North Side Business Demolitions Sadden, Anger Local Resident

by Dave Noble, Your Neighbors and Your Neighborhoods Beat Writer

ELMHURST – Expressing frustration while wiping away tears, local resident and community activist Rory Lester warned a group of reporters Wednesday that recent demolition projects on the north side of Elmhurst are a signal that “the end is near for this great part of town” and vowed to do “whatever it takes” to stop business revitalization in his neighborhood.

“We had a perfectly good hotel until they leveled it last year,” said Lester, who lives a few blocks east of York Street.  “And now they’re about to knock down Steven’s Steakhouse.  Are we going to lose our laundromat next?  Our drive-thru cigarette hut?  Are they gonna bulldoze the goddamn self-serve car wash?”

The 62-year-old Elmhurst native has led several causes in recent years to bring back iconic north side businesses, including a GoFundMe.com campaign to purchase Steven’s, and an ill-advised petition aimed at reopening Yorky’s fast food restaurant.

“We were well on our way to buying the steakhouse,” said Lester, who claims that fund pledges to the account topped $900.  In a separate petition drive last year to protest the closing of Yorky’s, Lester collected 33 signatures before learning that the restaurant was only shut down temporarily for remodeling.

While he admits to being irritated by changes of any kind to the north side of Elmhurst, nothing strikes a more personal chord for Lester than the 2013 closure and subsequent demolition of The Waverton Hotel.

“Some of the best hookers in the suburbs operated out of there,” lamented Lester, who added that he and prostitutes frequently enjoyed the hotel’s Mayan Adventure Indoor Waterpark before engaging in sexual acts.   “I can still hook up with girls at the Extended Stay, but they don’t have a waterpark there.   Or a bar.”

Comparison Study: Shopping Local vs. Shopping at Oakbrook Center

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by Dave Noble, The Elmhurst Funion Weekender

Elmhurst City Centre and local business owners urge you to “shop local”.  But just a few miles away, the Oakbrook Center shopping mall offers retail options that are sometimes hard to resist, even for Elmhurst residents who want to support local businesses.  So where should you shop?  The Elmhurst Funion Weekender answers that question by breaking down the advantages of Shopping Local vs. Shopping at Oakbrook Center.

Acceptable attire

SHOPPING LOCAL: Yoga pants and a North Face jacket
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: Something you see in Marie Claire magazine
ADVANTAGE: Shopping Local

 

Empty storefronts have signs that read

SHOPPING LOCAL: “Call for leasing information”
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: “We only netted $475,000 last year, so they made us leave”
ADVANTAGE: Shopping at Oakbrook Center

 

Biggest parking perk

SHOPPING LOCAL: New customer parking initiative means you can leave your car anywhere on the street while shopping
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: Valet at several locations around the mall
ADVANTAGE: Shopping Local, because you don’t have to leave a tip

 

Penalty for shoplifting

SHOPPING LOCAL: Arrested and publicly humiliated when your name appears in the Elmhurst Patch
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: Arrested, but hailed by friends and family for “sticking it to the man”
ADVANTAGE: Shopping at Oakbrook Center

 

Advertising Slogan

SHOPPING LOCAL: “She skipped the mall and loved it!”
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: “She skipped a car payment and loved it!”
ADVANTAGE: Push

 

Possibility of spending your entire paycheck

SHOPPING LOCAL: Low, unless you’re buying a fur
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: High, unless you’re only shopping at Sears
ADVANTAGE: Shopping Local

 

Shopping bag store names that lift your ego

SHOPPING LOCAL: The Fruitful Yield, Cig-Not, Shell Gas Station
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor
ADVANTAGE: Shopping at Oakbrook Center

 

Number of magic shops

SHOPPING LOCAL: 1
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: 0
ADVANTAGE: Shopping Local, because she will enjoy opening a big box of “101 Mind-Blowing Magic Tricks” more than she will enjoy opening a little blue box from Tiffany & Co.

 

Distance from the hospital in case of emergency

SHOPPING LOCAL: 2.5 miles
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: 2.5 miles
ADVANTAGE: Push

 

Noteworthy shopping event

SHOPPING LOCAL: “Girlfriends Getaway”
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: “Smash and Grab Sundays”
ADVANTAGE: Shopping at Oakbrook Center

 

Something your kids will enjoy

SHOPPING LOCAL: Throwing pennies into the City Centre Plaza fountain
SHOPPING AT OAKBROOK CENTER: Watching your credit card get declined
ADVANTAGE: Shopping Local

There you have it!  Shopping Local edges Shopping at Oakbrook Center by a nose.  So skip the mall and shop in Elmhurst this weekend!

