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Plant the Seeds for an Apple Store in Downtown Geneva!

My continued thoughts on rejuvenating downtown Geneva!

You know, I just had a great Saturday Geneva morning!

All leaf-mold-induced wheezing aside, it started with a reasonable indoor run at the . Those ladies at the front desk are always so pleasant. And they laugh at my jokes, too! Three miles in 24 minutes ain’t nothin’ to write home about, but at this allergic time of year, I’ll take it!

Sweat or no sweat, it was on to where, despite the dearth of new releases, I managed to catch up with a Dream Theatre Black Vinyl Friday release that had previously escaped my gaze. Why, I even managed to help some nice Carol Stream ladies find their very own copy of , a compilation of Christmas carols performed by local artists.

Then it was a mad dash across the street to for a loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread. When I threatened to start filling in the slots on my own bread card (12 marks gets you a free loaf) owner Mary Kane told the staff to charge me triple the going rate.

Next stop was where I fed my chocolate habit with a large (what the heck does “venti” mean anyway?) decaf soy mocha and finally, a few short yards down State Street to , where I didn’t look quite as out of place in my running shorts and minimal shoes.

After acquiring the best running backpack on the planet, owner Eric Ott and I got to talking, which, as you all already know, is a dangerous endeavor when it involves downtown and me. In fact, I warned Eric that even being tangentially associated with the likes of me could very well get him a slot on the chamber's black list.

Fool that he is, Eric went on the record anyway.

We interpreted the vast amount of people participating in last week’s as an encouraging sign. But Eric, a Naperville native, added the caveat, “But it’s like that in downtown Naperville every day."

And I immediately knew what he was talking about. And it wasn’t the Fox Valley Mall or Route 59, either. Eric was referring to the Jefferson Avenue, Washington Street, Chicago Avenue corridor down by the Riverwalk.

And I knew this because, before Geneva Running Outfitters and Dick Pond carried minimal running shoes, I headed down to the Naperville Running Company on Jefferson to purchase a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.

We both agreed his assessment of the central Naperville business district might be a wee bit optimistic, but Eric wasn’t that far off. When purchasing that footwear on a 10-degree mid January day, I was lucky to get a parking spot two full blocks away from the store.

A mere three weeks after Christmas, those primarily independent, non-mall shops were doing a hand-over-fist business. Upon my return for a shoe adjustment last summer, the closest I could get was three blocks from that store!

But until Eric mentioned it, I hadn’t quite put two and two together. Why shouldn’t downtown Geneva be doing Christmas Walk/Downtown Naperville business on a daily basis?

Little did I know the answer would come in the form of previous conversation with Marty Kane in which he waxed poetic about the possibility of an Apple Store taking up residence in the now-going-out-of-business . (Eric signed onto that notion quite quickly!)

And after I took a closer look at the consistency of those downtown Naperville stores, I realized that, scattered among the quainter ma-and-pa establishments was a reasonable number of national retailers.

There’s an Apple Store, Coldwater Creek, Eddie Bauer, Gamestop, Gap, Jamba Juice, Jos. A. Bank, Pottery Barn, Walgreens and Wolf Camera. We’re not talking anything as ostentatious as a Sports Authority or a Best Buy—Barnes & Noble is the biggest—but these modest franchises give downtown Naperville a more modern feel and thus, attract a more eager and young crowd.

It’s the perfect mix!

Don’t get me wrong, but sometimes when I gaze upon certain Downtown Geneva storefronts, I say to myself, “Really? Did you do any market research? Do we really need another … ”

But then Eric also reminded me of a sentiment I’ve been hearing for the last decade. “They don’t seem to want any type of chain store in downtown Geneva.” If any of you recall the “sky is falling” screams solicited by Starbucks coming in, then you already know it’s true.

When I asked former Alderman Ray Pawlak to bring back those interesting Starbucks-comes-to-town memories he added, “The rainy day is here! I’ve always been an advocate for downtown national retailers, but the City Council and Chamber of Commerce are unduly terrified of Geneva losing its unique character.’”

Naperville’s downtown, which certainly has its own flair, has not only done all right, but I’m convinced it's flourishing specifically because of those national stores.

