Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Experience the “Downtown Difference”

Long time, no read.

My apologies to all my rabid readers (all three of you…thanks Mom, Dad and Grandma) but life in Downtown Elgin has been crazy for the past few weeks. Crazy good, that is.

On October 2, the DNA celebrated our 10th Anniversary with a gala that was off the heezy. (Grandma, that means it was really great.) The Fox River Room at the Grand Victoria Casino was packed with people and a common purpose – to celebrate the remarkable changes that have happened in downtown Elgin over the past decade.

And because it was a black-tie affair, there were some remarkable changes in the appearance of our attendees, as well.

We hardly recognized Shelley Costello of TranSystems, the construction supervisor on the downtown streetscape project, without her dusty jeans, concrete-caked work boots and orange vest. Shelley was absolutely fabulous in a sparkling black dress and a well-quaffed hairdo. Lou Gramm, owner of the Elgin Public House, presented Shelley with a special award from the downtown businesses for her excellent customer service throughout the construction process.

Other awards included Extraordinary Volunteer – Janet Schmoyer; Excellence in Business – Ziegler’s Ace Hardware; Outstanding Member – Bill Jones of Kirkpatrick, Jones and Herzog Insurance Agency; Remarkable Renovation – Ravenheart Coffee/Salon Couture; and the President’s Award presented to Steve Munson.

The DNA also paid a special tribute to Mayor Ed Schock for a decade of dedicated partnership and support for downtown revitalization.

Thanks to all of our wonderful sponsors for making the gala a night to remember.

You can view Gala photos taken by awesome photographer Marina Makropoulos here >>

So, I went from the gala – decked out in a gorgeous navy blue organza cocktail dress and four inch heels – to Tom’s Auto Clinic a few days later in a t-shirt, ripped up jeans and gym shoes.

Who says there isn’t something for everyone in Downtown Elgin?

My “Day in the Life of a Downtown Business” project continued at Tom’s Auto Clinic on Prairie Street on October 10.

My first customer of the day told me he had read about my project in the paper and said to himself, “With my luck, she’ll be at Tom’s the day I have to take my car in.” And there I was. With that kind of luck he should have walked up the street and pulled a handle on a slot machine.

I didn’t learn to change oil or a tire, but I did learn what it is that makes places like Tom’s and all of our “mom and pop” shops so special – sincere and personal customer service.

Tom and his wife Jan don’t know their customers by their VIN number or the make and model of their car. They know them by their names. And they know their children’s names and grandchildren’s names. And when they ask their customers how they are doing, they really want to know.

Let’s call it “the downtown difference.”

I invite you to experience “the downtown difference” at our restaurants, shops and service providers. You’ll be glad that you did.

Top Picture: From left to right: Rick Floyd, Councilman John Steffen and Charles Burnidge enjoy themselves at the DNA's 10th Anniversary Gala on October 2. Photo by Marina Makropoulos.

Bottom Picture: Tom Brockner of Tom's Auto Clinic shows me around the undercarriage of a car. Photo courtesy of the Daily Herald.