City Groundhog Day Celebration Marred by Rain, Hysteria

by Dave Noble, City News Editor 

ELMHURST – Steady rain and a near-stampede of frightened school children tainted the city’s first Groundhog Day celebration at Berens Park yesterday morning, causing Park District officials to scramble for an explanation as to why they dressed a 6’ 6” employee in a handmade costume described by one teacher as “a giant zombie rat”.

Screaming could be heard among Edison Elementary School first, second and third graders who – along with several adults in attendance – went running toward the parking lot after they and other spectators were introduced to “Elmhurst Ernie”, the official mascot for festivities co-organized by the Park District and the City of Elmhurst.

“His outfit was pretty scary,” said second grade teacher Mrs. Armstrong, describing a ‘Chewbacca-looking’ rodent with two giant teeth.   “He climbed out of a hole in the field and was gnawing toward all of us.  It will take hours of crisis counseling with the kids to erase this experience from their memories.”

Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley offered apologies and regret for not personally signing off on the costume, which was sewn together by Park District staff members.

“This isn’t the way we wanted our first crack at a Groundhog Day observance to go,” said Morley.   “But by all accounts, Ernie didn’t see his shadow.  So the good news is that spring is on the way.”

Remaining activities for the morning program were cancelled following the incident.

Local Mom Flustered by 224 Replies to Her ‘Best Pizza in Town’ eCommunity Question

by Dave Noble, eCommunity News
ELMHURST – After her poll question “Where’s the best pizza in town?” generated an astounding 224 total comments in just over an hour of being cross-posted in two local Facebook eGroups Sunday evening, frustrated Elmhurst resident Debbie Womack stunned family members by slamming her laptop to the floor, driving to 7-Eleven and purchasing three boxes of Hot Pockets for her family’s dinner.

“There was so much feedback on my post, I couldn’t decipher any more information,” said Womack by telephone Monday morning.  “I was getting irritated because at first, a lot of people in the group were saying that Mama Maria’s was the best.  Then, there were like seven comments in a row telling us to order from Roberto’s.  I started keeping tally marks next to all the names being mentioned and notating the more detailed testimonials.  When the number reached 14 or 15 different places, the pressure to find the best pizza in town became too unbearable.”

Husband Tom Womack stated that he wasn’t as confounded by all the responses from his wife’s posts in Elmhurst Area eParents and Elmhurst, IL Moms.

“We just moved to Elmhurst last month, so it was a great idea to reach out and get advice from people who live here,” said Tom.  “But the debate was over in my mind once someone suggested Pizza Palace.  You simply can’t go wrong with a name like that.”

Transcripts from the two Facebook threads reveal that each of the 35 restaurants serving pizza in Elmhurst were named at least twice.

6 Fun Things To Do in Elmhurst This Weekend

by Dave Noble, The Funion Weekender
ELMHURST – Don’t let the cold weather stop you from enjoying all that Elmhurst has to offer. Check out these six ideas for fun things to do around town this weekend.

Go Camping in the Elmhurst Quarry 

The Elmhurst-Chicago Stone Co. invites families for an overnight adventure in Elmhurst’s iconic reservoir. Brave the winter chill by descending 200 feet down the east lobe and setting up camp for an evening filled with stories, songs and rock-climbing lessons, followed by an 8 p.m. showing of “Big Hero 6” against the north wall.

  • Date/Time: Saturday from 5 p.m. through Sunday at 9 a.m.
  • Location: Elmhurst Quarry (east lobe)
  • Ages: Any (children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult)
  • Cost: $8 Resident, $12 Non-resident

 

Visit the “Game of Thrones” Winter Renaissance Fair at Wilder Parkimage

Wilder Park is transformed into a fairgrounds depicting famous settings from the hit HBO drama Game of Thrones. Meet all of your favorite characters and enjoy recreated scenes including every wedding from the show’s first five seasons. Family photos with White Walkers are $15 each.

  • Dates/Times: Friday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Location: Wilder Park
  • Ages: 11 and over
  • Cost: Free!

 

Train to be a “John” for Elmhurst Police Department sting operationsimage

Citizens looking to make a difference in their community are encouraged to register for this educational two-hour program that will teach you the skills needed to participate as a “John” in real Elmhurst Police Department prostitution stings.

