When her father, Paul Garrison, founded the Historic Market Square Merchants Association in the mid-1980s, there was no Internet, few big box stores and just a few shopping malls.
Now his daughter Cara, who took over Forest Bootery in Lake Forest for her father and now sits as president of the same merchant association, confronts a much different business climate.
But with some help.
The City of Lake Forest’s Economic Development Office is working with the Merchants Association, the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce, various local nonprofit cultural organizations and Broadacre Management group, the realty company for Market Square, to make a concerted effort this summer to drive customer traffic into downtown Lake Forest.
The summer calendar is stocked with events that either actively involve businesses or make them the recipient of a customer base potetnially coming into their store because of the event.
"Our little association of 20 members on the square has wanted to have events that make the downtown seem like a friendly hometown," said Garrison. “Also, events drive extra people into town and this helps us compete with online retailers.”
Jay Shlifka, owner of the Kiddles Sports, a family business dating back to the 1920s in Lake Forest, remarked, “There is a certain price to pay to remain on Market Square. You can’t open the door in the morning, wait and cross your fingers. You have to be proactive.”
In June, a “Fore Dads” activity was held for Father’s Day and a free day long Make Music festival featuring some local vocal ensembles, rock bands, dueling pianos and a musical petting zoo was held in Market Square.
This month, the Lake Forest Book Store is sponsoring a “Where’s Waldo” contest that involves 20 downtown businesses sandwiched around the annual Sidewalk Sale, July 19-21.
At the end of the month, Illinois’ first all-women’s road bike ride, Venus de Miles, will take place in Lake Forest. The race will offer two courses, 30 and 60 miles, starting from Lake Forest College.
“The city has been instrumental to streamline efforts to work efficiently to get things done and focus on things that work,” said Garrison.
A complete schedule of activity dates and times is listed on the Live, Work & Play app, a free download launched this spring that offers discounts to Market Square merchants for the mobile phone shopper.
“Shop owners in retail businesses often work 14 hours per day doing everything they can to work the business,” said Susan Kelsey, economic development coordinator for Lake Forest. “We help them grow their business by planning events.”