Volunteers Bringing More People and More Businesses to Downtown Waukegan and the Lakefront
Waukegan Main Street Young Professionals Launch is June 1st
The Waukegan Main Street Young Professionals is a volunteer interest group that targets professionals ages 25-45 that work, live, play or have a passion for Waukegan, to empower the community and support the Main Street District. The Launch Event is June 1st, 5:30 - 7:30pm at Rosati's, 226 N. Sheridan. Our mission is to support the Main Street Movement through volunteerism, philanthropy and membership development. Waukegan Main Street is looking for people who are seeking an opportunity to make a difference. We are at a critical time in Waukegan’s history and we are looking to your talent, drive and passion to join this movement as a professional. Come join us!
Waukegan Main Street caught up with Gary LeVine to find out more….
WMS: So how did this concept come about?
Gary LeVine: It began as a group of friends, Cigar aficionados and boaters. We would meet in the summer at Waukegan Harbor on beautiful Lake Michigan enjoying our cigars while sharing boating stories. Over time, our cigar knowledge and experience grew into rolling cigars for our own enjoyment. We invested in a rolling machine, molds and a cigar press. With the experience of our Cuban friend, Luis Carbonell, we have learned the fine art of creating a fine cigar. We then started creating our own blends.
WMS: What will the experience be like?
Gary LeVine: The Lounge will have cigar smoking . Patrons can walk in and go back to our giant walk-in humidor, and pick out their own cigars. We’ll teach patrons about cigars; how to roll them, the different blends available in A Cuban Theme environment.
WMS: Why Waukegan?
Gary LeVine: We wanted it to be in Waukegan! Most of the partners are life long Waukeganites. We want to watch this downtown area grow. We want to be a part of this Cities growth.
WMS: What differentiates your cigars from other brands?
Gary LeVine: Some are mild, some are stronger. You can customize the cigars to make different sizes, and use different leaves from Brazil, Dominican Republic, Nicaraguan and Connecticut. We’ve gotten rave reviews!
WMS: When will you be opening?
Gary LeVine: We plan to have a soft opening the end of March.
Lounge Hours: 10am-8pm tentatively.
Cigars prices in all ranges.
We at Waukegan Main Street admit it. Downtowns are not easy to revitalize. But here are some facts about Waukegan’s downtown: three theaters are thriving and more new businesses and restaurants have opened their doors!
The Genesee Theater, Clockwise Theatre, and Three Brothers Theatre produced more shows last year than ever before. Wauk-n-Whiskey has opened its doors on Genesee Street and Rosatti’s is under construction at Grand and Sheridan, joining other popular restaurants and pubs. New businesses like Lake County Tech Hub, Liberty Tax, and Horizon Benefit Services are up and running.
Your vision of a vibrant downtown and lakefront is our purpose. Every day, WMS keeps that vision in the forefront of its plans and activities.
How does the Main Street work? We use the proven ap proaches and tools that every Main Street organization uses. That’s how we can successfully focus on economic development, small business appearance improvement, historic preservation, and promoting the downtown. Here’s just one success story:
University grads Josh and Caroline Beadle came to Waukegan with the dream of starting a new small theater company. They spotted the vacant space at 115 N. Genesee and hit it off with building owner Juli Weber, also owner of Little Fort Media, right next door.
Before long Three Brothers, a 50-seat black box theater, had become a reality. “For the first couple of years we couldn’t afford a marquee. People couldn’t read the posters we displayed and they couldn’t see into the lobby. In fact, the whole block was dark,” said Caroline.
A Waukegan Main Street SLAP Grant (sign, lighting, and appearance program) was the solution. Josh and Caroline worked with downtown architect firm, Design Studio C, to design and price out a lighted sign. Then they applied to the WMS Design committee for a 50-50 SLAP grant.
“The SLAP grant was incredibly helpful,” said Josh. “Our Three Brothers Theater sign illuminates for quite a distance on Genesee Street. Now we have a clear beacon welcoming all our patrons.”
Owner Juli Weber couldn’t be happier. “The more successful the theater is, the more solid my tenant is. Everyone on the street benefits.”
Main Street organizations know that attractive positional advertising draws business customers and restaurant and theater patrons. That’s why the WMS Economic Development Committee initiated the Downtown Kiosk Program. The first kiosk has been installed at the corner of Genesee and County streets, displaying the map of downtown and promoting downtown businesses and events. WMS plans to install three more kiosks throughout the Main Street district.
