Area had made progress filling vacant stores

By Michael S. Hoey

Correspondent

Brick Street Market, one of downtown Delavan’s premier businesses and a destination for visitors to the city, closed Dec. 31.

Owner Laura Jacobs-Welch could not be reached by press time for comment on the reasons for the closure or her future plans.

“She ran a lovely lunch-time café and sold a great deal of artisan cheese and unique wines,” building owner Debra Alder said. “She had many very loyal patrons and her special events were outstanding.”

Alder said the lease for the space Brick Street Market occupied was up at the end of December and the decision not to renew was mutual.

“Sadly, to create real value for her family and future, she (Jacobs-Welch) came to the realization that the restaurant needed longer hours and a more diverse menu,” Alder said. “Looking at what was best for her family, she made the decision that she did not want to expand to fit this need.”

Alder said she was disappointed to see Brick Street Market close.

“I loved Laura’s style, friendliness, quality of food and service and dedication to Delavan,” Alder said, though she added that she understood her decision to close.

The closure of Brick Street Market comes after Market Street Sandwiches also went out of business.

Alderman Ryan Schroeder, chairman of the Delavan Downtown Project Management Team, said the downtown area had 14 to 17 open storefronts when his committee was formed a few years ago. Recently, he said, that number had fallen to about three or four.

“We have made considerable advancements in the right direction,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder said he was disappointed to see Brick Street Market close, especially since he and his wife frequented it often.

“It is a big loss for the downtown,” Schroeder said. “The redevelopment of that building spurred the redevelopment of others nearby.”

Schroeder said that while keeping downtowns going these days is difficult, he said keeping Delavan’s downtown vibrant is important because of the history involved.

City Administrator Denise Pieroni agreed that the city has made a lot of progress in filling downtown storefronts in recent years.

“There were a significant number of vacancies in 2011,” she said.

Pieroni said the city is concerned that trend might be reversing.

“The downtown is important to the community, and we want to see it thrive and prosper,” she said.                         “I think we have work to do,” Alder said about the new vacancies downtown. “But I think the potential is unlimited.”

Alder said the downtown has a great downtown strategic plan that just needs a renewed focus.

“We will never be Lake Geneva, but that’s OK,” she said.

“We have a lake that is small enough you could teach your kids to row a boat or take them ice fishing in the winter, we have bike paths for all levels of cyclists, we have a fabulous history that takes us from temperance to circuses, and we have thriving businesses,” Alder said.

Alder said plenty of work has yet to be done, but the downtown business owners have made a good start.

Brick Street Market had occupied the three storefronts Alder owns from 110 to 118 Walworth Ave. for 18 months after spending several years in the space now occupied by Rose Buds Floral Shop. Jacobs-Welch made the move after Alder and her husband Jeff Scherer completely renovated the space.

Alder said she purchased the former Van Velzer building in November 2014 after receiving an inheritance from her mother that covered part of the cost. She said the 101-year-old building was in foreclosure. It had three retail spaces and eight apartments that had been vacant for years. Alder said the apartments were in the worst state of disrepair she had ever seen and had to be gutted down to the studs.

“We believe in Delavan,” Alder said about her choice to rehabilitate the building. She said her mother loved Delavan and saw a great deal of potential to be tapped in what she knew as a diverse, historic, beautiful, strong community.

“We wanted to invest her gift in something that honored that spirit,” Alder said.

Alder said the “lost and forsaken” building she purchased fit the bill. It had great “bones” structurally and a full basement that doesn’t leak, it fronts a brick street and is located across from a park and in a historic district.

Alder said Brick Street Market was in her plans from the beginning. The only question was how much of the space Jacobs-Welch would decide to lease. She ended up taking all three of the retail spaces.

Alder said the building turned out to be more special than she ever imagined as Cream City brick was discovered in interior walls that had been covered by layers of plaster and drywall. Eight layers of flooring were removed, all three retail spaces were connected and the apartments were completely renovated.

Alder said she is marketing the 3,500-square-foot space and is confident a new business will occupy the space within a few months. She said she has four very interesting possibilities for the space and she has a vested interest in maintaining the beauty and atmosphere of the building.

As for what the city is doing to keep businesses downtown and attract new ones, Schroeder said his committee has done a lot to identify and market vacant buildings with the help of the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association. The committee also does much to promote downtown events like the train show and events that are not located downtown but have downtown elements like the Sky Circus at Lake Lawn Resort.

The Delavan Downtown Project Management Team meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Saturday of the month most often at the Main Street Bed and Breakfast, and the meetings are open to the public. Schroeder said this month’s meeting will be Jan. 31.

Schroeder said the city has also included the downtown in its strategic plan, had created Tax Incremental District No. 5 for the downtown, recently readjusted the base value of that TID, and created two historic districts that property owners could benefit from in the form of tax credits toward renovations.

Pieroni also pointed to the creation of TID No. 5 and its recent revaluation as things the city has done to aid the downtown.

“The downtown creates the feel of community,” Pieroni said. “There are some wonderful businesses that serve the local residents and visitors to the city.”

Pieroni said the downtown can provide unique experiences that bring people back to Delavan and the city needs to increase the traffic flow in that area.

Pieroni said resetting the base value for TID No. 5 could help the downtown because the sooner the district starts producing increment, the sooner money will become available to make low-interest loans to downtown businesses that can lead to more building rehabilitations.

“Deb did that, and it is a Class A space,” Pieroni said. “We would like to help other owners follow suit.”

 
 

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