Cole Travel Says Goodbye

Another downtown Geneva business is going down.

We don’t take it seriously enough because it happens to us in inches. In fact, the deterioration process is very similar to how the Universe will eventually fade into a cold, dead, empty space. Sometimes the end comes with a whimper.

When we finally do reach that tipping point, as I believe we already have, we will react to it much like we do when watching our first child head off to college. We’ll wonder where the time went and how this kind of thing could’ve happened right under our noses.

If we have regrets, we’ll harbor a desperate desire go back and relive some of those difficult moments. But it’s too late. It’s out of our hands. The arrow of time only points in one direction.

After 52 years in Geneva, is closing up shop. You probably wouldn’t even notice if it weren’t for this column and the one in the Chronicle because they share a storefront with The Gift Box which will remain open.

I know it seems like small potatoes, but rest assured, it’s just another nail in downtown Geneva’s coffin.

“We did so good for so many years. But in the last six years, there was a huge slow down,” manager Barbara Cox told the Chronicle. “We have had a disappointing year on overseas business. People buy tickets online. That is the story.”

And it’s a story that quite a few downtown folks oughtta be paying a whole lot of attention to. “People can buy their tickets online.” That certainly says it all.

Maybe if it was just this small business, we could collectively sigh and quietly mutter that times will get better. But in our hearts, we know it’s just another sign of this downtown death by degree.

Folks keep telling me a nightclub will be coming into the old 302 West site, and I certainly wish them the best, but how will they survive with a complete lack of nearby parking? People don’t want to have to walk across a ferociously busy street to eat dinner, either.

While Mike Simon certainly pulled out all the stops to snag an Apple Store, despite downtown landlord Joe Stanton’s previous optimistic pronouncements, every last one of those Merra-Lee shops sits empty.

What worries me even more than the totality of what we’ve just outlined here is that one of the downtown guardians we hold in the highest esteem is turning out to be part of the problem.

Pure Gardener owner Craig McLean's fruitless efforts to get Joe Stanton to relent on rent no longer matter because the Pure Gardner and The Art Box—both sales-tax-paying businesses that actually attract foot traffic—are being pushed out for yet another cookie-cutter bank.

I suppose you can’t fault someone for looking out for their own financial interests, but when Wood Award winner Joe Stanton isn’t looking out for our business district’s best interest, then I can’t help but whisper the phrase, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

I also had high hopes for the downtown aldermen who took the bull by the horns by hosting meetings with downtown merchants. But so far, the only thing the City Council has done is issued momentous declarations like we don’t need a downtown grocery store.

Meanwhile, if we have to wait much longer for our in-house economic development team to add the word "proactive" to their vocabulary, we’ll all be sitting around taking Geritol and bragging about our bowel movements.

And don’t get me started on the Chamber of Commerce. They still think it’s 1985. I’ve seen the plans for Swedish Days and, with the exception of High Infidelity on the music stage, it’s just another cure for insomnia.

Guys! As that rock group once sang in the '80s, “video killed the radio star.” It’s over.

If it will make you happy, go ahead and get as mad at me at you want, but in your hearts you know it would be just another case of shooting the messenger. If you’re willing to take the time and effort to add up the variables, there’s only one reasonable conclusion—Downtown Geneva will continue to slowly fade away.

And our reaction to this sad reality? It’s like the lethargic creature in Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book, “His tail is so long, he won’t feel any pain, ‘til the nip makes the trip and gets up to his brain. In exactly eight hours, The Chippendale Mupp will, at last, feel the bite and yell, “Ouch!” and wake up.”

But when our downtown pain finally hits, it will—sadly—be too late.


Editor's note: An earlier version of this column included a paragraph that suggested the Erdays were selling their building. A post by Ron Erday on the You Know Your From Geneva When ... Facebook page says his brothers are selling only the part of the building at 301 W. State St. (on the corner of State and Third streets) and that Erday's at 10 N. Third St. is alive and well and "not for sale or lease."

John R May 27, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Terry I agree with your post and most of Mitotero. I have to say one thing about parking downtown. I have never had a problem finding a parking spot downtown. I can normally find one within a block of where I'm going. I don't know if you advocate for a third level or not but I hear a lot of talk about the lack of parking downtown but for whatever reason I haven't experienced any parking problems.
Angela Kane May 27, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Well comparing Geneva to Naperville might be "pointless" to you but they are doing something right with their downtown. As to parking--we need more--because if you bring in more business (which means more cars) you will need more spaces. That parking along Rt. 38 downtown is horrible. Backing out to a busy state road is awful. Good designers can make it "blend" into the neighborhood. And you might like the "charming" aspect of the downtown but charming doesn't pay the bills. Don't like an Apple store? Well SOMEONE does and they generate a lot of $ in revenue and therefore taxes to the municipality. Don't shoot the messenger here! All this "charming" stuff might be warm and cuddly, but anyone brave enough to open a store needs income. We're too festival driven for revenue. Businesses need ongoing sales to stay.
Mitotero May 27, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Angela: No shots intended for the messenger. I lived in Naperville, and like Geneva a lot better. I would not want to follow their lead. I do not like your snarky comment that charming does not pay the bills. There is a reason that the Geneva downtown is the envy of our neighboring communities. And I believe that a big part of it is the warm cuddly feeling you get when shopping here. My point was that we should continue to try to differentiate our downtown from other communities. I also think that the Apple store would have been an excellent add to our downtown. However, Apple probably looks at traffic counts and populations, making the 140,000 town an easier sell than our 25,000 town. Finally, I totally agree with you that our festival driven marketing plan is not enough.
Angela Kane May 28, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Snarky? Ask the owners of the properties that are vacant in downtown Geneva how "charming" is going to pay their mortgages and property taxes. Hey, I love Geneva and love the wonderful small town feeling it has. Someday we'd love to live close enough to downtown to walk to the restaurants and coffee houses. But I'm also a realist who lives in real-ville. I understand the changing nature of commerce and see that old-line businesses can't make it in today's world. We can't survive on shoppers over 60 or the folks who drive into town to buy a pretty basket at some kitchy shop. Shop owners need real sales to generate enough revenue to pay the rent or the mortgage and insurance. We can't be festival driven because the iffy nature of our weather can turn a well planned festival into a disaster (ala county fairs). So yes, I do understand the difference between us and Naperville, but their downtown still rocks!
James May 31, 2012 at 02:25 PM
What if we have more Festivals? Use the stage in island park and have a blues and brews festival, bluegrass festival, film festival, jazz festival, etc. that works for ski towns all over the world during the summer months to drive traffic to there small towns attracting thousands of people.


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