Collaborative Effort Focuses on Bringing People to Downtown Lake Forest

City hopes more events will mean more customers for Market Square merchants.


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 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 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 .

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 , 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 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 .

“The city has been instrumental to streamline efforts to work efficiently to get things done and focus on things that work,” said Garrison.

Back from last year are the Thursday night free and Saturday morning’s .

A complete schedule of activity dates and times is listed on the , 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.”

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Mrs. H July 13, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Forest Bootery is one of my favorite stores !
Me July 13, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Broadacre poisoned downtown when they converted all of the 2nd floor residential space into office. The way to attract people downtown it to have people downtown. Lake Forest needs a sidewalk cafe culture. Instead, Broadacre has raised rent prices to the point where we have another outdoor shopping mall populated with national chain stores. This City missed the boat when they failed to improve Western properly. Instead of making Western more pedestrian friendly, they made it more car friendly. That isnt going to bring people running.
Really? July 13, 2012 at 12:37 PM
@Me: I disagree with your comment about the City. They indeed created a textbook pedestrian friendly downtown environment. Yes, Broadacre is to blame for the high rents that place another burden on our local stores during these times. Let us try to SHOP LOCAL!! Forest Bootery has been with us to serve our families so let us keep them here by shopping there; the Lake Forest Book Store has some of the most knowledgeable staff around!! I've visited a couple of the new stores, and will be back when I need to purchase. An outdoor cafe would certainly add to a walk & shop culture. Hopefully Broadacre will understand this and try to look for such a tenant.
Maggie Logan July 13, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I agree with Me re Broadacre's ruining of the residential component in the downtown area. People = needs = stores = profits. Shopping local is great is there is merchandise to shop for. To be fair: Market Square has improved over the past 6 months, with new merchants. However, the area notably lacks a toy store (kids), luggage (everyone) and other stores. The merchants in place currently are great, but we need more. Pasquesi's addition to Mkt Sq is local, colorful, and great. But we do need more. An outdoor cafe would be nice. .... And how about a 'real' old fashioned bakery with breads and cookies....... Just a thought.
Richard Hertz July 13, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I used to live in LF from 1970-1975 and just moved back (LB 6 years ago) and remember what the old Market Square looked like. Helanders, Forest Bootery, Kiddles, Marshall Fields, Toys store and a lot of small clothing stores. LF Food and Wine shop on western had the deli section in the middle of the store and the wine was on the north wall, west wall was where you sat and ate & the soth wall had the grab and go food. Once Fields closed & Macy's opened everything closed down, stores moved or closed up for good. I wonder why LF is losing money, is it because the owners of the buildings are greedy? When will the LF realize that they should have put Costco or any other income raising store in their town? If a marketing research company did a study I bet they would see a lot of LF city stickers in their parking lots. As I was always told this favorite statement: Live and Learn
Eileen July 13, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Remember, if you want a downtown you must support the downtown. Market Square is just one small section of retail businesses. Don't forget those north and south of the square on Western Ave and those in West Lake Forest. But again, it is those family owned stores that really need the local support, not the chains.
yvonne craig July 13, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I have come to downtown LF on more than one occaison for a special event only to turned away by the stores - "we close at 5:30" - many missed sales between 5:30 and 8::00! El Mirage is the rudest!
debi kiddle July 13, 2012 at 02:52 PM
As a long time LF'er, it makes me very sad to see that retailers have an impossible task of making the numbers work after paying outlandish rents. My grandfather and uncle founded Kiddle's in the mid 1920's, not 44 years ago, like the article says. They made a very nice living enjoying rents that were in line with sales revenue. As a kid, we always shopped in town for everyday items and the businesses did well. Then came the 80's and everything changed. Much more development but much less support of the downtown. I am pleased to see new biz in town - I can only hope they survive. If only we had the likes of Garnett's and Woolworth's again!
Jim Powers July 13, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Thanks, Debi, on the correction to the longevity of the family business. I appreciate it and the change has been made to the article.
forest bootery July 13, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Let's all remember that Broadacre is a business too... That being said, Market Square rents have always been higher because they are prime real estate. That's why Broadacre spent the big bucks to own it and that's why retailers spend the extra money to be on the Square. What has changed is the amount of volume that the stores see. If a retail store dosen't sell enough volume then they cannot pay the rent (period) If a store cannot pay the rent they go out of business or have to move to a rent they can be profitable at. The nation is in a state of "retail-crisis." The Forest Bootery isn't just in competition with Kiddles, or the mall but also the internet. If you go to the post office and see a Zappos box that was revenue that the Forest Bootery could have used towards the high rent, it was sales tax that would have stayed in Lake Forest and it secured a job selling shoes for your teenager when they turn 16. As Paul Garrison has always said to me: "If every Lake Forester shopped with you, you would never need more customers."


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