Celebrating the accomplishments of its business community has become a tradition for the City of West Chicago. Now in its fifth year, the Brilliance in Business Awards program honors successful business establishments within City limits in five chosen categories: Small Business of the Year, Green Initiatives, Community Service, Economic Development and Community Image.
Small Business of the Year
FreshGround Roast opened its doors in West Chicago at 100 Arbor Avenue two years ago. Owners Kristen and Eric Andersen’s establishment of a roasting facility in the heart of the community has brought renewed energy and interest downtown. The business imports coffee beans from around the world by direct trade, working with a foundation that ensures that poor farmers in developing nations directly benefit from their sale. The roasting facility supplies coffee to cafes in Geneva, Elmhurst and Wayne, as well as enjoys steady online sales. It is a fine example of a quality niche business and one which embraces a global mission while maintaining a local community focus. From creative marketing strategies like conducting coffee classes and developing special blends of coffee for organizations, to exposure at area Farmers’ Markets in Kane and DuPage Counties, FreshGround Roast is making a name for itself.
The award for Green Initiatives to USAgain, a for-profit green business, is fitting considering the level of involvement and support CEO Mattias Wallender and his team have shown to the environment through the company’s mission of diverting clothing and textiles from landfills. USAgain collects clothing to be reused and recycled; in 2012, they diverted 58 million pounds of textiles from landfills across the U.S. Last year, USAgain created and hosted the Homecoming Goes Green dress give-away event at their office in West Chicago. As well as raising awareness with students about the impact of textile waste, the event offered teens an opportunity to select a new or lightly-used dress for use at their homecoming dance. USAgain works with local schools, nonprofits and municipalities on many other events in the surrounding area, with a focus on diverting clothing from landfills and helping communities become more sustainable. USAgain’s Chicago division and corporate headquarters is located at 1555 W Hawthorne Road, Suite 4W.
State Bank of Illinois is a well-deserving winner of this year’s Community Service Award considering the level of involvement and support it has shown through its enthusiastic efforts to create and promote the spirit of community in West Chicago. The business has existed in West Chicago since 1808, and two of its employees have celebrated milestone anniversaries with the bank - one 60 and the other 50 years of service. Community President Larry Boward has empowered his staff to actively contribute as members of the City’s Blooming Fest, Frosty Fest and Mexican Independence Day committees, and they have taken these events to new levels. State Bank’s involvement with other service and business organizations, including the Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce and Board positions with several not-for-profits, has demonstrated a true commitment to the betterment of our community. Plus, its support through the creation of a Community Display Board prominently located within the Bank is equally effective for creating and developing lasting community relationships.
Embracing its possibility, rather than viewing the Galena Street reconstruction project as a nuisance and detriment to day to day business operations, El Coco Loco Mexican Grill owners Irma and Miguel Proa proactively worked with the City and the Historical Preservation Commission on ideas that would leverage the changes to their advantage, proving innovation is all in one's approach to a challenging situation. The resulting addition of a 50 feet x 13 feet outdoor dining area to El Coco Loco has great curb appeal and offers people the delightful option of al fresco dining – a natural fit for such a downtown venue. Plus, it provided a great boost for business. The stamped concrete patio, decorative wrought iron fence, brick pillars with stone inlay and great-looking outdoor dining furniture have attracted regular and new customers. Irma and Miguel Proa’s investment in their business at 205 Main Street, and in their community, contributes to the overall enjoyment of a quality dining experience for residents, visitors and other local businesses.
Community Image Award:
As a West Chicago icon since 1961, Cascade Drive-in at 1100 East North Avenue is one of the last of a dying breed of entertainment venue that has brought the thrill of outdoor movie viewing to generations of local and regional families. The recent publicity that was generated when Cascade Drive-in converted to new digital equipment shined a positive light not only on the business, but on the entire community. The conversion to digital equipment has positioned Cascade Drive-in for the future. Owner Jeff Kohlberg, who has been involved with the family–owned business since he was eight years old, recognized the need to modernize. Previously, movies were received by the theater in a series of reels which were then spliced together onto one large reel in order to run as one complete movie. The move to digital significantly simplifies the process and enhances the quality of the picture and the experience. Kohlberg’s commitment to keeping the nostalgia of a great American, family-friendly tradition alive, and his decision to make the investment in its West Chicago location, is commendable.