While there is evidence of fewer startups right now, some local entrepreneurs are rolling the proverbial dice.
Katie Cory is opening up a new store in Hubbard Woods, and Winnetka native Janice Mabie MacVicar hopes to draw in consumers in Glencoe as they pursue dreams of operating a successful small business on their home turf. In addition, Robert Levine and Bryan Boomershine just opened up Robert Bryan Homes in Hubbard Woods to appeal to the same customer base.
The common thread among all three stores? There is enough strength in the recovering – yet still delicate – economy that people will be willing to spend discretionary dollars.
Skandal: The Time Is Right
Cory, a Wilmette resident for 12 years, hopes to open up Skandal, a 2,000 square-foot store on Green Bay Road in Hubbard Woods this July. Cory says the Scandinavian boutique will focus of women’s apparel and gifts.
“Scandinavian style fits all taste,” Cory added. “Scandinavians take centuries of practical use and application, and they use the finest materials. They do something in their simplest forms, and it becomes a thing of beauty. Women always want to look stylish and by investing in classic styles that last longer, Scandinavian style is perfect.”
She believes the time is right for a store of this type to succeed.
“Based on all the economic indicators, it looks like we have bounced off the bottom. Foreclosures on homes have slowed and banks have started to loosen credit. The stock market is steadily moving upward,” Cory said. “I think Americans and Europeans are a little impatient for the job market and economic growth to recover much more quickly than it should. A slower economic growth at this point will create more stability in the long run.”
Eclectic Gorgeous Goods: Expanding Spaces
Another person taking a chance is Winnetka native Janice Mabie MacVicar, who believes her EGG or Eclectic Gorgeous Goods, will be a success as her first business. She got the idea three years ago for a business where she puts the finishing touches on her home.
“People kept coming into my house and asking where I got certain things or how I put it together, and one day I wondered if I could make this a business,” MacVicar recalled.
MacVicar, who attended Northwestern University's Kellogg Business School, had been a homemaker with three boys in the house. So after years of starting to decorate individual homes from inside her own home, she opened her own business in April on Glencoe’s Park Avenue and reports that things are going well in the store’s infant days.
The store is open every other week as MacVicar takes the off week to individually decorate homes. Like Cory, she is confident that the time is right for her shop and actually looks at the economic conditions another way for her store to succeed.
“I think the economy is picking up, and I also think if a person wants to change a house, it is very expensive to buy new drapes or furniture, but just adding a few pieces of art or vintage pieces — that adds a lot of character and doesn’t cost a lot of money,” she said.
Robert Bryan Homes: Good of a Time as Any
In addition, Levine and Booomershine have opened their own Hubbard Woods shop recently, Robert Bryan Homes.
“It’s part furniture store, part home accessories, part interior design,” Levine said. “We have a different aesthetic than other stores in that we have a more eclectic urban feel. Even the store itself we have painted concrete stores. We do not have that traditional look.”
At one point the two had a store on the north side of the city, but it was small and they opted to individually decorate homes, which also gave Boomershine time to paint.
“We obviously feel our aesthetic for the furnishings we carry are perfect for the customer moving up from a city home to a suburban home. They may want furnishings that are transitional in feel and that is what we have,” Levine said.
As for his thoughts on opening up now, Levine went this way. “There is no right time and there is always the right time,” he said. “This is as good of a time as any in my opinion.”
Chamber of Commerce's Bigger Picture
Terry Dason, director of the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce, related that while businesses are feeling more confident, there remains caution. “The story that the merchants share is that consumers are purchasing smaller ticket items. They are not seeing the bottom line increase."
Dason is hopeful that the these new ventures will draw customers and noted that they will have to adapt to the times.
"The Chamber believes that any business that opens, which provides goods and services that the consumer wants, will succeed,” she said. “Many of the businesses in Winnetka have had to re-invent themselves. The ones that did business as usual since the turn in the economy are close to shutting their doors or have closed already.”