Downers Grove May 2022

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CELEBRATING FOUR YEARS OF PUBLISHING $5 US VOLUME 4 ISSUE 2 MAY 2022

DESIGNING DREAMS Skyline Furniture: An American Success Story WHAT IS DECONSTRUCTION?

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CHICAGO

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ADDISON

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H I G H L A N D PA R K

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HINSDALE




LETTER from THE ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER

SPRING HAS SPRUNG I am not sure about you, but I am ready for the summer. Spring is always a tough time in our household. A new sports season, a heavy load of schoolwork, variety show performances, fun runs, Reading Games, Open House... the list goes on and on. You get the gist. But one thing I appreciate about spring is that our community comes to life. Literally and figuratively. Coming out of this pandemic, I feel a renewed spirit that we can get back to things we love about our town this summer, like car shows, festivals, concerts, and more. Check out our list of To-Dos for some ideas.

many hearts. Paula Thomas, the Downers Grove Public Library librarian for many years until her retirement in 2012, reflects on her time in the community. The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the Olympics of language, and English words are notorious for being difficult to spell. Silent letters. Double letters. It is too embarrassing to mention how many times I spell liaison wrong. Thank goodness for spell check. One local teen who is not challenged with his spelling is featured within our pages but he eagerly faces the challenge of advancing on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in June. Read on for his journey.

CELEBRATING FOUR YEARS OF PUBLISHING

$5 US VOLUME 4 ISSUE 2 MAY 2022

In this issue, we focus on design. As our editorial teams sat down to discuss various homes, we landed on three styles to feature in this issue, with more to come. From the famous “Zook” homes in the area to mid-century modern and Cape Cod, it is your crash course in architecture for beginners like me.

DESIGNING DREAMS Skyline Furniture:

Finally, big things are happening at Hinsdale Magazine Group. Beyond publishing Downers Grove Magazine now bi-monthly, we launched Oak Brook Magazine in April. Dick Portillo graced the cover, and we are honored to include his story in our edition as well. After all, Portillo’s is a local family favorite in our household, and I am sure many others make the trip up to Butterfield to visit as well.

An American Success Story What is deconstruction? This is a term that I had not heard of before related to home construction. In essence, it is “debuilding” a house piece by piece to in order to save and reuse materials. Maureen Callahan Enjoy your spring! We look forward to bringing you more caught up with new homeowners doing just this, wherein stories in July. the arduous work is outweighed by the benefits to our environment and beyond. WHAT IS DECONSTRUCTION?

HOME STYLES

THEN & NOW: PAULA MOORE

DOWNERSGROVEMAG.COM DOWNERSGROVEMAG.COM

As for our cover featuring Skyline Furniture, one of our readers recommended this story over a year ago. Valerie Hardy and I were so happy to work with the Wecker family finally on this piece. You may not even know it, but you could have a piece of their fashion-forward furniture in your home. Available at Target and Wayfair, to name a few, this family-owned company is undoubtedly one to celebrate. We continue to refine the magazine with new columns and features. In this issue, we launch our “Then & Now” content area, where we focus on a unique personality that may have moved on from Downers Grove but remains in

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Sincerely,

Anne Healy Associate Publisher anne@hinsdalemag.com

To guarantee delivery of each issue of Downers Grove Magazine to your home, please subscribe to the print edition by visiting www.downersgrovemag.com.

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


Live Life Artfully Live it here drurydesigns.com

C L I E N T F O C U S E D D E S I G N ™ S I N C E 1 9 8 7. G L E N E L LY N , I L L I N O I S 6 3 0 . 4 6 9 . 4 9 8 0


CONTENTS | 16 TO DO LIST

Calendar of 2022 Summer Events

18 #WeAreDG Hot Spell

22 THEN & NOW Librarian Paula Moore

27 PUBLISHERS PROFILE

May 2022

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Village of Westmont

31 SPOTLIGHT

STANDING WITH UKRAINE

State’s Attorney Bob Berlin

42 SPECIAL FEATURE 36 COVER STORY

What is Deconstruction?

Family-owned and Operated Skyline Furniture

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48 GIVING BACK The Post HS Nonprofit Project

52 IN THE NEWS Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club

55 FOOD & DRINK 10 Restaurants Opened Since 2020

60 LANDSCAPING TRENDS

DOWNERS GROVE JUNIOR WOMENS CLUB Photo courtesy of Greg Kozlick of 726 Visuals

Backyard Makeovers

64 ARCHITECTURE Downers Grove Housing Styles

70 NEIGHBOR NEWS Dick Portillo

75 COMMUNITY SCENE 76 SPECIAL REPORT Standing with Ukraine

SKYLINE FURNITURE MFG. Photo Courtesy of Rifle Paper Co.

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80 FOOD & DRINK Hail to the Chef

ON THE COVER: Trent Steed, Meganne Wecker, and Ted Wecker, the family behind Skyline Furniture Mfg. Photo Courtesy of Skyline Furniture MFG

FOR THE LATEST NEWS, HAPPENINGS AND PHOTOS, VISIT @DOWNERSGROVEMAGAZINE 10

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


Mom, It’s Your Time MEENA BALAKRISHNAN DMD, MS 1330 OGDEN AVENUE DOWNERS GROVE, IL 60515

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THANK YOU FOR THE SUPPORT AND TRUST, AS WE CONTINUE TO GROW AND SERVE DOWNERS GROVE!

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Maureen Callahan Valerie Hardy Julie Jonlich

CREATIVE DEPARTMENT Julia Sinogeikina Dennis Stromberg

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No person, organization or publication can copy or re-produce the content in this magazine or any part of this publication without a written consent from the publisher. The publisher, authors, contributors and designers reserve their rights with regards to copyright of their work. Downers Grove Magazine assumes no liability or responsibility for any inaccurate, delayed or incomplete information. The information contained about each individual, event or organization has been provided by such individual, event organizers or organization. The opinion expressed in each article is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Downers Grove Magazine. Comments are welcome, but they should be on-topic and well-expressed. Copyright ©2022 Hinsdale Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved.

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


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Downers Grove Magazine | To • Dos

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Summer To-Dos

he countdown to summer is officially on and that means there is tons to do! Soaking up the sun, lazy summer days with friends and family, vacations or staycations-there is something for everyone to do during the hot months ahead!

Downers Grove Rotary GroveFest

The local summer favorite is back! The annual Rotary GroveFest in downtown Downers Grove is a local summertime tradition enjoyed by many families each year. Featuring rides for young and old, games, live music, great food, and a Beer Garden, this is an event the whole family will love! The fest takes place June 23rd- June 26th all throughout the downtown Downers Grove area with wristbands and tickets available for purchase online and at the door.

BY EMMA WOLF

Downers Grove Park District Summer Concert Series

Kick back and relax while enjoying FREE live music at the Veterans Memorial Pavilion at Fishel Park in Downers Grove! This local tradition takes place at 7pm on Tuesdays May 24th- August 16th, featuring rock, country, blues, and oldies from local bands. Food and beverage are always available for purchase. Don’t forget to bring your own lawn chairs and/or blankets!

Downtown Downers Grove Farmer’s Market

On Saturdays from 7am-12:30pm, the annual Indian Boundary YMCA’s downtown Downers Grove Market will be taking place at the Burlington Ave. train station parking lot from May 7thOctober 15th. Come and purchase handpicked fruits and vegetables grown at local farms, as well fresh baked goods, locally sourced honey, various canned and jarred

DOWNERS GROVE ROTARY GROVEFEST

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DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

goods, freshly squeezed lemonade, and gorgeous flower bouquets. This summertime favorite is sure to make the whole family smile!

Garden Club of DG Plant Sale

Do you have a green thumb? Do you adore plants? Come visit the Garden Club of Downers Grove as they host their 2nd annual plant sale! Taking place on May 21st from 9am-2pm at American Legion Post 80, this sale truly will be “plants galore”! Choose from various varieties of hostas, perennials, indoor plants, and garden and nature crafts.

Downers Grove Public Library Summer Reading Program

Time to get your summer reading on! Whether you prefer books, eBooks, graphic novels, or audio books, there are options for everyone! The annual Summer Reading Program is taking place at the Downers Grove Public


Morton Arboretum Human+Nature Sculpture Exhibit

Adding to the already stunning (and very popular!) exhibit, three new sculptures will be joining the Human+Nature exhibition in June (no official release date yet). Internationally-renowned artist, Daniel Popper, created handmade wooden sculptures exclusively for the Arboretum, ranging from 15-26 ft tall. Come explore the 1,700 acres of the beautiful Morton Arboretum while marveling over the intricate sculptures this summer!

MORTON ARBORETUM HUMAN+NATURE SCULPTURE EXHIBIT

Library on May 27th-August 7th. This year’s theme is Off the Beaten Path. This program includes reading for adults, teens, and children and rewards readers with prizes! Track your reading online using the ReadSquared app or on paper! Print out forms from the website or pick up forms at the library starting May 22nd. Forms and information about online tracking can be found at dglibrary.org/src.

Naperville Ribfest

AAUW-DG Branch Used Book Sale

The AAUW-DG branch is having their 62nd annual used book sale at O’Neill Middle School. This includes over 30,000 used books of different genres, including fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, and various CDs and DVDs. Most books are priced at only $2! This event takes place on June 16th from 9am-7pm and on June 17th from 9am-2pm. More information can be found by visiting downersgrove-il.aauw.net.

DOWNERS GROVE PARK DISTRICT SUMMER CONCERT SERIES

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Grab a handful of napkins when hauling the family to the 33rd annual Naperville Ribfest! Hosted by the Exchange Club of Naperville, this event helps fight child abuse and domestic violence. Held at the DuPage Event Center and Fairgrounds in Wheaton on June 17th- June 20th, the popular summer outing includes award-winning ribs, a carnival sponsored by Fantasy Amusements Co., and Wintrust Community Bank’s family fun area and exhibits. Additional event details, sponsorship, and volunteer opportunities can be found at www.ribfest.net.


Downers Grove Magazine | #WeAreDG

Hot Spell

ADVAITH AND HIS FAMILY CELEBRATE AFTER THE DUPAGE COUNTY REGIONAL SPELLING BEE.

A local family will be making a beeline to Washington, D.C., for the Scripps National Spelling Bee…again.

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BY VALERIE HARDY I PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE BALAKRISHNAN-NATARAJAN FAMILY

n 1925, nine newspapers joined forces to host the first National Spelling Bee in the United States. Fast forward nearly a century, and the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee program is still going strong, with approximately 11 million students (who must not have yet graduated from eighth grade or turned 16) participating each year. Of these, over 200 regional spelling bee

champions will meet in the Washington, D.C., area at the end of the month to compete. Among these will be 13-yearold Advaith Balakrishnan of Hinsdale. Advaith – whose first foray into spelling bees was in 2018 when he was a third grader at The Lane School – won the DuPage County Regional Spelling Bee on Feb. 23, earning himself a coveted seat at the National Spelling Bee. 18

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

Advaith and his family are no strangers to spelling bees and victory. His mother, Dr. Meenakshi Balakrishnan (Downers Grove Orthodontics) explained that his father, Dr. Balu Natarajan (AccentCare Hospice and Chicago Primary Care Sports Medicine), competed in his initial spelling bee as a fifth grader at Woodridge School back in 1982, the first year Scripps offered local


spelling bees. A Downers Grove North alumnus, Dr. Natarajan qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee three years running (1983-1985), placing first in 1985. Like father, like sons, both Advaith and his older brother, Atman Balakrishnan, found early spelling success. Atman, 16, qualified for Scripps from 2018 to 2020 and was a finalist in 2019. He missed his last chance to see if he could follow in his father’s footsteps and become the national champion though, because the pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 competition. Atman began high school that fall, thus becoming ineligible to participate in subsequent Scripps National Spelling Bees. However, before Atman aged out, the Balakrishnan brothers shared a special spelling bee moment: Advaith came in second place at the 2019 DuPage County Regional Spelling Bee, second to none other than Atman. One might expect rivalry between the brothers or other spelling bee competitors, but Dr. Balakrishnan said it is often the opposite: “A lot of spellers are really helpful to one another. Even though they have to

compete ‘against’ one another, they consider the competition ‘against the dictionary.’” To go head to head with the dictionary is no small feat. “The kids who win Scripps these days know nearly one hundred thousand words in order to claim victory,” Dr. Balakrishnan said. They prepare throughout the year, getting up hours before school starts some days to ensure time to practice spelling. They study printed vocabulary lists, quiz themselves using spellingspecific software, and read books to learn important words and rules regarding various languages of origin. When it comes to spelling bees, there is no room for error. It’s a single elimination sport; one incorrect or missing letter means the speller is out and does not advance to subsequent rounds. With words like vitascope, psykter, cognoscenti, Schwarzbrot, and Portlaoighise (all words encountered by the Balakrishnan/Natarajan family and spelled correctly), the family’s spelling bee achievements are all the more impressive. Though both the preparation and competition are intense, Advaith and his family

