Winner of Outstanding Main Street Business: Green Town Tavern!

Green Town Tavern is the sole winner the Illinois Main Street 2013 Outstanding Main Street Business award.  Green Town exemplifies what it takes to establish not only a business but a destination in a section of downtown that was problematic. The business has attracted other businesses to the area. Waukegan Main Street hears from “north side” businesses that the “south side” gets all of the attention, a complete reversal of the complaints 10 years ago.  Green Town’s product is consistent, reasonably priced and tastes good, it fills a market niche in Waukegan. Families are welcomed. The night crowd enjoys the 100 beers available from a well stocked bar, fun promotions and activities. Owner Bob Sobol supports the downtown and larger Waukegan community and has actively partnered with Main Street from the inception of his business.

From Bob Sobol’s perspective:

From an independent business owner’s perspective, I saw the value of Waukegan Main Street (WMS) as a collaborative partner.  We worked with them when we first opened to make the exterior friendlier and more welcoming through SLAP.  Being able to make the external changes with the financial help from WMS allowed us to focus more money on the internal changes, such as repainting the dining area and upstairs.  I’ve noticed that several downtown businesses have taken advantage of this program as well, updating our main street, without disturbing the unique architecture of each building.

Main Street helped spread the word to the City Hall and County Courthouse that we are open for lunch – and that we understand people have tight schedules.  Between the two buildings approximately 900 people are working three to four blocks away from our door, so letting them know we were here was imperative to our success.

WMS has improved the foot traffic in downtown Waukegan by putting on, participating in and promoting a number of events throughout the year.  Each event is open to the public and targeted at different audiences; because the events are consistently good, a stable core of people come to all of them and sometimes bring their friends.  I believe that we have to promote the whole area, not just individual businesses, to boost the customer base.

Another area where WMS bolstered business is their consistent weekly calendar of events.  Any business or organization in the Main Street District is welcome to submit event information and the calendar goes to 3000 email addresses, the vast majority of those being local.  When people get listings with consistently accurate information, they rely on it to help fill their own schedules.  I’m an active owner and talk to people about what brings them downtown.  While they might not mention Main Street by name, they talk about seeing a Tweet or Facebook posting or calendar listing – and they and their friends just happened to be looking for something to do.

I was impressed enough with Main Street and the Main Street Approach that I served on the Board and joined the Executive Committee when asked.  Serving allowed me to give back to Main Street and the community.  It let me help shape the strategic plan for the next several years and it provided a vehicle for me to share my experiences with new business owners.  Because of the information available to me as a Main Street Board Member, I could speak both from a position of authority and a little more intelligently about the advantages of opening a business downtown. Ultimately, serving on the Board and partnering with Main Street put me on the frontlines of generating more economic development for downtown.  I especially enjoyed – still enjoy – working with businesses on the cutting edge of a new area.  When we opened on South Genesee Street, several people said, “Are you crazy?!  No one’s going to come to this neighborhood to eat … and certainly not at night!”  Now I see those same people coming to dinner here at least once a week, and smile.

Congratulations, Bob and Green Town Tavern!
~Jane Ferry
Executive Director

Main St Outstanding Biz Award

Marc Scherer Featured at Annual Meeting

Marc Scherer Annual Mtg


Genesee Theatre’s Marc Scherer Is Featured Speaker at Waukegan Main Street’s Annual Meeting

WAUKEGAN, ILL., Sept. 27, 2013— Marc Scherer, marketing manager for the Genesee Theatre, was  the featured guest speaker at Waukegan Main Street’s annual meeting and luncheon, Sept. 25 at the Waukegan Yacht Club,199 N. Harbor Place, Waukegan, Ill.

“The Genesee and Waukegan Main Street have common goals in attracting more people to Waukegan’s downtown. It’s an exciting time now that the theater is under new management. I’m eager to share future events and plans with the community,” Scherer said.  Scherer went out to tell the nearly 60 participants about acts that have either been booked or are in the works and that the Theatre hopes to book 150 shows per year.   

