obviously, we are ecstatic about the new baby, but that leaves the bridal shop somewhat dark," Barr noted. "I try to fill in, but my daughter is a tough act to follow. She should return in November."

Until then, like any business during COVID-19, there are sure to be highs and lows while waiting for a return to normalcy.

Heading north on Third:

Jane Pabon is packing her wares at the Jane Pabon Boutique at 220 S. Third St. in Geneva, telling followers on Facebook she is making the move a bit north on the popular retail strip into the Floral Wonders site at the corner of Campbell and Third streets.

The upscale consignment boutique will have more room at this new site, 200 S. Third, while Floral Wonders plans to move and convert to a warehouse operation.


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