THE BALAKRISHNAN-NATARAJAN FAMILY ENJOYS SPENDING TIME TOGETHER. DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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wouldn’t have it any other way. They enjoy learning, whether the lessons are about words’ roots or how stay motivated on difficult days, especially together as a family. The family does more than just practice spelling, however. They enjoy the math and science disciplines as well, are avid skiers, play sports, root for the Cubs, and place great value on community and service. In fact, Dr. Natarajan is CEO of the NorthSouth Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves students in the United States and India, including by holding spelling bees from which the entry fees support scholarships and educational resources for students whose educational needs would otherwise not be met due to financial or other barriers. Advaith and Atman also volunteer through the NorthSouth Foundation. Tune in to the live broadcast on ION of this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals and finals on June 1 and 2 respectively to see top spellers compete to earn cash prizes of up to more than $50,000. ■


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Downers Grove Magazine | Then & Now

What Ever Happened To… Paula Moore, Children’s Librarian at Downers Grove Public Library BY MAUREEN CALLAHAN 22

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


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ost everyone has someone- a teacher, a coach, or a neighbor, that made a significant mark on their childhood. As we grow up and move on, life gets busy. Often, we lose track of people we would love to revisit and thank for their contribution to our lives. One such figure undoubtedly etched into the memories of those who grew up here in the eighties, is librarian Paula Moore. From the mid-seventies to the early nineties, Ms. Moore oversaw the Junior Room (now the Kids Room), of the Downers Grove Public Library, (DGPL). A good librarian finds age-appropriate ways to engage young readers. For the duration of Moore’s career at DGPL, she was the voice and personality of Miss Mouse, a little mouse puppet created by longtime staff member, Betty Johnson. Moore and Miss Mouse became synonymous with story hour for the littles. Miss Mouse became iconic in the library and accompanied Moore everywhere she went, including her local cable access show, Storytime with Miss Mouse. Miss Mouse is still a prominent figure in the Kids Room today, her portrait hanging in the Mouse Café playhouse. “I wanted to be a professional librarian since I was my class librarian in sixth grade,” Moore stated, smiling via Skype from her New England home. “I knew this would be my path in life.” And for a generation of Downers Grove children, her dedication to a path well-chosen and truly followed, mattered. From performing puppet shows to captivate young readers, to dressing up in costumes of book characters, to helping locate reference books for school projects, Ms. Moore was always there. With the uncanny knack to gauge a child’s curiosity, she almost magically guided books of interest into their hands. Moore deserves credit for a generation of lifelong readers she undoubtedly helped to create, thanks to her imaginative ideas. For example, the summer reading program, introduced in the eighties. Each year in May, Moore and her staff visited DG schools to promote the library’s summer reading program. One year saw her explaining “I Scream for Books,” to a classroom of second graders, dressed as Pistachio, the ice-cream cone. Children

MOORE AND MISS MOUSE

were given the opportunity to earn free ice-cream from a local shop for meeting summer reading goals. “I saw a lot of changes from the time I arrived at the library, in 1975,” Moore stated. The first version of the building she worked in was an antiquated Carnegie wrap-around from the 1950s. The building was torn down three years after she arrived, presenting staff with the enormous challenge of moving into temporary quarters while the entire library was rebuilt. Several renovations ensued over her sixteen-year term. When bringing a computer to the Junior Room in 1977 was suggested to her, “I thought, ‘what would I even use it for?’,” Moore laughed. “By the time I was leaving DGPL, the Junior Room had several computers,” she stated. Moore went on to work in Kid’s World, (the children’s room), at Arlington Heights Public Library, eventually serving the last five years as Library Director, before her retirement in 2012. Moore grew up in unincorporated West Chicago. She graduated from DePauw University before earning her Master of Library Science degree from The University of Illinois. Library jobs were competitive when she graduated in the mid-seventies, “so I was thrilled to get the DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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job in the Junior Room!” she said. After serving a year as Assistant Children’s Librarian, Moore was promoted to Head Children’s Librarian. During that year, she moved to DG. “I loved that I lived in the community in which I was working. That was very important to me,” Moore relayed. She and husband Howard Hall, a former DG firefighter, lived almost four decades in an historic Queen Anne home in the Randall Park neighborhood. These days, home is in the woods in Vermont. Moore and Hall wasted no time pursuing their new adventure, fully embracing life in the country. Moore became a certified Master Gardener and assists with gardens in the area. Old habits die hard, as she also served a stint as the community’s Library Board President. A variety of freelance volunteer projects fill her days. “I am currently working on becoming an activist for Lake Champlain and water quality,” she stated. When asked to recount her favorite memories of DGPL, Moore responded, “it was just a fabulous job. We had an amazing staff that really respected children. I loved the relationships that I built with the kids.” It’s mutual. ■


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Downers Grove Magazine | Publisher’s Profile

THE VILLAGE OF WESTMONT CITY HALL IS LOCATED ON QUINCY AVENUE.

Westmont Our Friendly Neighbor to the East

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BY ANNE HEALY PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF THE VILLAGE OF WESTMONT

his past month, Anne Healy took time to research the Village of Westmont and learn more about the community’s history, special events, and their recent 100th Anniversary Celebration.

How did the community celebrate its Century Birthday? The Village of Westmont celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2021. The year-long celebration leading up to the date of incorporation on November 10th included numerous community events and contests, including a community history trivia contest and DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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scavenger hunt, the best pet contest, the publishing of a new Westmont history book, commemorative license plates, historical ceramic plates, public facility open houses, and an official 100th Anniversary Celebration. We presented our Westmont Legacy Awards to honor Westmont families and businesses that Continued on next page


Downers Grove Magazine | Publisher’s Profile

WESTMONT HAS RECENTLY BECOME THE HOME TO THE FMC NATATORIUM AT TY WARNER PARK, A 71,000 SQUARE FOOT AQUATIC FACILITY.

Continued from the previous page made a historic contribution to the community at this event.

Downers Grove has a rich history, as does Westmont. Can you shed some light on how the Village of Westmont came to be? The Potawatomi inhabited the area known as Westmont before the year 1833. The U.S. Government made several unsuccessful attempts to persuade the Potawatomi to move from this area. Under coercion in 1833, they vacated their land for a nominal payment. The Potawatomi had established an elaborate system of trails, which later became the settler’s first highways, including The Buffalo Trail and the Ottawa and LaSalle Trail. The Buffalo Trail, today named Naperville Road, was later used as a stage line between Chicago and Naperville. Today, the Ottawa and LaSalle Trail is designated as Ogden Avenue or Route 34. One of the motivating forces behind the development of Westmont was the Illinois-Michigan Canal. Although the State of Illinois authorized the building

of the canal in the 1820s, construction did not begin until the 1830s. The Panic of 1837, a financial crisis that touched off a significant depression, brought the canal construction to a standstill. In turn, many of the workers took up farming in the area around Westmont. The settlers cleared the land, and agriculture became the primary occupation. Because of their proximity to Chicago, the farmers had a ready market for their agricultural products. Hard work and excellent soil were attractive to New Englanders who settled here, and the area around Westmont was one of the most prosperous sections of the state. A nine-mile swamp between this area and Chicago resulted in the construction of a plank road. The road originated in Chicago in 1840, passed through Westmont, and was completed in Naperville in the year 1851. The road, which permitted travel in all seasons, proved to be an economical means of sending farm produce to Chicago markets. The plank road soon became inadequate for this growing area. In 1858, local incorporated towns and villages petitioned the Chicago, 28

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Burlington, and Quincy Railroad to build a branch line from Chicago to Aurora, passing through their towns. The railroad line was approved, and in 1864, the first train passed through the area. Gregg’s Station, the original name for the Westmont area, began as a stop to load agricultural and dairy products on the train. It gradually transitioned from a farming community to a commuter community. Fields and dairy herds gave way to developments, and formal platting of land began.

What notable people or businesses have a tie to Westmont? Westmont has been home to several famous citizens and businesses over the years. At the top of the list is Blues Hall of Fame Legend and the Godfather of the Blues, Muddy Waters. Waters lived in Westmont from 1973 until he passed in 1983. During this time, he received his greatest critical and commercial acclaim. The Westmont Special Events organization office also houses a Muddy Waters Museum that is open to the public. The museum has donated items from Muddy’s family, including rare photos and a Grammy he won from the


recording of The London Muddy Waters Sessions album. Westmont is also home to Ty, Inc., the business behind BEANIE BABIES. Its international headquarters is located in Westmont near Ty Warner Park, named after the company’s owner.

As we hopefully near the end of the pandemic, how did Westmont successfully navigate these waters? Of course, it was difficult for everyone with all of the uncertainty and concern of health threats. Regarding community events and trying to be creative with new approaches to recreation, Westmont Special Events Corp. (WSEC) developed several unique individual and family-friendly activities for residents to participate while still having the feel of being part of the community. WSEC held several holiday-themed scavenger hunts and trivia contests. For Halloween, judges went to the homes of the costume contest participants to take pictures and hand out goodie bags. While still in lockdown, the Village created an innovative Social Distance Celebrations program in which residents could sign up and let us know when they were having a birthday, graduation, or anniversary. Our Fire and Police Departments would schedule a time to drive by and have a quick parade in front of their homes - it was a big hit and very popular. The program ended after

the Governor’s Orders began to allow more outdoor activities. Westmont restaurants also adapted by creating special carry-out menus, curbside pickup, outdoor dining, take and bake options, etc. The outdoor dining was so successful that many restaurants have opted to have it every summer.

Tell me more about the Westmont Special Events group and its mission. Westmont Special Events is a volunteerbased, not-for-profit organization with a passion for hosting events for the entire community. The volunteers of Westmont Special Events work side-by-side with all village entities to provide safe, wellrun events. Over the last several years, Westmont Cruisin’ Nights has become one of the most popular car shows in the area and was called the “Best Weekly Summer Car Show” in the Chicagoland area by WGN Radio.

July Celebration, Wicked West Fest, Holly Days, and more. Information on all community events can be found on westmontevents.com.

Any hidden gems in Westmont? Westmont has recently become the home to the FMC Natatorium at Ty Warner Park, a 71,000 square foot aquatic facility. The Olympic-size pool is open to residents and swim teams and hosts competitions with 1,200 spectators. The FMC Natatorium is the only one of its kind in the Chicagoland area. The facility recently hosted the TYR USA Swim Event, in which the country’s best swimmers competed as they prepared for national, international, and Olympic competitions. The new facility will bring thousands of visitors to Westmont and DuPage County every year. ■

Westmont Restaurant Week took place in February. What are other upcoming events on the docket? Westmont has incredible familyfocused events throughout the year including the Backyard BBQ & Spring Fling, Race to the Flag 5K, Cruisin’ Nights, Taste of Westmont, 4th of

WESTMONT CRUISIN’ NIGHTS HAS BECOME ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR CAR SHOWS IN THE AREA

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Downers Grove Magazine | Spotlight

Making Our County Safer

Downers Grove’s Bob Berlin, DuPage County State’s Attorney. BY SCOTT JONLICH & LARRY ATSEFF I PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARCELLO RODARTE DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Downers Grove Magazine | Spotlight

B

ob Berlin, DuPage County State’s Attorney, has lived in the county for 21 years and has made Downers Grove his home for the last 3 years. He and his wife Carolyn have two daughters, Courtney and Amanda, and a family dog, Bubba. His career as a prosecutor began by serving in various State’s Attorney positions in Cook County for 13 years and then becoming Deputy Chief of Appeals. He later joined Kane County to become the First Assistant State’s Attorney for the county. In 2004, he was asked by then DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett to come to DuPage County and serve as Deputy Chief of the Juvenile Division. In 2010, Berlin was appointed DuPage County State’s Attorney and has been elected to the position in 2012, 2016, and again in 2010. In a wide-ranging interview, we came to appreciate not only his office but all the moving parts that go into maintaining law and order in DuPage, especially in these times.