Scherer is part of the new management team, Northbrook-based Churchill Productions, selected in July to manage operations at the historic Genesee Theatre in downtown Waukegan.

Jamie O’Meara, Waukegan Main Street Board President, opened the meeting with an introduction of Main Street.  O’Meara said, “The Main Street program is a national program of proven economic revitalization/development through historic preservation. In Illinois the program is administered through the Dept of Economic Opportunity. Why am I telling you this? Because we feel it’s important for everyone to understand that although small, we are mighty…with local, State and national expertise and support. This gives us a big toolbox. And when we add the amazing support of our partners and the multitude of skills our volunteers bring to the organization, how can we not succeed?”

Also featured on the agenda was Jane Ferry, who was named executive director of Waukegan Main Street in August.  Ferry gave her background, covered the new businesses in Main Street District that have opened in the last year and quoted one of the recent Japanese Sister City visitors who said that she remembered visiting Waukegan years ago and how beautifully the city has changed.  Ferry added, “Each one of us who has worked in big or small part toward the revitalization of the City of Waukegan should take her comment as a compliment … and a reminder that hard work pays off.”

About Waukegan Main Street

Waukegan Main Street is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to rebuilding and reinventing Waukegan’s historic downtown business district by partnering with residents, small-business owners, property owners, developers, the City of Waukegan and entities such as the Waukegan Park District, the Waukegan Port District and the Waukegan Public Library. With programs that help small businesses thrive and events that bring people of all ages downtown, Waukegan Main Street is a driving force in creating a more vibrant downtown.

Media Contact: Jane Ferry, 847-623-6650,


Photo Credit: Ali Albakri

Beach Clean Up

A dedicated group of volunteers from Waukegan Main Street and Friends of Waukegan Beach completed an end of the season clean up on Saturday, September 21st.  The clean up was part of both the International Coastal Clean-up and Alliance for the Great Lakes.  We were pleased to have Brownies, Cub Scouts, teens, a young Marine, a college co-ed, the station director from Midwest Generation, friends, and people new to the area.  What a terrific mix of people out for a good cause!

Beach Clean Up kids

A big THANK YOU goes out to Waukegan’s Seventh Ward Alderman Lisa May for co-coordinating the effort and to F.I.S.T. for helping our efforts.  F.I.S.T. should also be commended for keeping the beach clean throughout the summer season, meaning fewer filled garbage bags when we finished.  Still, volunteers found a few unique items, including a 15 foot long piece of metal pipe and a plastic patio table in pieces.

Beach Clean Up Volunteers

As Margaret Mead, noted cultural anthropologist, said (and those of you who know me have heard repeated many times), “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Thank you, volunteers!

Beach 9 21 2013

~Jane Ferry
Executive Director

(Photo credit: Lisa May, Mike May, Jane Yarnall, Dulce Ortiz)

Governor Quinn Recognizes Main Street’s Efforts

Governor Pat Quinn was in Waukegan yesterday to announce the release of $35.9 million in state funds for the expansion of the College of Lake County Lakeshore Campus.  If you were not able to attend, read the whole article in the News-Sun.


We were thrilled to be in the audience for such a great announcement for our downtown.  We were especially pleased when Governor Quinn said:

“Once you have an institution like we’re going to build here, with lots of people coming in and out, all through the day and into the night, that’s good for the community.  It’s good for public safety.  You have eyes on the street.  You have people coming together, going to restaurants after school and so on, and that’s what Main Street is all about.  When I was lieutenant governor, we worked with Waukegan Main Street, one of the very best programs in the whole state of Illinois. They really work on the community.  We believe in the community. We believe in the opportunity of people to start business and expand their businesses. We believe in tourism and encouraging people to come to Waukegan ….”  (Thanks to Dan Moran of the News-Sun for the supplying the exact quote.)