It’s time for Geneva to wake up and smell the Starbucks’ coffee.

Don’t think our downtown merchants can compete with chains? In Naperville, Anderson's Bookshop does just fine with Barnes & Noble a mere two blocks away. Of course, Anderson's is also open every weeknight until 9 p.m.

Anytime you can bring new eyes to bear on your business, it can’t possibly be a bad thing. Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats.

So, to get this ball rolling, here’s my thought. Mike Simon! For the ridiculously low price of a six pack of Bass Ale, I’m willing to offer my formidable persuasive services in a concerted effort to lure an Apple Store into that currently empty State and Third street location. Whether it’s meetings, phone calls or a column or two, you can count on me doing my darndest to make sure it happens.

Heck! I’ll even pay for the beer.

Dave Erickson December 05, 2011 at 01:12 PM
Wow funny you should mention that. I was just telling my wife that it would be nice to have an Apple store in that location. As a matter of fact a few name brand stores wouldn't hurt either. The independent boutique idea is great but a few name brands might be an even greater draw.
Sandy Kaczmarski December 05, 2011 at 01:41 PM
I'm on board. Would love to be able to stop in a local Apple store and not have to drive so far. I usually go to Oak Brook. Can never find a parking space in Naperville.
Kevin December 05, 2011 at 02:42 PM
Like Naperville has done, I would love to see downtown Geneva attract branch locations of popular restaurants in Chicago, or getting a successful Chicago chef to open a restaurant here. The space that Aurelio's just went into would have been great for a Heaven on Seven-type of place, in my opinion. Do we really need another pizza joint in this town??
Jeff Ward December 05, 2011 at 03:01 PM
Dave, Sandy, Kevin, I'm not sure if I can handle all of you agreeing with me - especially when it comes to downtown! Jeff
Beth Bales December 05, 2011 at 03:55 PM
Let's channel the spirit of the late Steve Jobs and get that Apple store here! Sandy -- we always go to the Naperville store. May have to park in the parking garage, but I've always eventually found a spot.
Jeff Ward December 05, 2011 at 04:01 PM
What! Beth Bales agrees with me too? Now I'm really scared! Jeff
Colin C. December 05, 2011 at 05:57 PM
Jeff, I'm typing this on my Apple iMac. I've owned Apples since 1985. In fact I have a Mac SE (8 meg HD, 1 floppy slot) sitting in the basement. Works fine but a little out of date. Still, I can't bear to pitch it. So it's a $3000 doorstop. Would I like an Apple store in Geneva? Guess!! I agree that we could use some "upscale" chains. I would think along State St. or Third between State and James. What could go into the old post office? This way the "Little Traveler" area would not be "compromised" and some newer stores might draw more foot traffic up Third to State St.
Katie Jordan-Dotsey December 05, 2011 at 06:13 PM
I have always said Geneva should look at the downtown Naperville for inspiration. The great mix of stores they have and the great restaurants is something Geneva could get some ideas from. An Apple store would be great, they need to add some new life to the Downtown.
Mary Stith December 05, 2011 at 06:42 PM
OH my...my husband just said the same thing, having had to trek to Naperville to their Apple Store on a number of occasions. I think it would be a big draw and not something that competes with anything else downtown. You have my vote!
Mary Stith December 05, 2011 at 06:44 PM
It's really not another pizza joint as they've been here and supported the community for quite some time. It is so much nicer to have a sit down pizza place, which is a bit more unique. I wish Aurelio's much success.
Jeff Ward December 05, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Alright! I want to know exactly who put you all up to agreeing with me. I'm willing to bet it's either my wife, who continues to wage psychological warfare, or it's that nefarious Colin Campbell fellow. Either way, it's not going to work! Jeff
Bob McQuillan December 05, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Jeff I'll lie and say I don't want an Apple store just so you come back down to earth! Can't you already buy apples at Jewel & Dominicks?
Joan Watt Lencioni December 05, 2011 at 07:40 PM
Ok Jeff- here is your dissenting opinion from a Naperville refugee that moved to Geneva for the unique living and less crowded streets.I grew up in Naperville when it was the size of Geneva and wanted that for my family. 1.The most obvious fact for the crowded downtown streets is the population of the Naperville area for crying out loud....140,000 people plus a college downtown (North Central) squeezed into sidewalks and streets that have not been widened since 1950, produces the hordes of people, at least visually. Yes, an Apple store would be a fanastic addition to downtown Geneva and I don't think the City Council, Chamber of Commerce or anyone else wouldn't welcome them.