As his title indicates, he is charged with representing and protecting all the residents of DuPage County in courts of law. In his position, he has a great vantage point to see how law enforcement and the judiciary works in the county. He gets to interact with other State’s Attorneys and federal law officers; he gets to work with all the police and Sheriff departments in the county, and he gets to see how cases are handled in the county court system. He sees how public defenders perform. He also gets to see, and in some cases; he also gets to foster, measures being taken to prevent crime. Here are key questions and his answers, abbreviated and edited for clarity and length. To begin with, we asked him, “Why is violent crime spilling over into DuPage County like we have not seen before?” Berlin replied, “Obviously, we all watch the news, we read the newspapers, we see what’s happening in Chicago, which has had an impact on crime here. I will say that about fifty percent of our felonies now are committed by people that don’t live in this county. Offenders are coming from other counties, many coming from Cook County into DuPage.” “Violent crimes have a huge impact on the entire community. It’s not just the victims themselves who are victimized; the whole community is victimized when something like the mall shooting happened in December. The message is that we don’t tolerate it in this county, and there will be a prosecution to the fullest extent of the law, with an appropriate punishment that sends the message that we don’t tolerate violent crime and that anyone who commits a crime like that in our county 32

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is going to pay a severe price.” “Look, I live in the county and raised my family here. People have to feel safe. You cannot go to bed at night afraid. If people are afraid, it’s a horrible existence and, we need to do everything we can to make sure that people have that sense of safety.” “You know, years ago, when we lived in Clarendon Hills, and a little girl was murdered. My daughter was a classmate of hers.” “The following year, at the parent/ teacher conferences, we were told that not only did my daughter’s test scores go down, but the whole grade, their test scores went down. So that is the type of impact that you see from a violent crime. You can’t put a dollar value on what a crime like that does to an entire community and that’s why I remind our prosecutors all the time, it’s the people of the state of Illinois versus the defendant. We represent the people of the state of Illinois, not just the victim in the case. The whole community is victimized, and the community has a stake in the outcome of these cases.” In listening to Mr. Berlin, we observed that it takes a lot of communication and a lot of leadership. “I speak to the State’s Attorneys and their staffs all the time. Jim Glasgow, the Will County State’s Attorney, and I probably talk every day about different issues. Jamie Mosser, now out in Kane County, and Kim Foxx’s staff in Cook County. State’s Attorneys meet twice a year at a conference. When it comes to what we do, there’s no politics involved. We’re all on the same side here.” “We didn’t contact Foxx on the Oakbrook Center situation; however, there was communication with the Chicago Police Department, as well as the Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. Some of his officers were at Oak Brook, and one of them found one of the offender’s vehicles parked in the parking lot.” He said “The system didn’t just happen by itself. It’s not a coincidence that it’s this way; it’s from years and years of people before me. Joe Birkett and Jim Ryan were my state’s attorney-predecessors.


They had the same philosophy, and it’s from a lot of the judges who are former prosecutors or former public defenders. We have an experienced judiciary. Yes, it comes from leadership. It comes from people who truly care about public safety. I can tell you, I meet with my police chiefs all the time and we discuss issues. We’re all on the same page and it’s not just a job for all of us; it isn’t. We take it personally and we care.”

society, a community that people want to live in and feel safe in.” “Unfortunately, it has taken an increase in crime to see more people paying attention to what we’re doing. I believe public safety has become one of the number one issues, and people are paying attention, which I think is good.” We were impressed with how quickly and how many police responded to the situation in December. “How did that happen?”

were there, it’s a testament, to our law enforcement in this county, that they got that many people out safely. MERIT was the result of Sheriff Mendrick, who was a big proponent of that, as was I. We got all of our police chiefs on board and they have been called out over 500 times since the formation in the summer of 2019.” “The command structure to MERIT depends on what type of incident. If it’s major traffic or major crime, different commanding officers who are in charge set up a command post, a staging area, so when the call goes out officers will know, here’s where we’re meeting, here’s the staging area, before the orders are given as to who’s going to do what. It is, I have to say, a model, for other counties to follow, and it has worked extremely well. We’ve had enormous success.”

“When all of those stakeholders are doing their jobs, the system works extremely well, and that’s the way it’s Berlin said, “In 2019 we formed supposed to work. We know, when we what’s called MERIT, which stands for charge a case, when we go to trial, we want Metropolitan Emergency Response the best defense attorneys to be defending Investigative Team. We used to have a the defendants. We’re confident in our major crimes task force, and then we evidence, we’re confident in our ability, but, when we have the best defense attorneys and when Violent crimes have a huge impact on the entire we have qualified judges who community. It’s not just the victims themselves who are oversee these cases, we’re victimized; the whole community is victimized when pretty confident if there’s a something like this happened in December. The message conviction, that it’s not going to come back for a retrial, is that we don’t tolerate it in this county, and there will that errors are not going to be be a prosecution to the fullest extent of the law, with an made.”

We were also impressed with how quickly charges were brought. “How did that happen?”

Berlin replied, “When charging felonies, we need to appropriate punishment that sends the message that we have sufficient evidence to “It’s not just the judges, don’t tolerate violent crime and that anyone who commits a prove the case in court. When the police make an arrest, it’s the police officers, it’s our crime like that in our county is going to pay a severe price. we usually make a charging public defender’s office. We’ve decision within 48 hours. -ROBERT B. BERLIN got great public defenders DuPage County State's Attorney Oftentimes, we need the who hold us to our burden crime lab to analyze evidence of proof. By doing that, we had a separate task force. We combined quickly. To that end, years ago, I and know what the bar is, what amount of all those into one entity, and we truly others insisted that DuPage County evidence we need to charge a case.” have the best of the best that respond keep its own crime lab. (The crime “What I can tell you is this: we have a to major incidents. We have all police lab was in existence before I became track record, and we have a reputation departments working together under a State’s Attorney, but there was talk of of being tough but fair on crime. That single command staff. Anytime there’s disbanding the lab due to budgetary hasn’t changed. I believe that it has a call out, we are going to get dozens of issues.) As a result of having a crime lab improved over the past few years. I firmly the best police officers to respond. In here in DuPage County, and not having believe that with violent criminals, you a case like what happened at the mall, to send evidence to outside labs, we can send them away, and you do two things: the response was countywide, from collect and process evidence and bring one: you incapacitate them so they can’t our sheriff’s office, from all the various appropriate charges without delay. In commit other crimes, and secondly, it is a police departments, who came out, to this particular case, crime lab technicians deterrent to other people not to commit assist and help, and they have, one of worked over the Christmas holiday so those crimes in the county. It is effective the advantages of having a task force like charges could be brought as quickly as and there’s research to back that up. That that is they train together and so they are possible. That enabled us to get a bond has always been my approach, and I’ve prepared for such an incident.” set for the two suspects at $1 million been doing this for thirty-four years. I’ve each.” “In less than seven hours going storebeen a prosecutor my entire professional to-store with SWAT teams is remarkable, “You will be interested to know career, and it works.” and no one got injured in the course that further steps have been taken “Violence has to be prosecuted, and of the evacuation. There were injuries by the Village of Oak Brook and the people who commit these crimes have when the shooting happened and there management of Oakbrook Center to be punished. That’s the only way, in were injuries when people were running to improve safety and security. They my opinion, that we maintain an orderly from the scene, but once the police Continued on next page

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Downers Grove Magazine | Spotlight Continued from the previous page have implemented a system called LPR, License Plate Recognition, which seamlessly performs a query on license plates. It uses a database “hot list” for those license plates that have been entered as stolen, suspicious, wanted, etc. When a vehicle on the “hot list” passes an LPR location, officers on patrol are notified to be looking for that vehicle.” “What efforts are in place that should give residents further confidence in how law and order works in DuPage County?” ‘Second Chance Probation’, where judges and prosecutors (You need the approval of both to get into the program) consider that the person charged just used bad judgment, made a mistake, and deserves a second chance. Another effort is our Public Integrity Unit where we investigate and prosecute police who break the law. People appreciate the fairness of such programs.” Speaking of residents, we asked what role can they play? “For the police to be effective, they need the support of the community. People have to believe in and trust their police. Otherwise, the police can’t solve the crime. We need witnesses to come forward, we need cooperation, people to offer up their Ring doorbell camera videos, things like that. That takes a lot of work and a lot of effort. Obviously, the county has changed as has our society. The demographics have changed, and chiefs of police have a diversity outreach committee, of which I am a part. And we make it a point to go to different parts of the communities and meet with different groups to assure them that we’re here to protect them, that we follow the law, and we want their cooperation and we want them to know that they’re going to be treated the same as anybody else and that is an ongoing effort, I think we have made tremendous strides, and we still have a lot more work to do with that, but, by doing that, that’s why I believe we have such a great track record. When a crime, like a case in Oak Brook, happens, we have people who are calling the police, people who are emailing the police, people who, if they have stuff on videos, share those with the police. Of course, we also encourage residents to

be vigilant about their surroundings and people around them; and to keep their vehicles and homes securely locked.” “Here’s another message. The community needs to pay attention when they go to vote, who they’re voting for. Take the time to research who the candidates are so that you’re voting for the best person. I think that by and large, the DuPage County people do that, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so fortunate to have a great team in place.” We asked “What other areas of concern are there for law and order in DuPage County? Mr. Berlin responded, “Drug and opioid addiction. Drugs and opioids are a serious problem in DuPage County, just like they are, around the country. Drugs are not only a serious health problem, but they invariably lead to more crime as people, young and old, use illegal means to get money to satisfy their drug habits. One ‘front end-preventive’ program we have is called F.O.C.U.S., which stands for First Offender Call Unified for Success, for first-time drug offenders. This has been a nationally recognized program that provides non-violent first offenders the necessary treatment, counseling, education, and support to help them on their road to recovery. Since it started in 2019, the F.O.C.U.S. courtroom now has more than 1,100 individuals getting treatment for addiction to opioids and other illegal drugs. “Another area of concern is dealing with young people who may be going down wrong paths as they are growing up. We have two other ‘front-endpreventive’ programs. One is called the ‘School Safety Task Force’, where police and school authorities work to identify young people who may be at risk, so they can be helped. I am also on the executive board of the organization ‘Fight Crime Invest in Kids’. I support this because they advocate for funding for afterschool programs and high-quality preschools. There is plenty of evidence that after-school hours are a prime time for juvenile crime, and quality afterschool programs have been proven to reduce juvenile crime. I work with village governments and police departments around the county to help implement 34

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‘Fight Crime Invest in Kids’”. We asked about the morale and performance of the men and women in law enforcement in DuPage County these days. Mr. Berlin’s comment: “We have outstanding people in our police departments; some of the best in the state. They are well trained. Most of them are well equipped with body cameras which protect the person being investigated and the police, as well, because there is a record of the interaction between police and suspects. Police see how my office and judges enforce the law. They have the trust of the community. As a result, overall, their morale is great. (Some police departments are actually having a hard time recruiting new officers. A number of departments, however, have hired officers who have decided to leave the Chicago Police Department.) For all those reasons, I believe we have the ‘best of the best’”. Mr. Berlin summed everything we talked about this way. “As was said at the outset, there are a lot of moving parts that go into maintaining law and order in DuPage County. It is a constant effort of communication and cooperation, following the law, putting criminals on notice that crime, especially violent crime, will not be tolerated, assuring that our police, prosecution, and judiciary are all doing their jobs. It also takes residents who are alert and aware and willing to help. We want strong cases that lead to fair convictions, and no cases coming back on appeal. Above all, we want our residents to feel safe and be safe. The addition of the LPR system in Oak Brook will further enhance safety and security in DuPage.”