Wow.  Thanks, Governor!  Every single one of our volunteers should take pride in knowing the Governor of a state of 12.88 million people knows about our local Main Street.  Our efforts are paying off!
~Jane Ferry
Executive Director

Touring Waukegan with Visitors from Miyazaki, Japan

Visitors from our sister city Miyazaki, Japan toured some of our highlights on Tuesday September 17th, including our award-winning library, parks and the Genesee Theatre.  What a wonderful, gracious group of people!  They started the day at City Hall, discussing government structure, then took the short walk to our library.  They were amazed that all the library offerings are free, including computer and ESL classes.

The group then walked down to Genesee Street where I talked about revitalization largely due to the arts, but also mentioned that we have businesses that have been in the Main Street District for 30 years or more.  One of the Japanese delegation had visited Waukegan about 20 years ago and said, “You have a beautiful city … not so before.”  All of us working diligently on the revitalization of Waukegan should accept that as a compliment, as well as a reminder that hard work pays off.


Along with other stops, they visited architect Joe Legat, who was instrumental in the designs of the Baxter plants in their city, bridging cultures with business.  Later the group toured the Genesee Theatre with Phyllis Klein and Marc Scherer, the new management of the theatre tasked with bringing more shows and events to our fair city.


The group was served a culinary delight by Chef Michael Lachowicz, the new chef for the Genesee Theatre.  Over lunch we talked about our culture’s similarities and differences.


After lunch, the tour continued to the Field House, the Sports Park and beyond.  Dinner was held at Green Town Tavern with specials provided by Waukegan restaurants.

Having people visit always opens one’s eyes to the beauty  of one’s everyday environs.  Join me in looking around Waukegan with fresh eyes and a welcoming attitude.
~Jane Ferry
Executive Director

Weekly Highlights and Calendar

Waukegan Main Street's table at the Walk for Seniors
Waukegan Main Street’s table at the Walk for Seniors

Are you on our Calendar mailing list?  If not, you’re missing out on getting a fairly comprehensive listing of events and activities in and around downtown Waukegan.  Check out this week’s highlights and consider getting a similar calendar in our email inbox every Friday morning.

Highlights from this week include the 14th annual Walk for Seniors on Saturday, September 14th.  The Walk will go right through downtown.  Are you participating?  Swing by the Waukegan Main Street table to pick up information and a sticker!

Saturday evening two of our three theatres have offerings:

And there’s live music, karaoke, dining specials, a parade, and a festival at the beach … and those are just during the weekend!  Come downtown and enjoy the fun.  Have a fun and safe weekend!

~Jane Ferry
Executive Director

Architectural Scavenger Hunt Answers

A great time was had by over 1300 people who attended the Waukegan Public Library’s Monarch Festival this past Sunday.  Irene Edgar and I had a good time talking to all the people who came by our table, giving away WMS stickers and challenging people with Irene’s awesome Architectural Scavenger Hunt!

As promised, here are the answers to the Scavenger Hunt with some interesting architectural notes:

  1. Parking garage at First Midwest Bank on County – folded plate roof
  2. Carnegie Library at 1 N. Sheridan – Doric column
  3. Le Chateau at 10 N. Sheridan
  4. Karcher Artspace Lofts – anchor for cast iron tie rod
  5. 120 Washington Street – anchor for cast iron tie rod or ornamental rosette
  6. Jerry’s Tacos at 120 N. Genesee – gooseneck lamp
  7. 118 Washington Street – Richardsonian Romanesque
  8. Waukegan Building at 4 S. Genesee
  9. YMCA Building at 204 County – Different colors of brick laid in a Flemish Diagonal Bond to create diagonal pattern
  10. Genesee Theatre at 203 N. Genesee = variation on Corinthian pilaster
  11. Sauter Building/Sterns – copper ornamental banding on oriel window
  12. Blumberg Building on South Genesee
  13. Merchants’ Block at Water and Genesee
  14. 209 Madison
  15. 122 Madison
Architectural Scavenger Hunt pg 2

Thanks again to Irene Edgar for her hard work and to everyone who swung by our Monarch Festival table!