  • Date/Time: Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Location: Elmhurst Police Department
  • Ages: Adults 21 and over
  • Cost: $25 registration fee

 

Crash a wedding reception at Wilder Mansionimage

Enjoy a night of free food and drinks along with a DJ and dancing during one of two wedding receptions scheduled this weekend at Elmhurst’s premiere event location.

  • Dates/Times: Friday from 7 p.m. to midnight (Rizzo/Vandercamp reception) and Saturday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Rotecki/O’Day reception)
  • Location: Wilder Mansion
  • Ages: 21 and over
  • Cost: Free!

 

See “The Rocks of Salt Creek” exhibit at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Artimage

Common types of stones and pebbles found in and around Salt Creek are on display in the form of mosaics and cameos depicting famous Elmhurst residents and events.

  • Dates/Times: Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Location: Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art
  • Ages: Open to all
  • Cost:$5 Adults, $4 Senior Citizens, $3 Children

 

Volunteer for Presidents Day decorating in City Centreimage

The City of Elmhurst and Elmhurst City Centre are looking for volunteers to decorate the downtown area in honor of Presidents Day next month. Ornamentation of the area includes erecting a 75-foot adaptation of the Washington Monument in the plaza, hanging American flag-themed windsocks from light poles, and creating clay busts of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for staking into planters around prominent downtown locations.

  • Date/Time: Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until approximately 6:00 p.m.
  • Location: Elmhurst City Centre (meet by the fountain)
  • Ages: Open to all
  • Cost: Free!

Park District Will Drop Shut-Off Valve Issue If City Purchases Hub Party Packages, Donates Parking Passes

imageby Dave Noble, City News Editor 
ELMHURST – Miffed by the city’s refusal to bear the expense for a $100,000 custom shut-off valve as part of a proposed stormwater detention system on York Commons, the Elmhurst Park District has now submitted a set of non-negotiable demands in lieu of the valve that must be agreed upon by the city before construction of a basin at the site begins.

According to Park Board member Maggie Rubio, new stipulations emailed to Elmhurst aldermen late Wednesday night require the city to purchase three “Batting Cage & Mini Golf” birthday party packages from the Hub at Berens Park, donate 25 parking permits for prizes in the yearly Easter Egg Hunt at Wilder Park, and pay for the design and construction of a 4,500 seat ice hockey arena around the Eldridge Park Lagoon.

“We still think the shut-off valve is necessary,” said Rubio, who refuses to believe contradictory findings from both city and Park District consultants, as well as MIT Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Moshe E. Ben-Akiva. “But it looks like the city isn’t going to budge. So we are moving forward with some other creative and spiteful ways to hurt the taxpayer.”

While the City Council has yet to officially comment on the Park District’s new terms, a source inside City Hall reported that at least two aldermen had already called “dibs” on the birthday party packages. Initial reactions to the other provisions are unknown.

New Flavored Gelatin Shop at Former Plass Appliance Building Could Make Elmhurst a ‘Dessert Destination’


by Dave Noble, Your Business is Our Business Beat Writer
ELMHURST – With teardown complete, and construction just underway, the developer for the space at the former Plass Appliance building has already leased the entire ground level of the future three-story building to a local entrepreneur who plans to open the city’s first flavored gelatin shop.

“This is exciting news,” said Visitors & Tourism Advisory Committee member Joan Zarumba. “We already have a ton of places around town to buy ice cream, frozen yogurt, candy and other dessert items. But there’s still a gap in the market for flavored gelatin. When it opens, I think we can start marketing Elmhurst as ‘Chicagoland’s Dessert Destination’.”

Despite the history of failed cake, candy, cookie and frozen dessert stores in Elmhurst, “The Jellow Fellow” owner Pete Kontos is confident that his business in the sprawling 8,000 square foot space will be around for decades to come. “Everyone loves gelatin. Children, teens, adults,” said Kontos, who plans to hire up to 30 full-time employees. “This is a can’t-miss concept.”

While still months away from opening, Kontos is already beginning to develop the menu. “We will have both lime and cherry,” boasted the Villa Park resident, who plans to come up with a few more flavors down the road. “Customers will be able to choose from a small cup, a large cup, or a kids cup. And for larger groups and catering, we’ll sell small, medium and large pans of gelatin.” Business hours will be from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. every day of the week. “I think a lot of Metra riders will stop in for some gelatin on their way to the train,” added Kontos.

The green and red flavored products will be made fresh daily in the store from a secret recipe developed by Kontos himself. No fruit or whipped toppings will be offered, as they “ruin the integrity of the gelatin.”