CONCLUSION:

We in DuPage County are fortunate to have a powerful system to fight crime, especially violent crime. Wellestablished, strong law enforcement, a judicial system that enforces the law, a crime lab exclusively for DuPage County, programs that help first offenders, all now enhanced with new, state-of-the-art security technology, all contribute to law and order, and more respect for the law. ■


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Downers Grove Magazine | Cover Story

Interwoven into the Fabric of their Lives

MEGANNE WECKER IS DRAWN TO THE CREATIVE ASPECTS OF HER WORK.

Family-owned and operated, Skyline Furniture offers custom products that are fashion-forward, affordable, and can be ordered from the comfort of your couch.

W

BY VALERIE HARDY PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF SKYLINE FURNITURE MFG.

hen Meganne Wecker and her husband Trent Steed moved to Downers Grove in 2013, their relocation from the city was just one of many changes happening in their lives. The couple’s second daughter had just been born, and Steed left his job in business operations for another company to join Meganne at her family business: Skyline Furniture Mfg.

Meganne’s family’s history in the furniture industry is over a century deep. Her great-grandfather’s upholstery factory in Chicago closed during the Great Depression, but when her grandfather – Norman Wecker – returned from World War II, he was ready to start the next iteration of the family business. After consulting with his father-in-law (the former upholstery business owner), Norman opened his own furniture factory. Located in the south suburbs of Chicago, 36

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the factory has been producing and selling wholesale furniture since its inception in 1946. Though the name changed a couple times since its founding, the brand’s commitment to stylish, high quality furniture manufactured in the United States and sold through retailers across the country remains. Despite Skyline Furniture’s significant growth over the years (the company had 60 employees when Meganne came aboard two


THE SKYLINE FURNITURE MFG. FACTORY HAS BEEN LOCATED IN THE SAME SOUTH SUBURBAN BUILDING SINCE IT WAS FOUNDED IN THE MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY.

decades ago and now has hundreds of employees and has hired over 200 individuals in the last 8 months alone), they also “still are a family business and sort of operate like a small business – everybody does a bit of everything,” Meganne said. For Meganne, the business is synonymous with family, both her own and the employees who have come to feel like family. Meganne and her brother grew up at the factory: “We’d play in the foam…

and spent summers working here,” she said.

attributed to all of our families, not just mine.”

Skyline employees range in age from roughly 22 to 75, and some who worked at the factory when Meganne was a child are still there. If they have since retired, they very well may have a relative who is a current Skyline employee. “A lot of generational families work in the business, and their families have grown with ours,” Meganne said. “[The business’s] success is

The Wecker family certainly invested substantial time and energy in building the business, however. Her grandfather was still coming to work two days per week until he passed away at the age of 95.

MARIA FRAYLE, UPHOLSTERER AT SKYLINE FURNITURE, WORKS HARD TO FINISH A PIECE. DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Her father, Ted Wecker, had been at the helm for a while by that Continued on next page


Downers Grove Magazine | Cover Story

BEDROOM DESIGN COURTESY OF SKYLINE FURNITURE MFG. AND RIFLE PAPER CO. COLLABORATION.

Continued from the previous page point, and back when Meganne graduated from college, he was doing business in Mexico among other international locations. Meganne had studied international business and Spanish, so it was natural for her to become the third generation of Weckers at Skyline Furniture. Her graduation also coincided with the advent of

ecommerce, and she was integral in developing Skyline’s presence in the ecommerce marketplace. Despite her business background though, Meganne was most drawn to the creative aspects of Skyline’s work. Her initial designs were inspired by what she wanted for her “own Chicago apartment as a 22-year-old kid,” and now Meganne is not only the President 38

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and Chief Creative Officer of Skyline Furniture, she also founded a second company – Cloth & Company – six years ago. Cloth & Company thrives on technology, with 3D printing allowing the brand to design and print its own textiles right in the factory to then pair with their furniture products. Meganne said that the ability to print fabric in house has been


a “game changer” which allowed her recent collaboration with Rifle Paper Co. to “use their prints paired with our silhouettes” to create and launch a new furniture collection.

still involved and Trent focused on operations. As for the next generation – Meganne and Trent’s daughters Meredith (12) and Ella (8)?

Deeply entrenched in the sales and design sides of the businesses, Meganne is grateful to have her dad

Meganne said they are growing up “with an appreciation of what [our work entails] like I did…and

will have the same opportunity I had” to choose whether to pursue a career within or outside of the family business. Visit skylinefurnituremfg.com and clothandcompany.com for more information or to purchase the companies’ designs. ■

Currently Trending Meganne Wecker of Skyline Furniture Mfg. and Cloth & Company shares some of the latest and upcoming trends in home décor. • The neutral palettes aligned with the farmhouse look that has been popular for the past few years are still popular. • The current gray, white, and blue color palette will likely start to warm up. Grays will shift into more beige hues (“greiges”), and more chocolate colors will also be infused into home designs. • Colorful prints are usually popular after times of recession and depression in the country. In addition to neutrality, print and pattern will probably do well coming out of the past couples years. • People want to feel more relaxed in their homes, so rather than incorporating more precious and intricate designs, expect simpler, less fussy designs. For example, dining chairs with slip covers that can be removed and washed.

SKYLINE FURNITURE MFG. CHAIR UPHOLSTERED IN A RIFLE PAPER CO. DESIGN. DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Downers Grove Magazine | Special Feature

DECONSTRUCTING Passively rebuilding the future of housing BY MAUREEN CALLAHAN PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF ELAINE PAGELS, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY CHICAGO

RESIDENTIAL DECONSTRUCTION IS ALSO KNOWN AS SUSTAINABLE OR GREEN DEMOLITION. A RENDERING OF THE NEW HOME IN THE CONCEPT PHASE.

A

s Tom and Judy Casten take on the project of building their retirement home, they keep John Kennedy’s paraphrasesuccess has many fathers, failures, and orphans- in mind. Building a new, energy efficient home in a floodplain is a tall task. But they’re up to it! The split-level house standing on the lot when purchased required demolition. But the idea of having a backhoe haul debris into a dumpster and driven to a landfill didn’t appeal to them. They decided to pursue deconstruction- the process of carefully dismantling a structure to salvage building materials and components. In

the case of this project, the entire home was deconstructed. “Anything as long as a wall stud got cleaned up and recycled,” said Tom. Deconstruction is the environmentally friendly alternatively to demolition. As much as 85-90% of building materials can be saved from going to a landfill. The process is not as involved as it might first seem to a homeowner remodeling a kitchen, or the buyer of a home to be razed. It is also important to note that deconstruction is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It is possible to deconstruct just a part of a building, or select rooms of a house.

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First the owner and deconstruction consultants meet to determine if they will sell the materials on a demolition sale. If the owner decides to donate the items instead, an appraiser is hired to evaluate the potential value of the entire lot of objects. A tax deduction is estimated. Assuming the project moves forward, all appliances, windows, doors and other finishing materials are removed, followed by the structural components, working from the roof down to the foundation. Almost everything can either be recycled or repurposed. In the beginning, it’s a giant pile of lumber, drywall, etc., with screws and nails stuck in it. Then begins the arduous sorting process, followed by


the cleaning of the stripped materials. For example, lumber. Nails are removed with an air gun to avoid possible damage to wooden boards. Stubborn pieces of a nail or other material that refuses to come out are ground into the wood and smoothed out again. The result is a load of clean, refurbished lumber in different sizes. In this case, the Castens were able to salvage much of the oak flooring of the original house- a huge cost savings, versus buying new lumber. In the interest of going green, the house will not only use repurposed materials, but will also be net-zero. This means that all energy required to run it will be harvested with solar collectors. There will be no gas. About eight thousand such homes exist, according to The U.S. Department of Energy, aligning with the Passive House Movement. Simply put, it will meet some of the highest standards of air quality and efficiency.

STEPHEN FILYO OF BLUEEARTH DECONSTRUCTION, TOM AND JUDY CASTEN AND BRITA PAGELS IN THE DECONSTRUCTED KITCHEN OF THE HOME.

implemented. These panels will not only provide electrical energy to the home, but will also collect excess heat during sunlight hours, a unique feature. The additional heat harvested will then be sent to a thermal storage tank that will regulate the temperature of the home. Water separates naturally due to thermal density. It can then be used by pumps to heat or cool the home depending on what is called for at the thermostat.

habitat. The Castens hope neighbors and passersby will visit their pond and enjoy native birds.

Having spent his entire career in businesses that profitably reduce A Hugelkultur- a garden wall/ greenhouse gas emissions, Tom sees mound creation popular in Europe this project as a chance “to blend some for many years, will be planted to help things I already know, with what the tame noise from passing trains. First, a architects can do,” he stated. To say it shallow trench will be dug near the rear has been a challenge to design would of the lot, between the house and the be an understatement. Where there is tracks. It will begin with a steep pile of a will, however, there is usually a way. excavated small trees, up to seven feet Now, forty renderings and seventy To protect the village and their high. Manure, soil, straw and biochar interior layouts later, architects have neighbors from flooding scenarios, the (carbon-rich gardening material) will come up with a plan which carefully Castens will create a compensatory be added, along with the roots of the accommodates the location of four storage pond on their property. When young trees removed to allow the build. mature trees, in addition to a From there, skinnier, shorter couple other lofty challenges. branches from the village’s A creek and constant noise free branch pile will be added from passing trains at the in a crisscross pattern. The rear of the lot further tested compound will wick together their skills. Fortunately, the and build up fungi, which firm was not easily deterred. will circulate water into the Neither are Tom and Judy. wall. Evergreen vegetation, “The entrepreneur in me says — TOM CASTEN eventually planted on top that ‘where there are problems, on the importance of incorporating aesthetics with efficiency. of it as the wall matures, will there are opportunities,’” Tom reduce railroad noise. It will stated, confidently. rain flows are high, the pond will retain also soak up water from the floodplain. While the Castens’ main objective in excess water that can be slowly released Tom and Judy hope their building this home was not primarily using a small drainage pipe back out to deconstructed, passive build will bring the creek. During normal conditions, financial, they have set a ten-year some green housing solutions to light. payback goal on the incremental capital the level of the pond will be controlled by a solar pump system and a flapper They also hope to inspire others to invested. valve so that water can be retained. The reconstruct and rebuild. “I think Energy conservation is paramount to end vision is a pond with a viewing area there’s value in demonstrating these a passive house. Plans include features and a walkway around it. While utility is concepts,” Tom stated, “because we’re such as strategic window placement the priority, “it must also be beautiful,” never going to tame climate change and roof angle. This house has taken Judy added. Fish eggs transferred to the until it makes good sense for people to it a few steps further. Sundrum solar pond on the feet of visiting ducks will build this way.” ■ panels, a cutting-edge solution, will be undoubtedly ensure a peaceful wildlife

“It doesn’t matter how efficient something is. People won’t want it at their house unless it’s beautiful.”

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Downers Grove Magazine | Giving Back

The Post HS Nonprofit Project

Equitable college counseling and other postsecondary guidance for students in Downers Grove and across the globe BY VALERIE HARDY I PHOTOGRAPHY BY BEKAH WRIEDT

A

sk parents of high school seniors about the college search process, and they will likely tell you that the landscape of college applications and admissions has changed significantly from their generation to their children’s. Colleges are reporting a record number of applicants, while acceptance rates – especially at highly selective schools – are at an all-time low. Meanwhile, the fees associated with attending institutions of higher education have increased to the point of being cost-prohibitive for many students and their families. Even the postsecondary planning process itself can be costly, not to mention confusing and cumbersome. That’s where Jason Booker and the Post HS Nonprofit

Project are here to help. Booker, a Downers Grove resident and the College & Career Counselor at Morton West High School, founded Post HS last April in order to demystify the postsecondary planning process for students and their families and provide them with individualized college counseling without breaking the bank. Committed to helping all students, Booker initially offered his services on a sliding scale, whereby clients’ fees were adjusted based on their ability to pay. While this payment model was working well, he wanted to make his services even more accessible and decided to eliminate the fee structure entirely, converting Post HS to a nonprofit organization in November. “What ended up happening is that 48

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eliminating the fee structure, I ended up having more money flow into my organization,” Booker said. Fully supported by donations since achieving nonprofit status, Post HS served over 100 students during this fall’s college application cycle alone. Booker said there is no set criteria students must meet to receive free postsecondary planning support through Post HS – “it’s wide open.” Yet Booker specializes in working with low-income students, undocumented students, first generation students (the first in their families to attend college), and students with disabilities. “I also work very well with very high-achieving students. I’ve had students attend Ivy League schools every year,” Booker said.


