North Shore old-timers often wax nostalgic about hanging out at soda fountains, dime stores and penny arcades. They had such options in the golden age of small town retail, well before strip malls, big-box stores and the Internet radically altered the streetscape of American suburbs.
But all is not lost for those who yearn for a return to simpler times.
Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate (HCRE) is betting big on small town, main street retail with a new family-friendly entertainment concept aimed at giving kids a destination to play, eat and gather with friends in the heart of downtown Winnetka.
“We realized Winnetka is missing a hangout that’s not a coffee shop,” HCRE CEO Greg Hoffmann says.
“Kids,” he adds, “need a place downtown to meet up and socialize.”
Construction is underway for an entertainment center inside the multi-tenant Winnetka Walk complex at 552 Lincoln Avenue, where the independent toy store Beat Street has already opened, and plans for a new video arcade and gelato store are underway.
HCRE — owner and manager of a portfolio of property holdings along the North Shore and in Missouri, Colorado and Florida — is the largest owner of commercial property in Winnetka.
The North Shore-based company hopes to create a vibrant hub to attract local families and visitors to the downtown area — foot traffic likely to spill over to other retailers and restaurants in Winnetka’s central business district.
Hoffmann says the company polled the opinions of children in the community, taking note of their current routines and interests.
Designs for the entertainment concept also include a central courtyard space where parents can relax while their young children explore.
“The sheltered courtyard,” Hoffmann says, “will make Winnetka Walk a comfortable and appealing community hub throughout the year.”
Adelheidi’s — HCRE’s Naples, Florida-based enterprise — will open in Winnetka Walk in October, selling organic, gluten-free gelato and baked goods.
“Adelheidi’s is as healthy as ice cream and snack food can be,” Hoffmann says.
Pending approval from the Winnetka Village Council at its next regular meeting on September 18, HCRE will also begin construction on a classic video arcade, featuring games that appeal to all ages, and a separate space for birthday parties.
Beat Street, the third component in Hoffmann’s new entertainment concept, opened its Winnetka Walk doors to customers in late August.
After learning of Hoffmann’s plans, Beat Street owner and longtime Winnetka resident Julie Windsor decided to relocate her toy boutique from Park Drive in Kenilworth back to Winnetka, where it opened its doors for the first time more than 15 years ago.
“I was intrigued by this new concept,” Windsor says. “I like that it gives people a place to go, instead of just offering retail.”
Windsor says Beat Street is a toy emporium based on an old-fashioned dime store, featuring “off the beaten path” retro-style candy, vintage collectibles, puzzles, games, accessories and arts and crafts ranging from $5-$20.
“Beat Street is more about the experience of discovering something than just acquiring it,” saysWindsor, who taught art in the Chicago Public School system for 10 years.
Windsor is planning a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony for Beat Street, in partnership with the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce, on September 19.
“We’re excited to be back in Winnetka,” Windsor says.