History in the (RE)Making 5

Main Street Center Renews Focus on Historic Downtown

The Throwaway Age is over. While some might see a 1940s structure from a bygone era as just another old building, an energetic Wauconda couple sees it as the cornerstone of an ever-more lively downtown.

A two-level, 8000-square-foot building in its 70th year at the heart of Main Street’s historic downtown is being transformed. Located at 118 Main this former Wauconda National Bank property (still sporting its signature walk-in vault) is celebrating its first phase of interior updates.

Upgrades to the exterior, outside façade and parking lot are underway. A new design by Pathmann Architecture will prominently feature new “Main Street Center” branding flanked by awnings, panels and decorative lighting to enhance its profile while integrating into the charm of the downtown area.

When briefed about Main Street Center, Russ Klettke, a noted Chicago-based writer on sustainability, construction and architecture, says that there’s greater value to a community when a building owner seeks to renewing an existing space instead of tearing it down and building anew: “[It’s] about the ‘embodied energy’ of buildings — all the fuel used to mine, haul and manufacture building components (concrete, steel, wood and glass). By and large, if an existing building can be saved and repurposed, it is likely a net gain for the environment.”

Purchased in 2018 by G&L Investment Group, the building contains 18 retail/office suites, on-site parking, and a large common area for special events such as the recent 5th Anniversary celebration of Threads Boutique, a popular women’s and men’s clothing and accessories store owned and operated by Linda Starkey, the “L” of G&L Investments.  

Since moving to Wauconda in 2005 and later purchasing and renovating a home on Bangs Lake just a brisk 5-minute walk from Main Street Center, Linda and husband Glenn (the “G” of G&L) have been an energizing and transformative force in the community. As well as launching Threads Boutique, Linda is completing her second elected term as Wauconda Village Trustee. Glenn (with brother Don) owns Progressive Components, a business founded by their father and located in Wauconda since 1990. A global supplier to the tooling and molding industry, Progressive is known not only as an award-winning “Best Place To Work” in its industry but as a business whose non-profit arm, STAR Charities, volunteers thousands of hours, generating more than $75,000 in monetary donations and in-kind gifts annually for local causes in need of support.

Coincidentally, the first tenant of the 118 Main building, opened in 1948, was also a clothing store occupying the same space as Threads. “Wauconda Clothiers was the building’s very first tenant (besides the bank, of course),” said Neville Carr, local historian and photo archivist. “Owner Laddie (Ladislav) Bezdek was a tailor who made men’s suits and furnishings by hand. He was in business there until the mid-1950s, when my father established James F. Carr Real Estate and Insurance in that space, until Wauconda Bank moved to Liberty Street in 1976.” The current Main Street Center tenants include Threads, Fusion Church, Country Financial, DLH Enterprises, Hope Counseling, Aspire Counseling, Amerex Group, and National Produce, among others.

Local officials commented positively on Main Street Center. “It’s always exciting when a business renovates and renews, but it’s even better when that building is home to many small businesses on a busy street,” said Maria Weisbruch, Executive Director of the Wauconda Area Chamber of Commerce. “The improvements that G&L Investments are making to Main Street Center will not only be improvements for their current tenants but provide a terrific attraction for new business. Having seen their thoughtful renovation plans and the progress already made, I have no doubt the building will make a remarkable contribution to the street scene on Main.”

 “It is great seeing this building revived, with new owners investing not only in our community, but on our Main Street,” shared Mayor Lincoln Knight. “We have such a vibrant and active downtown area. The energy from the businesses located inside Main Street Center will help bring people into town to enjoy what Wauconda has to offer. People are already talking about this project, and we’re excited to see the final product. Thanks to G&L for investing in Wauconda.”

Wauconda’s vibrant downtown is noted for effective business collaboration. Local volunteers raise funds to keep Main Street adorned in seasonally appropriate décor, including live flowers street side from spring through fall. Talented musicians perform at multiple local venues regularly, with frequent invitational jam sessions forging new creative collaborations. Warm-weather highlights include monthly Cruise Nights, weekly Farmers Markets, a Street Dance, summer triathlons, and a full range of Park District and Library sponsored events. And notably, its recent sale by the Reilly family to the Park District is enabling the renovation and reopening of iconic Phil’s Beach (featured prominently in the Blues Brothers movie) to the public this summer.

Main Street Center currently has a retail space available on the main floor, an office open on the lower level, and a conference room (12-40 people) and meeting room (6-8 people) available for daily rental. For more information, contact G&L Investments at lindakaystarkey@gmail.com.

“[It’s] about the ‘embodied energy’ of buildings — all the fuel used to mine, haul and manufacture building components (concrete, steel, wood and glass). By and large, if an existing building can be saved and repurposed, it is likely a net gain for the environment.”