I went to apply…my counselor said I didn’t have a realistic chance of getting into the schools on my list,” Booker said. Yet he applied anyway and was accepted to 10 out of the 11 colleges on his list, ultimately attending The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and later Vanderbilt University for graduate school. Though Booker is proud of his academic accomplishments, looking back, he recognizes that UCLA – while his dream school – may not have been the best fit for him. “If I had to do it again, I may have looked closer at the University of Kansas’s full-ride offer… They even called my house after I went to UCLA. I felt that imposter syndrome sometimes at UCLA, but University of Kansas, they wanted me enough to ask my parents why I didn’t want them. That says something,” Booker said. When Booker counsels students, “fit” – personal, academic, and financial – is something that comes up frequently. He advises students to start their college search early and visit college various campuses before even starting to build a list of colleges in which they are interested. “It’s easier to find that fit early rather than after you’ve applied,” he said, and since college application and scholarship deadlines have shifted earlier in recent years, getting a jump-start on the process is doubly important. Booker connects well with a wide range of students, not only because of his 11 years as a school counselor, but also largely based on his personal experience. He was a “first gen” student himself. “My dad, in particular, is pretty passionate about education. He started some Silicon Valley companies even, but he doesn’t have a college degree,” Booker explained. “He grew up in the south, joined the Air Force, and received technical training while in the Air Force.” Based on that training, Booker’s father landed a job at IBM, and Booker grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. While his father was extremely encouraging when it came time for him to apply to college, Booker’s counselor was not quite so supportive. “When

Booker shares various other postsecondary planning tips and trends with the students and families with whom he works: • While many colleges are now “test optional” or “test flexible” or “test preferred” or “test blind” for admissions, students should still consider taking the ACT and/or SAT. “At some colleges, in order to be considered for maximum financial aid, students still need a test score… and preferably a good one,” Booker explained. • There is rarely a need to take both the ACT and SAT. Colleges typically accept either one, and most students tend to score within a similar percentile on both exams. DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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• Familiarize yourself with one exam and prepare for that rather than for the two different exams. Since Illinois’ state-funded test is the SAT, and there are many tests in the PSAT/SAT “ecosystem,” Booker encourages most students to prioritize preparing for the SAT versus ACT. • Consider “zero debt” options when selecting a college. As a family, have conversations early in the process about what is financially realistic. • Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form regardless of your family’s income. “Some colleges won’t give any financial aid – even merit aid for being a great student – without a FAFSA on file,” Booker said. • Remember that there are numerous postsecondary paths – two-year colleges, four-year colleges, trades, apprenticeships, the military – and explore them all. • Take advantage of the many resources available to help with the postsecondary planning process. “There are a lot of people who are generous right now with their time and money. I’m just one of them,” Booker said. With office space in the DG Commons building on Main St., Post HS offers in-person as well as virtual and telephone counseling services to local students, students throughout the nation, and international students. Whether seeking assistance determining what postsecondary path to choose, creating a list of colleges, perfecting application or scholarship essays, increasing SAT scores, or optimizing financial aid, Post HS can help. This year, based on the generous donations received, the nonprofit was even able to award its own scholarships – $1,000 each – to at least three different students. To learn more about The Post HS Nonprofit Project, schedule an appointment, or make a donation, visit posths.com. ■


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Downers Grove Magazine | In The News

JUNIORS CELEBRATE AT A SUCCESSFUL MARDI GRAS EVENT IN MARCH.

Photo courtesy of Greg Kozlick of 726 Visuals

Doubled in Growth, Double the Giving Despite the pandemic, the Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club’s membership and philanthropic contributions to the community have soared over the past two years.

O

n a rainy Saturday evening in March, upwards of 100 active and prospective members of the Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club (DGJWC) – along with spouses and friends – converged upon the Chateau Orleans banquet hall, a sea of green, gold and purple, sequins abounding. Some wore masks (not the surgical kind we have grown so accustomed to, but Mardi Gras masks aligned with the event’s theme). For many of the Mardi Gras Masquerade’s approximately 250 attendees, this was their first large-

BY VALERIE HARDY

scale indoor event since March 2020, when the DGJWC hosted its Havana Nights-themed fundraiser a week before the coronavirus shut the world down. Some participants may have felt a bit uneasy and out-of-habit after a two-year hiatus, but overall, the room was buzzing with excitement. At one point, though, the mood grew more somber. The DGJWC – a philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting and raising awareness of charitable organizations, individuals in need, and the community – had selected the Clear Ribbon Foundation as its charitable partner for the Mardi Gras fundraiser, and 52

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members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors were speaking about their heart-wrenching experiences that led to Clear Ribbon’s creation. The Foundation is a not-forprofit organization committed to supporting individuals who have lost their spouse to cancer along with their surviving children, helping them toward healing and hope. Two men and two women, each of whom had become a young widow(er) after their spouse’s death following a terminal cancer diagnosis, founded Clear Ribbon to help others in similar situations, and as they shared their stories and gratitude for DGWJC’s


support, there were few dry eyes in the room – but many open wallets. Alisha LaCassa and Sarah Olczyk, Ways and Means Committee cochairs, spearheaded the DGJWC’s Masquerade and other fundraising initiatives this year and were awed by the generosity of attendees and sponsors alike: the Club received $52,000 in sponsorships and $15,000 from the event’s silent auction, more than doubling their fundraising goals. While the Club had committed $10,000 of the Masquerade’s proceeds to the Clear Ribbon Foundation in advance of the event, they raised another $3,000 that evening, earmarking it for Clear Ribbon “care coolers” to gift to families impacted by cancer. Although the Masquerade was the Club’s major fundraiser, it was far from the only one. The Club raised over $80,000 in charitable revenue this year through various events, including a Witches Walk, a Santa’s Magical Meet-up, and the Club’s annual Elf Shelf event during which current members and Club alumni bid on prizes and experiences – with all funds going to the DGJWC’s philanthropy budget. Last year, despite significant COVID-19 limitations, DGJWC also hosted a successful charitable golf outing. So where does all of the Club’s charitable revenue go? Besides the Clear Ribbon Foundation, DGJWC helped more than 35 unique organizations, families, and individuals in need this year. One

of these was The Garden Works Project. DGJWC donated $4,000 to support the organization’s mission to “promote organic suburban agriculture to improve the well-being of our community, the environment, and those facing food insecurity.” The Club also awarded local students college scholarships totaling $15,000 and donated $3,000 in Teacher Grants to educators in Districts 58 and 99. Another $5,000 funded gifts for local children and families in need this past holiday season. Membership Committee co-chairs Cindy Maquet and Di Ander shared that DGJWC has inducted nearly 100 new members, more than doubling in size, over the past two years. Club President Erika Nelander reflected on this growth: “As a bigger organization, we can make that much more impact. We have members that give in all different ways, and it’s empowering to see how much good we can do now with so many helping hands!” In addition to monetary donations, DGJWC also serves the community in numerous hands-on ways. From running Downers Grove’s annual Safety Town program to regularly cleaning up a stretch of Maple Ave. the Club adopted, there is a volunteer opportunity for everyone – and it is never too soon for new members to get involved. Stephanie Ferguson, a recent inductee, is proof of this. She jumped right in, helping with the Club’s holiday giving initiative.

DGJWC SUPPORTS SEVERAL CHARITIES EACH YEAR. Photo courtesy of DGJWC

“I…was privileged to drop off the presents [DGJWC donated] to one family through the school social worker. She was overwhelmed at the number of presents and generosity of the Club,” Ferguson said. Ferguson also introduced her 8-yearold son to the “many hands make light work” experience when they recently volunteered at the West Suburban Community Pantry alongside other DGJWC members and their children. “My son enjoyed it and is anxious to go back soon,” she said. Another newer member, Jenny Schoonover, also made a significant impact from the start. After her 2020 induction, she joined the Ways and Means Committee to propose holding a Witches Walk in downtown Downers Grove. This event became one of the Club’s lucrative fundraisers and epitomizes what DGJWC is all about: serving the community and (while) having fun. DGJWC has been a philanthropic staple in town for over 60 years, and the Club’s Vice President/PresidentElect Lindsay Garrity is confident this tradition will continue. “The women of the DGJWC have a passion for uplifting and empowering not only each other but anyone who needs it,” Garrity said. “If there is a need in our community, there is a line of Juniors willing and ready to give goods, time or donations to help.”

VOLUNTEERS AT GARDEN WORKS.

For more information or to join DGJWC, visit dgjwc.org. ■

Photo courtesy of DGJWC DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Downers Grove Magazine | Food & Drink

10 Restaurants Opened Since 2020 BY VALERIE HARDY

With news outlets reporting closures of restaurants across the world amidst the pandemic, it may come as a surprise to some that a number of new dining establishments have opened for business over the past two years. Whether you have a taste for takeout or are feeling drawn toward a delicious dine-in experience with an ambiance fit for your finest fashions, check out these 10 eateries new to the western suburban dining scene since the turn of the decade. Photos courtesy of Bev’s DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Downers Grove Magazine | Food & Drink

JoJo’s ShakeBAR 5 Jackson Ave., Naperville • Opened Feb. 15, 2022 JoJo’s ShakeBAR is a welcome addition to downtown Naperville’s dining scene. The atmosphere is fanciful, fun, and family-friendly, and the JoJo’s famed Signature Biggie Shakes alone are worth the trip. Open for lunch, dinner, and dessert daily as well as brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

A Few Customer Favorites: • Chocolate Nirvana Shake - chocolate Oreo shake topped with a double chocolate dodo, double chocolate marshmallow, and chocolate chip cookie • JoJo’s Fries - mouth-watering fries that would stand alone but are even better when loaded with mozzarella, provolone, and cheddar cheese along with bacon, chives, and sour cream • Smash Burger - two beef patties topped with American cheese, lettuce, pickle, and zip sauce and served on a sesame brioche bun Top photo by Neil Burger Photography Bottom photo courtesy of JoJo’s ShakeBAR

Bev’s 245 S. Washington St., Naperville • Opened Jan. 21, 2022 A temporary pop-up restaurant located in the heart of Naperville’s bustling downtown, Bev’s honors namesake Beverly Friar-Patterson, longtime owner of the building in which it is situated, and features upscale fare and craft cocktails. This fine-dining pop-up liquor bar is anticipated to stay open through at least the end of the year, serves lunch and dinner daily, and offers a weekend brunch option as well.

A Few Customer Favorites: • Short Rib Tots - braised beef, mashed potatoes, parmesan cream • Bev’s Crudo - ponzu, basil oil, sesame cracker • Charred Octopus - saffron rouille, purple potato, carrots Photos courtesy of Bev’s

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Il Mio 30 S. Prospect, Clarendon Hills • Opened Jan. 7, 2022 Situated on the northwest corner of Clarendon Hills’ business district, Il Mio (which is a term of endearment meaning “mine” in Italian) welcomes diners to make the warm and energized environment their own. The extensive menu of sharable Italian dishes is inspired by the owners’ favorite family recipes, and guests – whether out for a date night, family dinner, or gathering with friends – are encouraged to dine family-style. Il Mio is open for dinner every day except Monday and is in the process of rolling out their weekend brunch offering.