~Jane Ferry
WMS Executive Director

Volunteering Creates a Sense of Belonging, of Community

Waukegan Main Street's table at the Walk for Seniors
Waukegan Main Street volunteer Barbara Dunakin.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Tip for today hit home:

To foster a sense of belonging, create meaningful rituals with your family or community, such as volunteering together once a month.

We say it regularly:  Volunteers are the heart of Waukegan Main Street!  Whether we are tending to the planters on Genesee Street or working a table at Monarch Festival, volunteering exposes us to a diverse group of people and has a positive  impact on our community.  Other benefits of volunteering include:

Learning or developing a new skill

Volunteering is the chance  to discover something one is good at and hone a new skill. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.” It is never too late to learn no matter what age, employment or background.

Motivation and sense of achievement

Volunteering is about giving one’s time, energy and skills freely.  Unlike many things in life there is choice involved. Volunteers often feel a sense of achievement and motivation, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of wellness – and a sense of enthusiasm that can be contagious.

Boost career options

A survey carried out by TimeBank showed

  • 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without
  • 94% of employers believe volunteering can add to skills
  • 94% of employees who volunteered to learn new skills benefited by getting their first job, improving their salary, or being promoted

Also, when one is thinking of a career change volunteering is a perfect way to explore new fields.

New interests and hobbies

Volunteering is an escape from everyday routines, helping create a balance in our lives. The energy and sense of fulfillment can carry over to a work situation and often relieves tensions, fostering new perspectives for old situations.

New experiences and skills

Volunteering is a way to get life experience. Whether building a library or coordinating a fundraiser, the experience is real, hands-on work.  Volunteering also brings together people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Interacting with new people may help one develop interpersonal skills and offers the opportunity to network outside of one’s own circle

Make new friends

Not only does volunteering lead to lasting professional relationships but oftentimes is the basis for friendship.  If one is new to an area or has changed living situations, volunteering offers introductions to new people with common interests.

Show people what you are passionate about and maybe you will inspire them too!

~Jane Ferry
WMS Executive Director


Volunteers Appreciaton Celebration!

Have you volunteered for Waukegan Main Street?  Tonight we are celebrating you and all the wonderful work you’ve done for Waukegan.  You’ve worked events, stuffed envelopes, handed out flyers, and served on our Committees and Board.  Now it’s time to relax and enjoy an evening of appetizers and camaraderie!

Haven’t volunteered yet, but are interested in seeing what opportunities are available?  Here’s your chance to get to know us and join the fun! Looking forward to seeing you there!


Volunteer Appreciation Celebration at Jerry's Tacos on September 11th!

Labor Day Weekend Fun

Harbor Sunrise

Even though the Waukegan Schools are already back in session, Labor Day weekend signals the end of Summer for so many of us.  This weekend’s weather, however, may seem more like mid-July so find time to enjoy our beautiful Waukegan Beach.  Remember, it’s cooler near the lake.

Need some ideas for your weekend?  How about …

  • Live blues and jazz every Friday at Jerry’s Tacos from 6- 8pm
  • Karaoke every Friday at 17 North starting at 9pm
  • The Archie Parks Project every Friday at Big Ed’s starting at 7:30pm


  • Green Town Yoga at Stiner Pavilion, Waukegan Beach starting at 9am
  • Happy Time Breakfast every Saturday at Green Town Tavern
  • The Neil Rose Band this Saturday at Big Ed’s starting at 7:30pm
  • Fowl Mouth, Street Fist and The Forty Whacks this Saturday at the Burgundy Room at 10pm


  • Sunrise Breakfast every Saturday and Sunday at 17 North at 9am


And, if you haven’t seen our weekly calendar and highlights, check it out by clicking here.  You can even sign up to get the calendar emailed directly to you by clicking here.


Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!
~Jane Ferry, Executive Director