From flowers and gifts to books and bicycles, nestled between Lake Street and the railroad tracks in downtown Grayslake, you’ll find a few dozen merchants who are keeping afloat in this tough economy.
“It’s hard but it’s worth it,” said Kelly Chase, owner of Entwined at 122 Center Street. The shop has been at its current location for three years, when Chase and her partner Kate Rice purchased the former Barb’s Florist and moved it from around the corner.
“We felt we really needed to be more visible to the community,” she said.
Next door is This Old Book, a used book shop owned by Dick Navarre. He opened the business 11 years ago after retiring from hospital management. The shop is the only used book store in town. Navarre said many of his clients are walk-ins and referrals, and sometimes repeat customers.
“Certainly things like the farmers market that brings people to downtown has really helped,” Navarre said.
But he isn’t counting on just that. Seeing dozens of downtown businesses come and go over the past decade has proved to Navarre he has to think outside of the box to keep his books in the black.
“I have to stay vital and change with the times,” he said.
Navarre’s greatest competition may be the digital era. With books now available to purchase and read online, several book stores are struggling. After listing off a handful of northern Illinois shops closing their doors, Navarre said he’s determined to stay open.
“I do about 25 percent of my business online selling the used books on Amazon and ebay,” he said. “Without the online business I couldn’t survive.”
At Entwined, Chase said she too is getting creative on attracting and retaining customers. “A lot of the businesses do a lot of business with us,” she said. “Marketing is the best way to go, and joining one of the clubs in town to meet people. You have to get out there.”
Businesses continue to come and go from the downtown area. Quilt Play, which was located at 62 Center Street for four years, recently moved to the Washington Square Shopping Center across from the College of Lake County. The red brick house is up for rent.
Across the street a new store, The Fitting Room, a bra fitting and lingerie stylist boutique located at 11 S. Lake Street, held its grand opening Nov. 10. Owner Bex Anderson said she feels the area needs a shop like hers. And, she's looking forward to the camaraderie in town.
"I really love the entire area," she said. "Everyone in town is so involved in the community and everyone cares about the businesses."
There are about 60 businesses that make up the downtown area including a mix of retail, commercial and general office use. Derek Soderholm, deputy village manager for Village of Grayslake said there are currently five vacancies in the downtown area, none of those being a store front on Center Street; but rather office space within a building or potential office or retail space on Lake Street.
You can check out the list of local properties that are available on the Village of Grayslake’s Website.
Meantime, the small, locally-owned businesses that line the streets continue their quest to beat the tough times. Anchored by several long-time and newer restaurants including Whitney Street, Fred’s Diner, Charlie’s, Emil’s Tavern on Center and The Vine, and Something’s Brewing coffee shop the businesses feel they can keep Grayslake’s downtown going as a vital part of the community.
Do you have a favorite business in Grayslake? What makes them special? Tell us in the comments section below.