After hearing the proposal for a new restaurant/café/event space taking over the former Giesche Shoe store, the neighboring restaurant owners aren’t exactly thrilled at the idea of increased competition.
The competition they are mainly talking about is for parking spaces in the area, although it would be naïve to think that competition for their businesses is not also a part of the equation. The new café would seem to directly compete with Blackberry Market, however, according to Nick Roberge the owner of Maize + Mash and one of the men behind the proposal, that is not the case.
“We would never in a million years try to replicate what Blackberry does, or Fire + Wine, or anything like that. We are not looking to do something that nobody wants here, that’s for sure…We are all for parking solutions. Someone just tell us what we can do, and we will do it, as long as it fits what we can do.”
Fire + Wine owner Michael Vai is one of the concerned restaurant owners and in an article at MySuburbanLife.com he said, “My customers can’t park right now. That’s a big challenge. I have people waiting literally 15 to 20 minutes for their guests, who are trying to park. So the parking is a grave situation. And I don’t know what we are going to do when we get all these other restaurants coming in.”
A “grave situation” may be over-blowing things just a bit. While parking may not be ideal, there are generally always spots to be found. In the same story, Carpentersville senior planner and Glen Ellyn resident John Svalenka “said in his professional opinion, there is ‘plenty’ of parking in downtown Glen Ellyn.” Svalenka went on to say, “It’s just kind of a perception thing where people can find it. I parked in the Metra parking lot, and it was half-empty at 7 p.m. on a Thursday, one of the busiest restaurant nights.”
As for those who are dropping people off at the restaurant and only then going to look for parking while their guests wait, if that is the case they either didn’t allow enough time to get to their reservation, or the people they drop off will be putting their names in and will have to wait for a table either way.
While additional parking spots are not currently part of the plan, in order to combat a potential parking crunch the proposal intends to use a valet service.
When it comes to competition among the restaurants, Fire + Wine owner Michael Vai said bluntly, “somewhere along the line, there is a dilution of business.”
This is a valid concern for the restaurant owners given the ongoing influx of new restaurants, which include Nobel House and Sushi Ukai moving into the former Soukup’s building, as well as McMae’s on Main opening up in the former Wooden Barrel building. However, from a consumer perspective choice is a wonderful thing. Normally on a busy night it’s difficult to walk in and get a seat at Maize + Mash, A Toda Madre or Fire + Wine, and while that may still be the case, at least now there will be many other options to chose from as a backup plan. If the new restaurants establish themselves as top options then the lines at the currently more popular establishments will start to dwindle.
The argument for something other than another restaurant in the Giesche store is a valid one, so that is not to be dismissed. However, popular restaurants tend to bring in more out of town traffic than smaller stores, and it’s hard to envision a large retail store moving in any time soon.
The big news from the village meeting on November 9 was that the plan commissioners are currently in support of the proposal. Commissioner Tracy Heming-Littwin had this to say in Eric Schelkopf’s article, “All of us on the Plan Commission are very much aware of everybody’s concerns with parking. It’s something we as a village have to figure out, but I do not believe we need to put 100 percent of the onus on a new business coming into town. It’s a very unique concept. I believe that if the right concept is put out there, more people will come to the village. I love what you have done so far. I would love to see you go forward on it and see what you guys can come up with.”
Given the green light, Nick Roberge and developer Joel Frieders should be moving forward with their formal application to the Village.