By now it should be obvious to you; I do not live here and play here because I so deeply love downtown Lake Geneva. In fact, I have taken to avoiding downtown in the summer months, at nearly all costs. I’ll come into town for breakfast and feel fine about it. I can get in and get out before the clogging of a summer afternoon commences. I don’t mind downtown in winter, though winter weekends are similar to summer weekends if we’re counting cars and swerving to narrowly miss jaywalking tourists. Indeed, I am not a downtown person be that downtown Chicago or downtown Lake Geneva. The lake and the country suit me better than the shops and walks of a city, no matter the size.
But this is me, and I am not you. I like things the way I like them, and you like these things the way you like them. While I would rather be floating on a boat in the middle of the triangle that adjoins Conference, Cedar, and Black Points, I understand that many would rather have a shopping bag in one hand and a coffee cup in another, walking from store to store, taking in the sights and sounds and sales. This thriving downtown of Lake Geneva is what separates us even further from our competition, though competition is a word too friendly, in the same sense that Baylor was Wisconsin’s competition last night. If you were to walk the town near that vacation home you own in North Somewhere, Wisconsin, you’d find little to do, unless you love buying cherried this and cherried that.
Similarly, if you were to walk a town in East Nowhere, Michigan, you’d find little to do, or buy, unless you’ve fallen victim to age old advertising that touts someplace as having the world’s best burger, or another place that has the world’s best ice cream. Like anyone can even know that. These two sample towns, and the shopping that they may or may not offer, generally close in the months that are not summer, which, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is the vast, overwhelming majority of our calendar year. This is why downtown Lake Geneva matters, not because of all the variety that it offers, but mostly because that variety is not found in other resort towns, not in this Midwest, anyway.
I drove through town this morning, aware that you were likely not doing the same, and so there’s an update for you today on the continual changes that occur without pause here. There has been much consolidation over recent years, as the successful business owners slowly push out the unsuccessful ones. This is survival of the fittest, and this is why people open failed restaurants and then get pushed from town in order to allow the successful to take their place. Clearwater Salon has been an institution in Williams Bay for many years. It has been a shining spot in an otherwise dismal Williams Bay commercial scene. Clearwater is now working to open a Lake Geneva store, in a space that will now have had three tenants in as many years. Clearwater is successful, in demand, and thriving. Their Lake Geneva location will continue that tradition.
Some years ago, EStreet Denim, of Highland Park and Winnetka fame, opened a clothing store here on our Main Street. The store is nice, and good people help cool people buy expensive jeans. It’s a good store, and I challenge you to walk downtown Lake Geneva on any weekend of the year and not spot someone walking about with an Estreet shopping bag. It cannot be done. The folks at Estreet opened a furniture/decor store on the West side of downtown a few years back, and their Brick and Mortar Home has obviously been a success. They opened another store on Main Street last year, some store with a Bird name, and while I haven’t been there, it looks nice from the outside and any strong ownership is ownership that provides stability for downtown, and stability breeds success.
Geneva Interiors was a long-lived furniture store downtown, in a large space opposite Starbucks. It went out of business several years ago, and something called I Love Funky’s took its place. I never went inside that store, mostly because they painted the exterior black and purple, which is not to be confused with sky black and blue. I’m not a huge fan of purple buildings, and so you can imagine my delight when this store went out of business recently. There’s a new store coming to that giant building, and the exterior renovation has already begun. It’s going to be very pretty on the outside, and I’m betting it’ll be the same on the inside. It’s a furniture store, and it’s owned by the folks that operate Brick and Mortar Home, which are the same people that operate Estreet, which, in turn, are the same people that operate the store with the Bird name that I cannot recall.
The Board Shop is in the old McCullough’s building on the corner of Broad and SomeOtherStreet, just north of Main. It’s a cool store, and instead of visiting Boulder, you could just stop in to see the gnarly stuff at this epic shop. It’s boards of all sorts, skis and snowboards in the winter, and all sorts of skis and boards for water use in the summer. It’s a neat store, but until now the exterior has been painfully ugly. There appears to be an exterior renovation underway, which is fantastic. Add the supreme stylings of Haberdapper in the same neighborhood, and you have the makings of a very pronounced shopping scene that has always struggled to spread North of Main.
We’re all here, or thinking of coming here (do it) because of this deep, clean water, and the spectacular things that we can do on and in it. However, without this vibrant downtown, many would not find this area quite so captivating. Even if I don’t need the shops, I know the market does. We should be excited for a new season of new shops, and thankfully, the new shops appear to be owned by the strong and purposed sort of business owners that we already know and love. Also, East Nowhere, Michigan is still closed until further notice.