Tips for Success in Elmhurst eSales Groups

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by Dave Noble, Elmhurst Funion Weekender: Features, Profiles and Advice Columns for Elmhurst residents 

Making money off of old clothes, kids toys and household items on the Internet isn’t limited to nationally-recognized websites like eBay and Craigslist.  These days, thousands of people use Facebook groups created for selling and purchasing things from members of the same community.  Popular local groups include Elmhurst Area eParents, Elmhurst, IL Moms, and Elmhurst eDad Selling Stupid Stuff.

But what can you do to highlight your pieces and outshine the competition?  The Elmhurst Funion Weekender interviewed more than a dozen of our town’s bestselling and most-profitable eSellers to compile a list of tips and trade secrets that will help you unload your items faster and earn extra cash:

  • UTILIZE terms like “slight” and “minor” and phrases like “barely used” and “needs some TLC” to describe items with major damage.
  • ACCEPT private message offers from people willing to pay more than those who have commented “Interested” in your post.
  • CLAIM ignorance of group rules when bumping your post hourly or trying to sell something you found in your neighbor’s unlocked shed.
  • SHARE heartbreaking anecdotes about merchandise priced at $200 or above to represent sentimental value.
  • DISSUADE potential buyers from checking with their spouse before purchasing large pieces of furniture.
  • REMOVE pets, ashtrays and empty liquor bottles from the background when taking photos of things you are selling.
  • REFRAIN from reselling items for profit in the same group from which you purchased them.
  • OBTAIN the workplace address or church membership location of no-show buyers and arrive unannounced to finalize sales.

Source: Loophole in City Ban on Video Gambling Allows Elmhurst Trolley Service to Install Gaming Terminals for Passengers

by Dave Noble, City Editor

CITY HALL, ELMHURST – After city council members voted last November to uphold the local ban on video gambling, a Public Affairs & Safety Committee member claims to have found a loophole in the local ordinance that will allow gaming machines to be installed this summer aboard the town’s Explore Elmhurst Express trolley.

“(Aldermen) wouldn’t vote to allow gambling machines in bars and restaurants, but they can’t stop this idea,” stated the committee member, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It might not help the VFW or the Elmhurst bars that are struggling, but it’s hard to beat a 100% municipal share for the city.”

Paid for by Elmhurst’s Convention and Tourism Fund, all revenue from video gambling on the trolley would presumably go straight into city coffers. While the committee member admitted there were a few bugs to work out, issues like machine maintenance, change dispensers and additional entertainment on the trolley for children would all be addressed before the terminals are installed.

“We need something that appeals to kids,” continued the source, who expects many adults with children to spend hours at a time gambling while traveling around town. “Maybe we can put in one of those ‘claw’ games where kids try to win a stuffed animal. Or Skee-Ball.”

Explore Elmhurst Express runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from July through September, with pick-up and drop-off locations at the City Centre, museums campus, and business districts on Spring Road and at York & Vallette.

Proposed ‘Playground for the Elderly’ Draws Mixed Reactions from Citizens

by Dave Noble, “Your Neighbors and Your Neighborhoods” Beat Writer

ELMHURST – Complaints from residents who live near Salt Creek Park have caused the Elmhurst Park District to reconsider a key component of the city’s first “Playground for the Elderly”, scheduled to begin construction in May. Those who have expressed concern are focusing on the plan to build three adjacent shuffleboard courts next to the playground.

“Shuffleboard is the type of activity that brings around a lot of people who don’t even live in Elmhurst” said Paul Grossman, who owns a house two blocks away from Salt Creek Park. “And with this particular location right off of Route 83, I have no doubt in my mind that it’s going to attract a lot of Oak Brook seniors.”

Grossman and about a dozen other Elmhurst residents voiced their displeasure during a recent park district open house, where plans were formally unveiled. Structures and equipment for the playground are to include several walking ramps reaching up to 18” off the ground, eco-friendly warm water foot baths and nearly three dozen benches.

“I’m all for the playground itself,” continued Grossman, “because most of people who use it would be off to Rainbow Restaurant or at home having supper by 4:00 p.m. But these shuffleboard players might be out there until who-knows-when. 6:30? 6:45?”

Park district officials were surprised by the reactions.

“I don’t understand why people are so worried about a few shuffleboard courts” said Board of Park Commissioners president Neil Foley. “I thought maybe we would hear some backlash on the weekend Bingo tournaments idea we’ve been kicking around, or the 41 handicapped parking spots. But this is ridiculous.”.

The next scheduled open house is for 7:00 p.m. on February 3rd at the Wagner Community Center, where the board will listen to more feedback from residents, followed by a vote on whether to amend the plans.