A Few Customer Favorites: • Meatball Polenta - house made meatballs with parmesan polenta and house made marinara served in a cast iron skillet • Il Mio Salad - your traditional Italian garbage chopped salad! • Pappardelle with Short Rib Ragu - house made braised short rib ragu with long ribbon noodles Photos by Influx Consultants

The George Kitchen & Bar 1 Walker Ave., Clarendon Hills • Opened Dec. 17, 2021 Warmth emanates at The George, a restaurant owned and run by cousins whose family has a deep culinary history. Diners at The George will feel like they are part of the family, always seeing a familiar face. The restaurant’s expansive menu features a variety of fresh and flavorful dishes, many cooked in their wood fire grill. With weekly specials and half-priced kids’ meals with each adult entrée purchased on Sundays, The George welcomes diners of all ages for any occasion. Open Tuesday– Sunday for happy hour and dinner. Weekend Brunch & Bubbles also added to The George’s lineup effective last month.

A Few Customer Favorites: • Halibut Tacos - flour tortilla, creamy slaw, mango pico, spicy aioli and micro cilantro (half-priced on Thursdays) • Steak Tacos - flour tortilla, skirt steak, spicy aioli, lettuce, pico de gallo, cojita cheese and micro cilantro (half-priced on Thursdays) • Homemade Hummus - house made pita, herb pesto and herb salad Photos courtesy of The George

The Graceful Ordinary 3 E. Main St., St. Charles • Opened Nov. 12, 2021 With a picturesque waterfront location along the Fox River, The Graceful Ordinary offers a fine-dining experience that feels like an escape. While the ambiance alone would warrant the nearly 20-miles drive from Downers Grove, one bite of the restaurant’s “elevated, yet approachable rustic” small plates and entrées and one peek at the extensive and inventive drink menu will turn special-occasion patrons into regulars at The Graceful Ordinary. Open for dinner Tuesday–Saturday as well as for weekend brunch.

A Few Customer Favorites: • Octopus Carpaccio - lemon purée, chili oil, pickled mustard seeds • Steak Tartare - Dijon, capers, sourdough toast, bone marrow emulsion • Wood Roasted Dry Aged Ribeye - smoked cauliflower purée, seafood croquette, red chimichurri Photos by Matt Reeves

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Downers Grove Magazine | Food & Drink

RH Rooftop Restaurant 1300 22nd St., Oak Brook • Opened Sept. 24, 2021 Situated on the top floor of the stately, newly opened Restoration Hardware stand-alone store on the south end of Oakbrook Center, diners ascend a majestic double staircase in order to reach the Rooftop Restaurant. A fountain adorns the center of the open dining space, and serene greenery and captivating chandeliers are sprinkled throughout the area. With retractable glass walls around the majority of the dining room, all guests – even those not seated outdoors within the “Rooftop Park” area-can essentially dine al fresco when the weather permits. While the breathtaking design of the restaurant draws patrons to RH Rooftop the first time, the food and beverage offerings will keep them coming back time and again. Open for brunch, lunch, and dinner daily, each menu features an accessible assortment of light classic fare with many shareable options, and the beverage menu offers an extensive array of wines and champagnes along with a few beer selections, coffees, teas, and soft drinks.

A Few of Downers Grove Magazine’s Recommendations: • Crispy Artichokes - intermixed with potato rounds and served with a rosemary aioli • Arugula Salad - fennel, grapes, parmesan and sunflower seeds in a light citrus vinaigrette dressing • Avocado Toast - sourdough bread, balsamic drizzle, and option to add a lightly seasoned soft boiled egg Photos courtesy of RH

Blanco Cocina + Cantina 2022 Spring Rd., Oak Brook • Opened Aug. 17, 2021 Located on the perimeter of Oakbrook Center, Blanco features classic Mexican dishes with a fresh twist. Shoppers seeking to refuel with a snappy snack before returning to the mall and diners looking to lounge for a while will both be easily able to fulfill their cravings from the restaurant’s food and beverage menu (did someone say tequila flight?). Open for lunch and dinner daily, with a dedicated happy hour Wednesday–Friday.

A Few Customer Favorites: • Guacamole - roasted poblano and Anaheim chiles, caramelized onions, cojita cheese served with fresh tortilla chips • Carne Asada Tacos - charred scallion relish, avocado, spicy garlic butter, cojita cheese • Fajitas - choice of tiger shrimp in spicy garlic butter, grilled chicken in achiote citrus sauce, or carne asada in tomatillo soy marinade with caramelized peppers and onions, elote, guacamole, pico de gallo, and queso blanco and served with either black or charro beans Photos courtesy of Fox Restaurant Concepts

Eiffel Waffle 1028 Curtiss St., Downers Grove • Opened July 21, 2021 This specialty bubble waffle and dessert shop, located next door to the Downers Grove Public Library, was the brainchild of three childhood friends turned business partners – all under age 30 – whose circumstances during the pandemic allowed them time to bring their unique culinary concept into reality. The intimate space and musical backdrop provides a perfect place for patrons to savor a sweet treat of make any time of day breakfast time with Eiffel Waffle’s signature waffles or mini-pancakes (with or without ice cream). Open year-round with daily afternoon and evening hours.

A Few Customer Favorites: • Night in Paris - bubble waffle cone with Mediterranean sea salt pretzel ice cream topped with bananas, pecans, caramel, whip cream • Cookie Monster - bubble waffle with cookie monster ice cream topped with cookie dough, Oreos, strawberries, hot fudge, and whip cream • Lotus Lover - bubble waffle with cinnamon ice cream topped with crushed Biscoff cookie, lotus butter, cheese cake Photos courtesy of Eiffel Waffle 58

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


Island Fin Poké Company 76 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove • Opened July 20, 2021 Guests are transported to the tranquil paradise of the Hawaiian Islands when they visit Island Fin Poké Company. The first Island Fin Poké restaurant in the Midwest, this unique establishment brings a fresh and healthy faster food option to the community. While traditional poké typically features fresh seafood sliced into chunks and mixed with vegetables and other ingredients, diners at Island Fin Poké Company get to customize their Hawaiian-style poké bowls, selecting from a range of seafood and other proteins. Open daily for lunch and dinner with dine-in or pick-up options available.

Poké Bowl Overview and the Most Popular Protein: • Creating a custom poké bowl 1. Choose a base - white or brown rice or spring mix 2. Pick a protein - ahi tuna, spicy tuna, salmon, octopus, shrimp, chicken, spam, or tofu 3. Choose mix-ins - edamame, corn, sweet onions, jalapenos, OG veggies in a marinade 4. Select from an extensive array of a marinating sauce, toppings, and finishing sauce • Spicy tuna tends to be a popular protein choice Photos courtesy of Island Fin Poké Company

The Outpost Mexican Eatery 4948 Main St., Downers Grove • Opened April 6, 2020 The Outpost puts its own unique spin on authentic Mexican cuisine. Located just north of the train tracks in downtown Downers Grove, the restaurant offers a casual dine-in or take-out atmosphere but takes its commitment to using fresh, high-quality ingredients within its dishes quite seriously. Open daily for lunch and dinner and with catering also available, The Outpost serves up something for everyone.

A Few Customer Favorites: • Tacos - choice of filling and served on double corn tortillas with cheese, lettuce, and tomato or cilantro and onions • Steak Burrito - stuffed with rice, refried or black beans, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomatoes • Quesadillas - melted Mexican cheese on a warm 14” flour tortilla served with a side of pico de gallo and sour cream Photos by @eliosphotography

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Downers Grove Magazine | Landscaping Trends

Planning Your Backyard This Season So, you’ve decided it’s time your backyard could use improvement.

W

hile your front yard is for people to enjoy as they pass by, your backyard can and should be all about you and how you want to live outdoors. It could be a sanctuary for relaxation. Maybe you like to entertain. Maybe you just want it for play. Maybe you want to extend your seasonal use. Maybe you want a combination.

BY LARRY ATSEFF

Maybe you think you just need a facelift. But, don't make the mistake of slapping a patio down here and a garden border there as time and budget allow and be done with it. Suggestion: before you call a landscaping firm or a deck company, save yourself a lot of time and money and do some planning on your own. Consider the space holistically, from how you want to use your backyard 60

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

to how much time you want to spend working in it. Then call some of the finest landscaping firms in the area.

Start by Dreaming

Ask yourself some basic questions. What do you want out of the backyard — a playground for kids, a cozy retreat, and an entertaining patio? What materials do you like — brick pavers, water, sustainable plants?


Dream a little, then see what you can afford and have time to maintain, Eventually, you'll want to get real. Be honest about your level of involvement. A yard that requires little work and resources is the holy grail. Think about how to simplify the plans to make this happen for you.

Take Stock of your Property

Do a walk-around and consider what you like and don't like about the space. Make a list of what's salvageable (the 100-year-old oak tree) and what's not (a sagging, rotten deck), as well as how permanent storage (shed, garage, etc.) is positioned and whether it needs to be moved or camouflaged. Don't forget to factor in geographical considerations. If you adore roses but live in an area with a lot of deer, they'll get eaten. Either plant something else or plan a fence.

Is a new Deck in the Plan?

If you want a deck that’s just for cooking with a grill, that’s one thing. If you want a deck that can serve as a center for outdoor entertaining, maybe you need an outdoor kitchen

DECKS CAN BE DESIGNED WITH PRIVACY

and bar, complete with plenty of room and outdoor furniture for entertaining. Today’s composite building materials and furnishings can help you extend the size and time you want to spend outside. Simply put, a new deck can transform your backyard.

Know the Rules

Your village or homeowner's association may have specific regulations, like maximum fence height or projects that require permits. Know what's allowed before you begin work, because if you break the rules and get caught, not only will you have to take down your project, but there will be fines involved.

Make a Plan, on Paper

A plan provides a birds-eye view of your overall project, which can then be implemented logically in steps. Draw a bubble to represent generic spaces like a patio, playground, garage and pool, then link the bubbles together with pathways, lawn areas, and gardens. Look

at

the

relationships

between spaces, then draw them to approximate scale. Each individual space should flow into the next, moving people from the front yard to back, from a primary patio to a secondary patio. Entryways, pathways and exits are transition opportunities make a statement or focus attention, or draw people to your next space. You can create the impression of separate spaces by simply changing the material or pattern, or by elevating one portion slightly above the other to establish distinct "rooms" without disrupting the flow." If this effort is not quite your cup of tea, hire a professional, at least for the planning portion. They can open your eyes to brilliant options you may not think of yourself.

Check the Plan From Inside

Outdoor spaces should bring pleasure every day, even when you're inside. When designed properly, your backyard becomes an artwork as you look through your windows. Continued on next page


Downers Grove Magazine | Landscaping Trends Continued from the previous page Start with the kitchen window, since homeowners spend more time looking out that window than any other. Be practical: Assess traffic patterns from the kitchen or mudroom. Make sure your plan allows you to move people in and out, to get the garbage out, everything you need for daily living.

Fine-Tune Each Area

With a big overview of your backyard, you can then focus on specific areas. Maybe a patio is not as fitting as a raised deck, or deck on the ground, depending on entrances and exits from the house to your backyard. Or, your patio area is just too small and not easily accessible. Have you ever considered an arbor as an entry to your backyard? Do you look forward to getting out into the garden and tending it? What kind of garden? Flowers or vegetables or just rocks, native grass and pebbles? Or would you rather relax and look out over a nice yard of grass? Or, a hardscape of bricks and pavers?

Have the kids outgrown your swing set? Is that a place for a garden? Is it time for fencing?

Now, look at the backyard as a whole

Now, look at your yard in context, both in relation to the house and to itself. Flowers, hardscapes, and even lawns literally become the wallpaper of your outdoor room. Speaking of lawns, looking for a “set it and forget it” approach? The robotic vacuum market has grown exponentially over the years cleaning our floors and carpets indoors. The new trend? Auto mowers that run quietly on electric power and create a healthier lawn over time. In addition to eliminating noise pollution and carbon emissions, these robots allow homeowners to reallocate time and resources for other outdoor enhancements. Nearly five years ago, Mariani Landscape started testing robotic mowers and has not looked back. The company has embraced the new technology passing the benefits onto homeowners by providing the installation, programming, and

ARBORS CAN ENHANCE A BACKYARD ENTRANCE 62

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

maintenance for the auto mower. Technology is constantly evolving and these self-guided machines that are 100% eco-friendly certainly allow homeowners to go green. And their grass too.

