A look at the changing retail and dining scene in Batavia
Some folks celebrate their COVID vaccinations by planning trips or looking for open movie theaters or restaurants. We're more inclined just to be glad to be driving or walking around the Tri-Cities more fully -- and taking note of what has come and gone in the past year.
We continued our wandering about last week, this time scoping out what is going on in Batavia. We've taken quick looks at St. Charles and Geneva the past two weeks, so now it's time for the Windmill City. In heading south along Randall Road off Fabyan Parkway, we were reminded that Doc Watson's Smokehouse barbecue restaurant would be filling the spot vacated when Smashburger closed at 842 N. Randall Road.
It likely works out for the best, considering that just across the street in Geneva, That Burger Joint opened at 2150 S. Randall Road alongside an Oberweis ice cream shop and Woodgrain Pizzeria. So, it's a formula most of us could live with -- lose a burger place, gain a burger place.
A new First State Bank branch has opened at 825 N. Randall Road, and it was also interesting to see the former Sam's Club parking lot partially full, as area residents flocked to get COVID vaccination shots there.
That tells us this warehouse-size site might be a difficult one to fill in the future. It does, however, trigger the thought that some type of health care, fitness operation would be a good use, as the massive Baby Boomer population continues to need those sorts of places.
In the retail strips along Randall, Abby's Hallmark just north of Jewel Food Stores still has "closing soon" signs. But it seems like a prolonged closing sale.
We hate to see the Randall 15 movie theater staying dark and just have to hope the movie theater industry rebounds and another entertainment company takes over the site.
We were afraid the Crabby Boil restaurant near Menard's at 220 Randall Road had shut down, but it was only closed during spring break and opens again Friday, April 2, for takeout and delivery.
Downtown Batavia has held a steady course during the pandemic, with just a few changes. Ruby Jane children's clothing, at 10 E. Wilson St., and Heart of the Home remodeling at 2 E. Wilson St. have recently opened.
It's also good to see the WindMill Grille & Pizzeria restaurant open in the former Aliano's site at 90 N. Island Ave.
Even though it may sound like just another pizza place, WindMill carries a substantial menu that appears to offer just about anything you can imagine, from fish to steaks to chicken and burgers.
We'll hope to see some other key empty locations -- the former Gaetano's on the corner of Wilson and River streets and the former Pal Joey's site along the Fox River at 31 N. River St. -- have new suitors once things are more back to normal.
It should also be noted the Batavia Boardwalk Shops at 114 E. Wilson should have some interesting new businesses this summer, and the nearby Wilson Street Mercantile has opened as an indoor market site.
The flowers placed in front of Graham's Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream and Graham's 318 coffee shop last week provided nice thoughts of spring coming.
Sadly, these were left by friends and well-wishers in memory of Bob Untiedt, the owner of Graham's, who recently passed away at the age of 64.
I ate Bob's chocolates and ice cream far more times than I had the privilege of talking to him about his business, which he's had along Third Street for more than three decades. (In fact, I am munching on some chocolate-covered pretzels from Graham's as I am writing up this note.)
Small towns across America can usually point to a certain popular business or restaurant as the place that epitomizes what the city and its people are all about.
Bob Untiedt made Graham's that kind of place.
Those golf gurus:
More so than during most golf seasons, I have my fingers crossed for a couple of friends who have been longtime instructors in the Tri-Cities region.
Rich Flores and Rick Bell are both dealing with health issues but also planning to keep teaching during the summer.
Flores continues to teach in his "Swing Shop" indoor facility at his home along Fabyan Parkway in Batavia but said he'd like to find an outdoor location for the summer.
Those options have become fewer, with Pheasant Run, Mill Creek and Settler's Hill all being closed this season. Pheasant Run Golf Course isn't likely to resurface again, and Settler's Hill is undergoing construction for a year. Mill Creek Golf Course is anyone's guess, but most are hoping to see that Geneva site reopen next year as well.
Bell, who is recovering from treatments for leukemia, has been teaching at Prairie Landing in West Chicago and plans on doing so again this summer three or four days a week.
You can learn more about both of these fellows and their lessons via a Google search.
The litter battle:
As we've come to know all too well that the season between winter and spring is a messy one called "Litter Season" because that's when all of the trash near businesses or crud just blowing around our neighborhoods is exposed by winter's thaw.
It makes one feel as if, after all of these years, we lost the battle against litter, a fight in which many of us older folks got actively engaged via public service ads on television.
Litterbugs among us who just toss stuff from cars remain part of the problem, but it also has to do with recycling bins and waste removal vehicles losing pieces on windy days.
Area businesses also have a hard time corralling paper or plastic cups and bags, Styrofoam containers, cardboard and other waste that congregates on or near their properties.
One of our neighbors got fed up with seeing trash piling up along a berm across the street from her home, and she went out with a big plastic bag, picked it all up and left the bag and note for the nearby business asking that it make an effort to be a little better neighbor at this time of year.
By "this time of year," we're talking about these dreary weeks before the grass gets green and the trees and bushes bloom to hide some of this litter. And also, before lawn maintenance crews cut grass and, yes, pick up a lot of this stuff.
It's a real eyesore, folks, while we wait for that transition period of at least a month.