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Businesses in Grayslake's Downtown are Striving to Thrive

With 60 businesses in the downtown area, Grayslake’s merchants share their secrets to weathering a tough economy.

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.”

Downtown shuffle

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.

Kathleen Cizewski November 19, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Kathi's Musicians' Center School of Music / Piano-Guitar , 130 Center Street , kfc860@cs.com 847-223-5726 celebrates their 20th anniversary as YOUR MUSIC SCHOOL in Downtown Grayslake !! Come see our performance, Dec. 6th, 5pm at Gages Lake Bible Church, Gages Lake Rd. Visit us here on the Patch, facebook and Grayslake Chamber Web page !!! Search with Google or Bing for more links !!! Director: Mrs. Kathleen Cizewski, MM, MCTM, MPM. (CLC instructor/ Church Musician / Author of concert piano music books, and several recordings )
Ralf Landmesser November 19, 2012 at 03:46 PM
I understand that you can't live in the past, but boy, wouldn't a downtown train station look awfully nice to these businesses. Nahhh, it's much better to have it situated in the middle of a corn field with only one access point. Thank you Grayslake!
Book Lover November 19, 2012 at 06:57 PM
The downtown Business owners need your support! Shop local, we are all your friendly neighbors and are invested in satisfying our customers and creating a personal connection. Please don't use the bricks and mortar shops as a personal showroom and then go home and shop the internet. Please be sure to add Downtown Grayslake to your shopping destination list. We would love to see you.
Nancy November 19, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I plan to shop more locally this holiday season. I really love the feel of our downtown area and hope it can continue for many more decades.
Angela Sykora (Editor) November 19, 2012 at 09:42 PM
I agree! When I'm looking for a special gift, I'll take a charming small business over a big box any day! And I almost always find something for myself too :)
Brandi Kornit November 20, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Saturday, November 24, 2012 is Small Business Saturday® – a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities. Please join the SBA and organizations across the country in supporting your local small business by shopping at a small business
Mary Heverly Metscaviz November 21, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Women work hard and need to take time to renew themselves With the newer gel polish your nails are 100% dry at the completion of a manicure or pedicure so you can continue on your journey for the perfect gift on Center Street Awesome Nails has been on center street for over 14 years.

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