Execute in Logical Stages

The best thing about a comprehensive plan? You don't need to do it all at once. Work on one area at a time, but make sure you're always thinking ahead. For example, if you're redoing the patio and eventually want to do an outdoor kitchen, don't wait to install the gas hookup, since it's more cost-effective to do when the ground is already dug up. Now, if all these preliminary planning steps are not quite your cup of tea, hire a professional. They are booking appointments right now. At the very least, we’ve given you some food for thought when you meet. Before you know it, you can be outdoors, so don’t wait. Get started. ■


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Downers Grove Magazine | Architecture ZOOK’S SIGNATURE UNDULATED SHINGLES GIVE THE APPEARANCE OF MOVING.

OPEN DOORS Downers Grove Housing Styles BY MAUREEN CALLAHAN I PHOTOGRAPHY BY GREG KOZLICK OF 726 VISUALS

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A

mong the most charming aspects of this picturesque community is the varied architecture around town. Visit three examples of our eye-catching homes through a re-occurring visit to different housing styles.

Style: Zook

Recognized Period: Late 1920s to late 1940s Defining Characteristics: Costwoldcottage style, undulating roof with distinct elements of Tudor architecture, extreme use of detail The charming look of a Zook is distinct. Walking up the brick path to one of these homes just makes you happy. It’s like stepping onto a lilliput island. Easy to spot and identify, Zook architecture is distinct. These houses invite us to another place. Or time. Or both. Imagine the intriguing cottage from Hansel and Gretel to get a good idea of one. There are only a few dozen of these fairy-tale looking houses, and all are located in the Midwest. They’re iconic to the western suburbs, save the few examples in Lake Geneva, WI. Loaded with character, the artistic craftsmanship and numerous nods to nature make each of these homes truly unique. Born in 1889 in Valparaiso, IN, Roscoe Harold Zook attained a Bachelor of Science degree from Armour Institute of Technology, (now Illinois Institute of Technology), in 1914. Early in his career, he worked with Harold Van Dorn Shaw, whose notable designs include the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue. Eventually, Zook set up his own firm at Dearborn and State Streets. In its day, Zook’s work was as recognizable as Frank Lloyd Wright’s. He never gained the same recognition as Wright, although his style is arguably as distinct. Timing, as they say, is everything. Zook’s was a career that rose in the late 1920s; the picture of rowing upstream against the Great Depression, followed by World War II. Had he practiced in a more financially stable era, the story might have been much different. DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Continued on next page


Downers Grove Magazine | Architecture Continued from the previous page Among the most distinctive features of a Zook is the undulating roof- bent shingles which appear to be flowing in staggard waves. It’s a nod to the English thatched roof. Some of the rooflines descend almost all the way down to the ground. With great care, he fashioned the details of floral and animal figures which abound on shutters, windows, carved flower boxes, weathervanes, gazebos and iron work. He took much time to personalize the home- and loved doing it. Zook was fascinated by spiders and saw them as the best builders of the natural world. He paid tribute to the revered arachnoids in many of his designs, sometimes through a single stained glass window depicting a web, or in the stonework of a patio or fireplace. The artistically appointed webs became a trademark of his homes. He expected top-quality work from the extremely gifted craftsman who built the houses. It shows. Interiors of his designs typically feature exposed grooved beams. Natural light flows in through the numerous windows to fill cathedral-ceilinged rooms, often

with small second-floor balconies overlooking them. Exceptional plaster work and spiral staircases can be found in some of the residences.

Style: Midcentury Modern (MCM) Recognized Period: 1945-1975

Defining Characteristics: Large windows, flat planes, changes in elevation, integration with nature Houses reflect the period in which they are designed. Midcentury Modern characterizes an entire design and urban development movement. Architecturally speaking, homes known as this style rose during a time of putting a past of war and oppression behind us to make room for a lighter, healthier and happier lifestyle. Think Brady Bunch! Midcentury modern is a style that emerged during a time of social change. Simplicity with a definite nod toward nature are evident characteristics. Open spaces, flat planes and large glass windows in rooms with several outdoor views to maximize light, are hallmarks

THE LOW-SLUNG ROOFLINE IS MOST COMMONLY SEEN ON MIDCENTURY MODERN HOMES.

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of their designs. These houses emerged in an era that encouraged children and families to look out of giant windowsand hopefully get outside- through even bigger sliding-glass doors. Flat roofs are the norm, although gables are also common. Split-level appearances are created through the use of a few shallow steps separating rooms. Fluctuating depths in space are achieved by varying cabinet height or partially rising walls. Their initial designers were modern architects, including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Chair of the Department of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology. He later founded the Second School of Chicago. These designers were forward-thinking problem solvers, several of whom had escaped the rise of Naziism. Others contributing to this style were influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright. Steel, aluminum, and plywood, specifically allotted for building after the second world war, are main components of this type of build.


ORIGINAL CAPE COD HOMES CONSISTED OF TWO ROOMS, A HALL, AND A PARLOR.

Style: Cape Cod

Recognized Period: Late 1600s to mid1850s; revival period 1920s-1950s Defining Characteristics: Symmetrical appearance with centered front entry, steep roofs with gabled dormers, multipane, double hung windows with shutters, central chimneys, modest ornamentation Cape Cod houses are truly timeless. You were as likely to see one with a backdrop of the Salem witch trials as you are today. This sturdy, classic style that originally placed function over form went through a second, more ornamental stage, a century ago. The design of these homes actually originated in England and was carried over by Puritan carpenters. As common in New England today as they were in the seventeenth century, these solid, relatively simple houses were built to keep out the stormy, Cape Cod weather. Local materials, such as pine and oak for framing and flooring and cedar for roofing and siding shingles were used in the original models. The square DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

67

footprint made for a solid build against the harsh New England climate, while the steep pitch of the roof minimized snow-load. Large central chimneys made back-to-back fireplaces possible, a must in east coast winters. The design has evolved over the centuries. The revival of the Cape Code in the 1930s saw wings added on to the rear or sides, with dormers increasing ventilation, space, and light. This well-respected house type is iconic with the American family. ■


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Downers Grove Magazine | Neighbor News

DICK PORTILLO

How He Made His Restaurants a Success BY LARRY ATSEFF I PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARCELLO RODARTE 70

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D

ick Portillo has met a lot of famous people during his 80 years. One he never met is Frank Sinatra. Frank’s gone, but one of his most memorable songs is “MY WAY”. Opening lyrics include these words: “My friend, I’ll make it clear I’ll state my case of which I am certain I’ve lived a life that’s full I traveled each and every highway And more, much more I did it, I did it my way Regrets, I’ve had a few But then again, too few to mention I did what I had to do And saw it through without exemption I planned each charted course Each careful step along the byway And more, much, much more I did it, I did it my way Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew When I bit off more than I could chew And through it all, whenever there was doubt I ate it up and spit it out I faced it all and I stood tall And did it, did it my way I’ve loved, laughed and cried I had my fill, my share of losing And now, as tears subside I find that it’s all so amusing And to think I did all that And may I say not in a shy way No, no, not me I did it my way For what is a man, what has he got If not himself, then he has naught Not to say the things that he truly feels And not the words of someone who kneels The record shows I took all the blows And did it my way” Source:LyricFind Songwriters: Claude Francois / Gilles Thibaut / Jacques Revaux / Paul Anka My Way lyrics © Warner Chappell Music France, Jeune Musique Editions, BMG Rights Management, Suisa, Concord Music Publishing LLC, CONSALAD CO., Ltd

Those words sum up Dick Portillo and how he has succeeded beyond his most ambitious dreams. When you read his book, “Out of the Dog House”, or talk to him in person about his success, like we did, you will find out that he not only has lived the American Dream, he tells you how he did it, from an $1100 investment

in a hot dog stand in 1963 to selling his business in 2014 which left him a very wealthy man. It is an easy, entertaining, streamof-consciousness read, just like he was sitting there with you, just talking, and giving you specific, very personal, real-life history. It is full of practical examples of how hard work, seeing obvious needs and filling them better than the other guy, will always be a great recipe for success. In the end, it is an entrepreneur’s handbook. Chapter headings, in this order, take you on your way. Dick uses the first chapter, “Humble Beginnings”, as an appetizer. It is an overview of his life, from being the son of poor, immigrant parents to where he is today. His father had Mexican, Spanish and French heritage and

and the many part-time jobs he was taking, trying to find his way. “A Mother-in-Law’s Approval”, tells how his mother-in-law convinced her daughter Sharon to let Dick spend $1100 on a trailer for a hot dog stand, instead of saving for a house. “Time to Expand”, details how, when and why he made the decision to add more restaurants. He tells the valuable lesson of not making a move until you are ready. The “Building an Organization” chapter tells how he carefully added widely popular items (he personally loved) to the menu over several years, and combined them with constant training so that quality in food, service, speed and efficiency could be profitable. And, very important, it would be extremely difficult for competition to copy. “That training

“From the time a customer hits the front door, and senses the aromas and the hustle, to the time they leave, after enjoying a quality meal and fast service at a reasonable price, I want them to feel ‘The Portillo’s Experience’.” — DICK PORTILLO

immigrated from Mexico. His mother came from Greece. It sets the stage…and you want to read more to know how it happened. Next, “Family Struggles” details how he spent a lot of his youth in Chicago Public Housing; how he fondly remembers his sister and brother. He remembers the scrimping and saving. He remembers how his father taught him discipline with spankings and how he learned to take responsibility for your actions, but this was nothing compared to the next chapter: “Life in the Marines”. It was there that he saw how when you are focused and you train and train, a bunch of rag tag guys can become a single powerful unit. As he puts it, “I learned the value of training, organization and teamwork.” “Moving Back to Chicago” tells what life was like, after the Marines, to come back to Chicago and marry his high-school sweetheart, Sharon, DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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to handle a complex menu was like a moat around my castle, to keep competition out.” “Sacrifice” makes the point that you have to give up some things to succeed, and there is no way around it. The “What I Learned from Failure” chapter details what we all have heard: how failure can be a great teacher and that Dick has been no exception. In the chapter “The Roaring ‘80s and ‘90s”, Dick recalls the good times in Chicago with the Bears winning the Super Bowl and Michael Jordan and the Bulls. He said it was an exciting time for Portillo’s too, because he successfully expanded. As his number of restaurants grew, he saw that he could scale up the number and maintain the quality he and his employees had worked so hard to perfect.

