Pandemic reevaluation leads to Gurnee couple's business venture in downtown Libertyville
A couple's decision to rethink their lives during the COVID pandemic is transforming the former Starbucks store in downtown Libertyville.
The Joyful Gourmet, Dan and Kim Schlicksup's first business venture, was cooked up last January on a road trip home to Gurnee from Arizona.
Dan, an engineer for 27 year at Motorola, traveled extensively but was grounded by the pandemic. Kim had been an accountant before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
The long drive home gave them ample time to determine what the next decade might hold. The answer was in the couple's love of good food and cooking with friends and family.
"I said, 'What if we opened a kitchen store?'" Kim recalled. They enjoy cooking together, and dinners at home have always been part of how the family spent time together, she added.
Work on that vision is moving fast. An opening is anticipated Thanksgiving week.
The couple want to share their love of food and cooking by offering classes and events and selling quality pots, pans, cutlery sets, bakeware and other equipment.
"Right now, everything we've ordered is sitting in my living room in boxes," Kim said Friday while checking the progress. "I started ordering in August."
Various locations were considered, but the decision wasn't tough, she said.
"But we kept coming back to main-street Libertyville for the community, the shop-local culture, the events, walking-distance residential community (and) the great restaurants," she said.
There is a time and place for the convenience of online shopping or carryout dinners, according to Kim. But sharing a tangible experience for customers is a priority.
"This is about community, so brick and mortar is necessary," she said. "We love the idea of being a walking destination versus a strip-mall driving destination."
They were drawn to the prominent southeast corner of School Street and Milwaukee Avenue for the available space, history, architecture and huge windows with a view of the streetscape.
The three-story brick building was erected in 1903 for the First National Bank of Libertyville, which occupied the ground floor corner. Later, it became one of the area's early Starbucks stores and operated for 25 years until June 2020.
Various commercial uses occupied the other ground-floor spaces over the years. The Joyful Gourmet will occupy the Starbucks spot as well as the space to the south.
"Getting that second space was huge to do what we wanted to do," Kim said.
Converting the spaces has presented challenges for building owner and general contractor Jeff Lovinger. Among them were working around three large safes and installing a commercial hood and exhaust while maintaining the historic character of the structure.
"I feel it will be one of the best buildings downtown," he said. "We went with the right thing to do, not the cheapest thing."
On the upper floors, Lovinger is converting a former theater and performing arts/assembly space to eight rental units. Those are expected to be ready by the end of the year.
He's also converting a separate but attached building at 111 School St., for what is planned as Duck Donuts' first Illinois location.