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Crystal Lake officials award economic grant to bird-oriented store

Flying Friends specializes in bringing wild birds to back yards

Flying Friends Owner Erich Stefan speaks Tuesday to Crystal Lake City Council about his business, a specialty bird store, which was awarded a $10,000 job creation and investment grant by city officials.
Flying Friends Owner Erich Stefan speaks Tuesday to Crystal Lake City Council about his business, a specialty bird store, which was awarded a $10,000 job creation and investment grant by city officials.

CRYSTAL LAKE – The city is hoping bird lovers flock to a new bird-oriented store off Randall Road.

The Crystal Lake City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to award the city’s third grant of the year from its job creation and investment program to Flying Friends, a bird specialty store coming to a plaza at 435 Angela Lane.

The store will sell a variety of wild bird-related products designed to bring “flying friends” to your property.

“We specialize in bringing birds into people’s backyards, so we will be selling things like bird seed, bird feeders, birdbaths, birdhouses and probably some plants that attract birds,” Flying Friends owner Erich Stefan said.

The city’s retailer and manufacturer job creation and investment program began in 2011 and is used to help attract new businesses to the city.

The program provides matching grant funding to new and existing retailers and manufacturers who occupy vacant space, rehabilitate store facades and install eligible furniture, fixtures and equipment.

Stefan requested $10,000 to help offset the cost of shelving, display cases, lighting, computer equipment and other miscellaneous furniture and equipment, according to city documents.

Several things are required of the business owner in order to get the money, including expected sales of more than $150,000 annually for the city to tax. Stefan is projecting more than $230,000 in sales the first year.

The contract also includes provisions that help the city recoup the grant money if the business closes within four years.

In October, the city awarded grants to a knife store and a floral shop. The latter offer, of $5,000, was rescinded because the applicant started store improvements before submitting the grant application, according to city documents.

There is $80,000 budgeted by the city for the program this fiscal year, leaving 75 percent of the fund left – assuming Flying Friends follows through on the agreement.

Stefan said the shop also will aim to spread awareness about the nature available right outside one’s door, and “get people to appreciate it more.”

In other business, City Council approved a few purchases to get ready for winter weather.

The city is buying an organic liquid salt additive for its snow and ice control operations at a cost of 88 cents a gallon. The city’s public works department estimates it will use up to 30,000 gallons of it this winter.

The city also approved a purchase of road salt at $46.69 a ton, more than $10 cheaper than last year’s price per ton. The city has a good supply of salt left from last year’s mild winter, but officials were pleased with the price drop.

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