Continued on next page


Downers Grove Magazine | Neighbor News Continued from the previous page The chapter on “California Dreaming” is the story of his first restaurant outside of Chicago. It took him out of his comfort zone… but he knew it could be successful. That’s because his booming business of shipping Portillo’s all over the country to Chicagoans who had moved away showed him that his biggest sales were in zip code 90620, Buena Park, California. Another case of seeing the obvious and making the most of it. “The Importance of Competition” chapter points out that you should never underestimate the competition and that if you are smart, you can also learn from them. “Hello, Arizona”, the chapter on his smashing opening in Scottsdale, was further proof that Portillo’s could be a national brand. “The Pillars of Success” puts the focus on “Quality”, “Service”, “Attitude”, and “Cleanliness” which are the bedrocks of Portillo’s training. This chapter describes how his son has helped instill those principles throughout the company, and how important it is to hire people who believe in those principles. It is executing that training constantly that sets Portillo’s apart and creates what Dick calls “The Portillo’s Experience”. “From the time a customer hits the front door, and senses the aromas and the hustle, to the time they leave, after enjoying a quality meal and fast service at a reasonable price, I want them to feel ‘The Portillo’s Experience’”.

more successful, professionally.

personally

and

He describes the pros and cons of selling and the decision to choose Berkshire Partners, in “The Decision to Sell” in August 2014. “Moving Forward” covers his life since the sale, and how he enjoys the fruits of his labor. He stays active in managing his own portfolio of real estate holdings. All in all, Dick is content. After all, he has accomplished a great deal. He has an enormous legacy in terms of a restaurant chain that prides itself on “The Portillo’s Experience”, that millions enjoy. He is also proud of the number of employees who have worked with him to create the experience. There is one other legacy he would like to leave. In honor of Sharon, who has been the love of his life and a pillar of strength for 62 years, but who is

THE ORIGINAL HOTDOG STAND

suffering from Type 1 Diabetes, he will continue to support the work of Dr. Jose Oberholzer, a distinguished doctor, who is coming ever closer to a cure that will help Sharon and 1.6 million others who have been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. (Next to this article is an interview with the Doctor on what he is accomplishing.) ■

“Gift or Curse?” describes how his combination of great instincts with people, and a willingness to get out of his comfort zone, have been both a gift and a curse. He explains how he dealt with attention deficit syndrome by just being determined enough to overcome it, by using his skills of observation, paying attention to detail, and coming up with better solutions to everyday problems. “Only in America” is a look back at the accomplishments and the people who helped him, and who; in turn, helped themselves become

A YOUNG DICK PORTILLO, ON THE RIGHT, WHEN HE WAS IN THE 1ST MARINE DIVISION, WITH A FELLOW MARINE 72

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


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Downers Grove Magazine | Community Scene

Mustang Trot

For the first time since 2019, the South High School in Downers Grove Key Club hosted its annual Mustang Trot 5K Run/Walk on Sunday, April 10. On the sunny Sunday morning, community members cheered on 153 runners and walkers. The fastest runners were Robert Del Cotto (Woodridge) and Amy Craychee (Downers Grove). More than $2,000 was raised to support Honor Flight Chicago. Veterans including Thaddeus Fornek were honored. Fornek is a former First Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps during World War II and he participated in the first Honor Flight in June 2008. Photos courtesy of District 99.

MORE THAN 150 COMMUNITY MEMBERS RAN IN THE 2022 MUSTANG TROT 5K WALK/RUN.

FIRST PLACE FINISHERS WERE DGS 12TH GRADER ROBERT DEL COTTO AND COMMUNITY MEMBER AMY CRAYCHEE.

West Suburban Humane Society West Suburban Humane Society’s 50th anniversary is off to a stellar start with 137 dogs and cats finding homes all over Chicagoland! WSHS is celebrating this anniversary milestone throughout 2022. The Cat PurrIDE Adoption Event will be held on June 18th where visitors can play with adoptable kittens and cats. Come just for the purrs or apply in advance to take your chosen pet home that day. Visit wshs-dg.org for more information or to get involved! Photos courtesy of WSHS.

GIMLI WITH HIS ADOPTER IN JANUARY 2022

MINOGUE WITH HER ADOPTER IN FEBRUARY 2022 DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

SAGE AND HER ADOPTER IN MARCH 2022 75


Downers Grove Magazine |Special Report

DOWNERS GROVE NORTH STUDENTS DONATED 5,000 LBS OF GOODS TO UKRAINE.

Photo courtesy of the DGN Empowerment Club

Standing With Ukraine

W

hen our family first moved to Downers Grove and began meeting others within the community, we quickly knew it was a special place. As we acclimated to life with three children in a new town, we found that neighbors lending a hand was routine, not random. We were so appreciative of this privilege, but - little did we know - this newfound generosity within Downers Grove was just the tip of the iceberg. On February 24, Ukraine was invaded by Russian forces in an unprovoked, horrific attack on its people, freedom and democracy. This war is particularly

BY GREG KARAWAN

near and dear to our family as both my wife, Adriana, and I are of Ukrainian descent. Our parents and grandparents fled Ukraine during World War II for the very reason the Ukrainian people are fleeing today. We grew up speaking the language fluently and spent years attending Ukrainian school where we learned about the culture, history and geography. We were lucky enough to visit several cities in Ukraine in 2003 and met some of our family that is still there now. We continue to be active in the Ukrainian American community today, and our children take part in various Ukrainian activities throughout the week. As the world jumped into action to 76

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help the people of Ukraine, the residents of Downers Grove quickly followed, and we have been overwhelmed by the support of our friends, neighbors and surrounding community. Days after the invasion began, a small Amazon wish list for essential supplies, coordinated by Adriana, quickly turned into hundreds of boxes of humanitarian aid delivered to our home daily. The ripple effect of Downers Grove sharing this drive with a broader audience produced a result greater than we could have ever imagined. Shortly thereafter, we were visited by good friends who presented us with a $5,400 check, collected from 40 local families, to donate to an organization of


our choice. This donation went directly to the National Bank of Ukraine which raised funds for Ukrainian Armed Forces. The efforts in collecting these funds included a t-shirt for each family member that displayed a blue and yellow “tryzub” or trident, which represents the coat of arms of Ukraine in its national colors. These shirts can often be seen around town today, worn to show that Downers Grove stands with Ukraine. Included in the many other efforts within the community are additional humanitarian aid collections by local schools and organizations. Downers Grove North High School’s Empowerment Club and German Club collected 5,000 pounds of vital supplies for the people and refugees of Ukraine. Students and staff spent countless hours organizing and packing items that were shipped to the city of Lviv. Inspired by their efforts, Downers Grove South High School students contributed two additional vans worth of goods. Downers Grove North students have also been selling wristbands that read “Slava Ukraini,” which means “Glory to Ukraine,” a national salute known as

a symbol of Ukrainian sovereignty and resistance. This campaign has raised over $1,700 to benefit the World Central Kitchen a not-fora not-for-profit nongovernmental organization devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters. The Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club made a $2,000 donation to Downers Grove’s own Watts of Love, which is graciously hoping to raise $10,000 towards sustainable lighting solutions for responders, aid workers and refugees in war-torn areas of Ukraine. A Euchre for Ukraine tournament in April made use of the popular card game to raise funds, with proceeds benefitting Women and Orphans of Civilian Territorial Defense Fund Several churches in the area have coordinated collection efforts and held special masses to pray for the Ukrainian people. Throughout the streets of Downers Grove, the support for Ukraine is evident. Ukrainian flags, blue and yellow ribbons and various signage adorn homes and businesses. Most

recently, residents of Downers Grove have begun to participate in welcoming refugees of Ukraine into their homes, hoping to offer some normalcy to families that have been heartbreakingly displaced. The response to the phrase, “Glory to Ukraine” is “Slava Heroyam,” or “Glory to its Heroes.” As we witness the modern-day heroism and bravery of the Ukrainian people, it is clear that Downers Grove is comprised of its own heroes helping fight this war from afar. While I’ve likely only captured a fraction of the efforts that have taken place, the unwavering support and generosity of Downers Grove has been nothing short of extraordinary. Our family is confident that, as it has for centuries, the will of the Ukrainian people will prevail in its fight for freedom and democracy. With the continued help of communities such as Downers Grove, Ukraine will undoubtedly live in glory forever. For information on how to help the people and refugees of Ukraine, please e-mail adriankarawan@gmail.com. ■

A SAMPLING OF THE VARIOUS MEDICAL SUPPLIES AND TACTICAL GEAR FOR CIVILIANS TO BE DISTRIBUTED ON THE FRONT LINES.

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Downers Grove Magazine |Food & Drink

HAIL TO THE CHEF

Drake Oak Brook Hotel’s Executive Chef, Ezequiel Dominguez BY LARRY ATSEFF

S

ome of the biggest names in dining are located in Oak Brook.

Yet, one of the biggest, busiest, and best kitchens in Oak Brook isn’t even associated with those big names. The chef that runs the whole operation is very quiet and unassuming but he is extremely well accomplished. His name: Ezequiel Dominguez, Executive Chef, Drake Oak Brook Hotel.

PHOTO COURTESY OF EZEQUIEL DOMINGUEZ

It’s one thing to take care of breakfast, lunch, or dinner crowds with the same menus and times, day after day. There is a routine you can count on. It’s quite another thing when preparing several wildly different and delicious menu items at the same time. After all, the Drake Oak Brook Hotel, is a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel, top-of-a-line luxury hotel, serving business travel, as well as local residents. 80

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

At the Drake Oak Brook Hotel, there’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, each with its own menu. There’s room service. There’s the elegant, intimate Colonial Room. The Polo Lounge is where you can enjoy drinks and a meal. There’s the Sinatra Room for private parties. There are outdoor patios and even “igloos” for outdoor dining in the winter. There are banquets for conventions and meetings for hundreds at a time. There’s a full brunch serving a couple


of Ezequiel in Santo Tomás, Estado de México in the south of the Republic of Mexico. He has always liked being in the kitchen. When he was five years old, he helped his mother; she taught him how to make delicious tapas and bread and he follows the recipes to this day. Speaking of which, he says: “In the beginning, I learned how to follow instructions and follow the recipe. When you do this, the food comes out like it’s supposed to.” GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWICH GRILLED CHICKEN BREAST, AVOCADO, BABY SPINACH, SLICED TOMATO, SMOKED APPLE BACON, PROVOLONE CHEESE, CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE IN TOMATO FOCACCIA BREAD AND FRENCH FRIES

of hundred, every Sunday. There are bridal showers. And weddings…lots of them…twenty alone in the first two months of 2022.

He has become an expert in Mediterranean cuisines such as Spanish tapas, classic American cuisine, and French-infused cuisine. Following the recipe and teaching this to all his kitchen help is part of the secret to the success of the kitchen. While the kitchen is large, he works with a relatively small staff, up to 10 on a busy night. “Everyone follows the recipe, the steps. That’s the only way we can handle the wide variety of meals and different serving counts at the same time.”

CHILEAN SEA BASS PAN SEARED CHILEAN SEA BASS, CITRUS CRUSTED WHIT FORBIDDEN RICE, STIR VEGETABLES AND SWEET SOY GLAZE.

Colonial Room on your right and the Polo Lounge on your left. But then you are reminded there is so much more when you notice the meeting areas, ready and waiting to be used, or already in use.

A special word about The Colonial Room. It is a great, quiet place for lunch or dinner in an elegant, relaxed atmosphere, at surprisingly reasonable On top of all this and coming prices. Two favorites at lunch: Grilled soon, a kitchen for a restaurant Chicken & Avocado sandwich, featuring international cuisine. Later and Stacked Meatloaf. A on this year, a large, luxury swimming pool is being “In the beginning, I learned how to favorite at dinner is the Chilean Sea Bass or Filet added, complete with food follow instructions and follow the Mignon. Naturally, tapas and drink amenities. and other Spanish delicacies recipe. When you do this, the food And all the food, for all are also on the menu. There the activities, come from one comes out like it’s supposed to.” is even a High Tea. large kitchen managed and — EZEQUIEL DOMINGUEZ, From the outside, the led by Ezequiel. Executive Chef, Drake Oak Brook Hotel renovated Drake Oak Brook We asked Jim Nagle, owner Hotel, is a beautiful hotel When the kitchen is humming, he of the Drake, how he was able to find with 154 rooms. And, now you know someone who can manage it all. He watches over the stations and helps it is also home to delicious dining you said, “My wife Tely discovered Chef where he sees the need for an extra can enjoy in so many ways, thanks (Dominguez) working at a downtown hand. to Ezequiel, his kitchen and his restaurant in Chicago in 2010. We In addition to watching the kitchen, talented staff. ■ hired him to run a tapas restaurant for he has to make sure the wait staff is us in Indiana. Then he was working well trained and up to speed on the for us in Kane County, and in 2015, he menus and the day’s specials. joined us here at the Drake, after some When he is not supervising in the extensive renovations took place. back or the front, he is ordering the The Drake Oak Brook Hotel, is a food. He adds, “We get everything far cry from the humble beginnings fresh, nothing frozen.” When it comes to beverages, he has help from in-house expertise. In addition to a large kitchen, there is also a very large commissary space to take in all the food and store all equipment it takes to set up the tables, meeting rooms, and dining rooms, and constantly keep things clean and safe. When you walk through the hotel entrance you see the intimate DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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POLO LOUNGE


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911 N. ELM, SUITE 230 | HINSDALE, IL | 630-323-4468 | WWW.HINSDALEDENTISTRY.COM


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