CRYSTAL LAKE – Anyone who wants to relocate their retail store downtown will have to wait, as there are zero retail vacancies in downtown Crystal Lake right now.
Fabric, Fiber and Finds filled downtown Crystal Lake’s last vacant spot when it relocated to 37 N. Williams St. on July 7.
“Crystal Lake is attracting a lot of businesses and people want to be located in the downtown area,” said Heather Maieritsch, the economic development manager for the city of Crystal Lake.
“The city has worked really hard in trying to fill [vacancies] and create a lively downtown. We invested in the downtown area,” Maieritsch added.
Louise Steinbach, owner of Fabric, Fiber and Finds, said her arts and craft business has been doing great since the move.
“The new location has been incredible,” Steinbach said. “The foot traffic alone is worth the move.”
Steinbach credited Downtown Crystal Lake/Main Street, a not-for-profit organization founded by local community volunteers, for the area’s success.
“The downtown association does a lot to really support the stores down here,” she said. “So it’s almost like you’re not independent, you know, there’s an organization behind you that does so many cool events during the year.”
The organization runs downtown events such as the Johnny Appleseed Festival and helps new businesses get settled. Diana Kenney, Downtown Crystal Lake/Main Street executive director, said she believes teamwork is what makes the downtown area so successful and attractive to new businesses.
“This is a huge accomplishment, especially for a historic downtown like this,” Kenney said. “And I really think it has a lot to do with the teamwork and cooperation that downtown Crystal Lake, the city of Crystal Lake and the merchants have in making this a great community.”
Another business that has been doing well since it opened downtown June 15 is family restaurant Retro Bistro. Chris Barth, who co-owns the eatery with his wife, Lorraine, said when he discovered the downtown area less than two years ago, he knew it would be a great spot for business.
“I had no idea there was this vibrant, exciting, action-packed Downtown Crystal Lake had until I saw it,” Barth said.
While Fabric, Fiber and Finds and Retro Bistro are some of the most recent businesses to be located downtown, the oldest running business to remain in downtown Crystal Lake is Heisler’s Bootery, which has been around since the early 1900s.
Heisler’s Bootery owner Jim Heisler said his grandfather, John Heisler Sr., started the boot-selling business in 1908.
“I would say the majority of downtown business folks are like a big family,” Jim Heisler said.
Heisler said he believes that what makes downtown Crystal Lake so special is that the area is all small businesses with local owners. Whether it’s a bar, restaurant, specialty store or antiques shop, it’s likely run by someone local.
“Most of the time it’s either the owner working at the business or a family member,” Heisler said. “Like for my store, it’s very rare you won’t find a Heisler on board when you stop by.”