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!