Building partnerships and engaging community stakeholders in the revitalization effort is another economic development tool. For the last two years, we worked with the Waukegan Chamber of Commerce to host the Criterium Bike Race in downtown Waukegan. WMS also partnered with the City to staff a tent for Scoop the Loop and promote monthly ArtWauks.
Year-round, downtown foot traffic has increased because of WMS events like the annual winter Holiday Wauk and the summer Wine and Art Stroll. We also sponsor the annual Lunch with the Mayor. This standing-room-only event provides businesses, nonprofits, and residents and the Mayor a unique way to interact.
Waukegan’s downtown and lakefront district faces a wide array of challenges and opportunities, and WMS is committed to be part of the solutions and successes.
In the coming year, WMS will focus on bringing more people and businesses to downtown and the lakefront. Communication is key. We have listened to our downtown businesses. Already we are partnering with landlords to clean up vacant storefronts. We will identify funding alternatives to implement beautification improvements. We know that arts and entertainment are a powerful combination for boosting economic development. That means we will partner with community groups to expand the array of cultural and social events in our downtown and lakefront.
Your support will bring even more success. When you donate to Waukegan Main Street, you share in our planning, projects, and successes—now and in the future. Whether you are a Main Street partner or if you’re new to WMS, please make a special year-end contribution. Your gift of $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 or more will go a long way toward supporting our work.
Did you know? Waukegan Main Street is not a city agency. WMS is a volunteer, community-supported organization. The largest portion of our funds come from generous community partners like you.
Please visit www.waukeganmainstreet.org to learn more about what we do. We are working so that you, and all of us, benefit by making positive, tangible differences for our downtown and lakefront.
Megan McKenna de Mejia
Arthur Cobb, Jr
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and Illinois Main Street, along with the Waukegan Main Street and Donna Ann Harris the principal of Heritage Consulting Inc., hosted a“Volunteer Recruitment and Retention Strategies” Workshop at Urban Edge in May.
The workshop attracted managers, executive directors and volunteer coordinators from non-profits throughout Lake County, northern Cook County and Kenosha County. Organizations represented included Waukegan Park District, Habitat for Humanity Lake County, Downtown Kenosha, United Way of Lake County, Lake County Bike Project, GWDC, Words on Wheels, Waukegan Township, Waukegan Arts Council, HACES, City of Evanston, Kenosha Chamber, Waukegan Port District, and several Illinois Main Streets.
The lively five-hour workshop focused on the basics of working with volunteers, including the “Three R’s of Volunteers” – recruiting, retaining and recognizing them. After an examination of useful techniques for volunteer recruitment, the 40 participants discussed the importance of volunteer orientation, training, and leadership opportunities for any nonprofit organization. “The workshop gave me additional tools and ideas around volunteering and that made coming to the event totally worth it,” said one participant. The day wrapped up with a discussion of volunteer alternatives, including using small task forces to engage more people in an organization’s work.
Workshop highlights included:
Learning how to plan the organization’s work using volunteers
Discussing recent research about why people volunteer, and the three basic recruitment techniques that can be used in any nonprofit organization
Training techniques to assure that you retain your volunteer(s) and manage them well
Learning how to emphasize the need for a work plan, volunteer descriptions and high quality supervision to ensure success.
“I am honored to be the ambassador for the Illinois Main Street program,” Lieutenant Governor Sanguinetti said. “This workshop provided valuable information that will help nonprofits grow and succeed while also expanding the Illinois economy. A thriving and innovative nonprofit sector is critical to fulfilling the potential of our great state.”
The State of Illinois has participated in the Main Street program for more than 20 years and currently has 37 designated communities with 1 new community scheduled to be designated in June. A recent sample of participating organizations disclosed that Illinois Main Street downtowns completed more than 396 construction projects, opened over 149 new businesses and created more than 843 jobs during 2014.
Illinois Main Street is an historic preservation-based economic development program that applies the comprehensive Main Street Four Point Approach® to the revitalization of Illinois’ downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. Developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Main Street approach focuses on four key tenets: Organization, Design, Promotion, and Economic Restructuring.
Nationally, Main Street communities and their local programs have created nearly 915,000 jobs and represent public and private reinvestment of over $48 billion.