Developer's legacy still shapes downtown St. Charles
Most traditional downtown settings were in a heap of hurt in the early 1980s. Shopping malls were the hot trend and any downtown business duplicating what a mall offered, but not offering lower prices or easier parking, was asking for trouble.
It was in that backdrop in which Peter Pratt did most of his best work for St. Charles and its downtown buildings and businesses.
He was a quiet fellow in a downtown St. Charles development game that featured a cast of different characters -- some quite aggressive and outspoken.
But commercial real estate developer Peter Pratt was not one of those. His trademark was based more solidly on common sense, trust and truthfulness. It served him well in more than 30 years of work when downtown St. Charles needed it the most.
Pratt died at the age of 94 last week, leaving behind a legacy of numerous different roles in St. Charles. He was a farmer, a tire salesman and, ultimately, a real estate and business developer. His family name stays alive through the Pratt's Wayne Forest Preserve, an area in Wayne in which he grew up on the family's farm.
"He was a totally behind-the-scenes guy, one who was never seeking recognition," said his longtime business partner and friend Terry Grove. "He always kept his word, and no one disliked him."
In talking to Grove, you could tell he felt lucky to have met Pratt at a time when St. Charles downtown buildings were in need of restoration. It also helped that some key spots were for sale.
When Vasco Lencioni of Blue Goose had two buildings on the south side of Main Street at Third Street he was looking to sell, Grove was interested in buying them. But he was too late. Pratt had already cut a deal with Lencioni.
If you can't beat them, join them, Grove figured. "I did not know Peter then, but I called him that day and within two days we had formed a partnership," he said.
From that day on, Pratt and Grove put together a strategy to purchase "cornerstone" downtown buildings. Or, put another way, those buildings located on key corners in the city.
After convincing the city council that much work needed to be done to restore buildings and determine what types of businesses would not compete with malls, but instead would draw people into the city for different types of products and services, Pratt and Grove became two of the busier downtown developers.
Pratt's ideas and handiwork remain today in the form of the Antique Markets and his purchasing and restoration of the former Kaiser Dime Store to convert that building between Third and Second streets into four other businesses -- Diamondaire, Forever Yogurt, Small Cakes and Szechwan restaurant.
They also purchased the property that eventually became The Filling Station and convinced Szechwan to make use of the top floor of that former Kaiser building a block east at 117 W. Main St.
"There was no leadership representing downtown at that time, just a lot of disgruntled people interested only in their own stuff," Grove said. "Peter wanted to make all of the downtown better."
He couldn't accomplish that when he was president of the St. Charles Chamber in the 1980s, because the chamber generally doesn't dip its toes into downtown politics by taking sides with one business or another or one developer over another.
He did it through a common-sense approach, a vision about what could or should be done for the downtown, and the patience and understanding to make it all work for the better.
Fashion fills bill:
Because her husband was locked into a sports TV mode with the NCAA basketball tournament, start of the baseball season for Chicago teams, and the last-ditch effort for the Blackhawks to try to get in the NHL postseason, my wife had to find something to amuse herself on a Friday night.
She claims she found it at a fashion show at Paula's Couture Consignment in downtown Batavia. I've written about Paula Mueller, a former Batavia alderwoman opening her consignment shop, but had no idea (nor would I, really) that she hosts a fashion show from 6 to 8 p.m. the last Friday of each month.
They seem to be popular affairs, with about 35 women showing up at the last show to check out what the store has and how the clothes look on models.
The consignment shop is at 4½ Wilson St., along the Fox River, down the stairs from the Donovan Bridge on Wilson Street and below Reel Pro Video.
Time to play ball:
If the weather cooperated last night, the Kane County Cougars actually had their Opening Night game.
That means we survived that rugged winter and we're moving on to actual spring "things," with local baseball and entertainment offered at Northwestern Medicine Field being an important piece of the warmer-weather puzzle.
That elbow strain:
If you walk through Wheeler Park in Geneva on a nice day, you can't help but see quite a few people playing disc golf.
It's a wildly popular sport, but I grimace each time when watching a player let fly with a disc toward the chain basket that serves as the golf "hole."
Such a violent action on my arm would certainly result in a tennis elbow injury -- and not because I'm getting longer in the tooth. I think it would have happened 30 years ago as well.
So, I asked a player what types of injuries he deals with, or tries to avoid.
He said if you toss the disc properly, it shouldn't affect your elbow. He described it more as a flowing movement, starting in the back and shoulder area and releasing forward with your elbow at an angle in which it shouldn't be stressed like a tennis player or pitcher in baseball.
If the player were to "flip" the disc often, or toss it at a different arm angle for shorter shots, or to avoid a hazard or tree, then it could result in some strain on the elbow.
Either way, I've had elbow tendinitis and it was no fun. It's fun to watch disc golfers, so we'll just leave it at that.