Jeff Ward December 05, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Joan! It's always good to hear from you. Please note! Per Mike (I miss him!), I mention Downtown Geneva evening hours at every possible turn. I did consider the population argument, but those Napervillians have even more main drag options than we do. From Guitar Center to Performance Bike, they have every chain known to man on Route 59 and that downtown of small independent shops still manages to do very well. Thus, I don't think population is the only answer. And I hope they actually get proactive and court them! We'll see! Jeff
Jeff Ward December 05, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Bob, You may joke, but Marty Kane's previous column main downtown thought was a decent grocery store along Third Street. Jeff
Dave Erickson December 05, 2011 at 08:07 PM
Jeff, for what it's worth don't get used to it. I still disagree with you on most topics. You just happened to have a brief flash of brilliance. Don't worry it will pass.
Joan Watt Lencioni December 05, 2011 at 08:08 PM
I don't agree Jeff. I will send you my expanded opionion in an email..We do need to be proactive and court those retailers, absolutely, but Naperville's merchants are not reaping in the profits just because the crowds appear large. All that glitters is not gold so the saying goes and quite a few businesses have gone away in this recession.
Jeff Ward December 05, 2011 at 09:48 PM
Dave, Thank God! I thought it might be a permanent condition! Jeff
Political PR Machine December 08, 2011 at 02:16 PM
One of the best parts of Geneva is that it is not Naperville! In order to have a vibrant downtown, we just need to support our local businesses, and choose local over national chains. If rents would be a bit more competitive and in tuine with market forces, and more business friednly, we could see a lot more entrepreneurship in our downtown. Perhaps it is not an Apple store, but an entrepreneurial Apple philosophy and approach to business that we need.
Political PR Machine December 08, 2011 at 02:20 PM
I agree with Mary about Aurelio's... if there was ever a reason to support downtown, it would be to support a hard working business person who brings back to the community. You couldn't ask for a better representation than from the owners of Aurelios - they work hard, contribute back, and have provided a nice family restaurant that doesn't try to impress with small plates, spoon size entre's that look artsy, and inflated prices - rather, they have great food, great service, and a place for the familiy to spend time together.
Tom Lichtenheld December 13, 2011 at 11:19 PM
I'm all for it. While we're on the topic, does anyone have a recommendation for on site Apple service in the Geneva area?
Pamela Jeffrey January 27, 2012 at 07:48 AM
I lived in old town Geneva for 10 years and it was one of the best times of my life. It saddens me to read about how many local businesses have folded (the Mill Race Inn, 302 West, the Merra Lee shops, and the list goes on.) I know that Genevans want to keep their unique downtown, but downtown Geneva has to now compete with shopping center on Randall Road. I think the mix like downtown Naperville might be the boost that downtown Geneva needs. Also, it would be great if a popular upscale chain restaurant, yes I said chain would open in downtown Geneva (perhaps the old 302 West building.) These trying economic times we need to rethink the formula to revitalize downtown business areas.
Sarah March 27, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Aurelio's is not just another pizza joint. They've been in downtown Geneva for years, built up a following the right way (starting small) and moved to a better location with loyal customers in tow. Seeing Aurelio's on the main drag and seeing them busy/full on the weekends is great. Good for you Aurelio's! I'd like to add that Im a 5 year downtown Geneva employee, working for a business owner who is native to Geneva. Without giving too much up, I work for a bar and restaurant that has a large 'regular' crowd. I think I can speak for many my coworkers when I say that businesses like Apple could bring foot traffic from all over the surrounding areas. And that's what we need... more foot traffic! 5 years ago I would drive down 3rd to get to work and would hiss and moan about all the pedestrians crowding the streets, making my commute slightly inconvenienced. Now when I drive in, 3rd seems bare and Im asking myself, "Where is everyone?" Let's be proactive about this Geneva! Quick question: Does Apple want to come to Geneva?

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