New shops, restaurants: There's more than meets the eye on the east side of St. Charles
The scorecard for the east side of St. Charles isn't as bad as one would think just because some sort of perpetual development limbo paralyzes Charlestowne Mall, and the Pheasant Run Resort has quickly become a walk down memory lane.
It would be easy to simply shrug this off as more evidence of the east side sliding into the abyss on nothingness. But there's more than meets the eye for that portion of St. Charles, especially when other developments and business openings can deliver a positive storyline.
It's been tough to overcome the stalled visions and dreams, or at least the long periods in which mall owners can't seem to deliver on what had previously been talked about.
It's hard to believe it's been eight years since Krausz Companies Inc. talked about a commercial and residential development on the mall site, even going as far as trying to get us all to start calling it The Quad. I have yet to hear anyone call it anything other than Charlestowne Mall.
But let's focus on the positives for the east side. The Casey's General Store franchise operators have pitched the empty Mid-America bank building in the Foxfield Commerce Center as a location it wants to build on. This gas station/convenience store operation has been popular in other cities.
On the other side of Main Street in that area, the Wok 'n Fire restaurant is getting closer to reopening after its move from First Street.
Both of those developments could spark more attention to the stores in the Foxfield strip -- the Urban Air Adventure Park in the former Butera grocery building and the Ace Hardware and Goodwill stores. There are still some retail spots open in this strip.
Over time, we'd have to think the shuttered Corfu restaurant on East Main could be home to a new business or a prime candidate for a knockdown and rebuild -- even though it's a tough in-and-out at that high-traffic spot, maybe forcing a plan commission to see if some sort of rear frontage road type strip could benefit businesses in that area.
At Tyler and East Main streets, the former TinCup Pass retail strip, now known as Stone Creek, has had a major makeover and showcases a far cleaner, modern look.
The Southern Café in the former Gino's East pizza location (and, of course, the original TinCup Pass restaurant and Molly Malone's nightclub) has a sign up regarding hiring, which means that the site should open soon.
Things are also perking up in the retail area around the Target store off Main Street and Kautz Road, mostly with new places like Tropical Smoothie Café and the Bella European Bistro. As well, there are a lot of popular restaurants and quick-serve sites in this area.
Because small-business owners always like to discover former industrial buildings on the east side that make for good places to open new stores. It has been a pleasant surprise to welcome the Trend + Relic home décor store on Indiana Avenue and the Hoarder's Trading Post record shop into a site on East Main off 13th Avenue.
Back to the Charlestowne Mall and its immediate surroundings, former Mayor Ray Rogina called the inability to get investors and owners of the property actually to do something productive as one of his biggest disappointments.
I wouldn't lose a ton of sleep over that one, considering this has been an albatross on the city's neck for decades. But, if nothing was underway before the pandemic kneecapped the economy, it's likely to remain a challenge well into the future.
Still, the Cooper's Hawk restaurant wouldn't have opened in that area if owners felt it was simply a dead-end, and the Classic Cinema movie theater continues to upgrade and function in the mall because it is in for the long haul.
Von Maur remains one of the finest retail offerings in the city and appears likely to remain a strong presence regardless of how the mall property transforms in the future.
That's why it's more important to focus on what is going on around or near the mall. All of that, it seems, is incrementally getting better.
Help from the Lions
Our local service clubs have taken on big challenges during the pandemic in determining the best ways to raise money and support various organizations.
You can imagine that planning fundraising events were a little more difficult, even though virtual events became the norm. And some of those were successful ventures.
The Geneva Lions Club let me know it handed out $30,000 in donations to various organizations, including Fox Valley Hands of Hope, Literacy Volunteers Fox Valley, Lazarus House, glasses programs for residents in need and local high school and community college scholarships.
Donations also went to Suicide Prevention Services, Shelter Assistance Committee, TriCity Health Clinic, TriCity Family Services and Spectrios Institute for Low Vision.
"I feel our club did a great job in a challenging environment to help those less fortunate in our community," said Lions member Jay Moffat. "About 75% of our grants go to St. Charles residents, as the Lions lack a club in St. Charles."
Which plant is that?
A recent half-hour walk through Delnor Woods Park in St. Charles revealed more information about plants than I have absorbed in my 68 years on this planet.
We just happened to come across the information signs along the park's trail about spring ephemerals or the perennial woodland plants that emerge in the spring.
In taking the time actually to read the signs, we were able to learn about plants like cutleaf toothwort, Virginia bluebells, Jacob's ladder, mayapples and others.
The St. Charles Park District, in conjunction with the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, put this program together. At that time, the park district also encouraged visitors to take photos of flowering blooms to post on the free iNaturalist app.
It was an enjoyable learning session, for sure, but it should be noted that you don't want your kids just running around in the forest preserve without some supervision or an adult explaining the plants.
A recent post on Facebook indicated that a youngster might have engaged with something like wild parsnip in Delnor Woods and ended up with a nasty rash and blisters. Others on the Facebook thread weren't quite sure what could have caused such a nasty reaction.
The moral of that story is to be careful about certain plants and, of course, certain critters like ticks and mosquitoes when enjoying our fine forest preserves.
Delnor Woods Park is off Route 25 across from Fulton Avenue, and its trails connect to the Persimmon Woods neighborhood for those not familiar.
That was fun
It might be a small sample size of what getting back to normal is all about, as those of us who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can feel pretty confident about attending community events.
But sitting in Lincoln Park in St. Charles last week to listen to the band Spoken Four on a beautiful spring evening was quite delightful.
The band, playing cover songs from Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars and Earth, Wind and Fire, to Tears for Fears and Lynyrd Skynyrd, contributed to the fun.
The St. Charles Park District offers these free concerts every Thursday night, and they are truly events for all ages. And they represent a small, but really important, taste of what we've been missing so much the past 15 months.
By the way, if you want to see Spoken Four, the band is scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 16, as part of the River Rhapsody concert series at the Batavia Riverwalk Pavilion near the Peg Bond Center.
New store excitement
Plenty of women in the region are likely to be excited at the prospect of a new Athleta store coming to the Geneva Commons.
Considering this store, which sells exercise or active lifestyle clothing for women, is operated through Gap Inc., one must suspect this new store will be near The Gap store in the Commons.
Ads for management positions were posted late last month, but the company has not indicated on its website exactly when it hopes to open in Geneva Commons.