Batavia's Barnwood & Beeswax marketplace now carrying The Chocolate Shoppe creations
Last week, my "chocolate radar" went up last week when sensing that Batavia suddenly entered the sweets game with The Chocolate Shoppe display in the Barnwood & Beeswax marketplace at 14 N. Island Ave.
"It's the first chocolate shop in Batavia that I am aware of," said Andie Groff, owner of The Chocolate Shoppe operation, which essentially is the building of single-wall displays in marketplaces throughout the area.
The Chocolate Shoppe in Batavia eventually came about because of the slow winter seasons at Starved Rock in Utica and two years of road construction in Yorkville.
Groff and her family started their chocolate business with a full store and kitchen in downtown Utica in 2009, where it operated for five years. But reality was setting in, as Groff realized that the drop in business during the winter doldrums at the Starved Rock tourist attraction created financial hits the business couldn't withstand.
So they moved the chocolate operation into Yorkville in 2014 and did great business until road construction in town, especially at the intersection of routes 34 and 47 where the store was located, brought everything to a halt.
"We couldn't get people to come into the store, so we offered delivery for a while, but it was not enough to sustain the business," said Groff, whose family now lives in Big Rock, near Sugar Grove.
The Chocolate Shoppe then became a "pop-up" business operation in which it would appear in various stores for short periods. That concept transformed into getting established at marketplaces, featuring an array of chocolate candy, fudge, cookies and other creations -- all of which are gluten- and allergy-free products.
"Those co-op places started popping up everywhere, and it was a more permanent fixture for us," Groff said. "In time, we maybe would have a storefront again, but we don't have to be on-site all of the time in the marketplace setup."
Because her husband was born in Batavia, Groff always wanted to have a display there. Still, the concept has resulted in her also setting up The Chocolate Shoppe in Naperville, North Aurora, South Beloit, Yorkville and Janesville, Wisconsin, with Bloomingdale and Highland, Indiana, coming in the fall.
Barnwood & Beeswax owners Joseph and Kristin Goulakos were happy to add The Chocolate Shoppe to their cast of 14 vendors at the Batavia site, which features home décor and country-style items.
"I've been in woodworking for 20 years," Joseph said. "And I would say 75% or more of the items in this marketplace are handmade by the vendors."
It's a concept the Goulakoses know well, having an operation called Farmhouse Creations that features their furnishings, carpentry and other decor.
Joseph is not shy in mentioning his belief that wife Kristin "makes the best candles in the world."
And now their marketplace also features some pretty darn good chocolate.
It's well documented that I love chocolate, which makes Third Street in Geneva a nice spot for me to scratch that itch with the various shops offering sweets. But I most certainly welcome Batavia to this fray and will pass along this note: "GG's Old Fashioned Toffee" at The Chocolate Shoppe is terrific.
An entertainment bonanza
The Arcada Theatre in downtown St. Charles is back up and running, and frontman Ron Onesti is bringing along the other new entities, including his Rock 'N Za pizza joint right next to the theater.
As usual, folks with no investment or worry about whether Onesti's plans to expand upon the Arcada Theatre work out or not were taking potshots on Facebook earlier this year. They took shots at whether Rock 'N Za would last longer than the ill-fated Gordy's Quick Mart at that site.
Regardless of the idiocy often endured on Facebook, we should all hope this business thrives.
The potential for this part of downtown's Main Street is unlimited -- with Onesti's vision of what he wants the Arcada and nearby adjoining properties to become, as well as the future plans for The Graceful Ordinary restaurant at the site of the former Harris Bank building across Riverside Avenue.
As development on both sides of First Street continues and the pandemic eases as more people get vaccinated, we are certain to see downtown St. Charles again become an extraordinary entertainment destination.
Farmstand for sharing
The fact that 7-year-old Roy Rauch of Batavia was curious about his mother's community garden plot has turned out to be good for those who can't always afford to buy produce.
The Rauch family recently introduced "Roy's Take What You Need Farmstand" at 2S676 Hart Road.
The produce he grows in his garden is made available to those in the community who can benefit from the fresh vegetables.
"Roy is part of the DO program at Hoover-Wood (elementary school in Batavia), and he came up with the idea when we were talking about the Batavia Community Garden and about how there is spot in that garden that I grow produce to give to the Interfaith Food Pantry," said his mother, Amanda Rauch.
Roy began asking about what happens if people can't get to the food pantry, and "that is where the idea stemmed from," she added.
Others have been chipping in produce for Roy's stand, and the family has a double plot in the community garden as well. A family friend gave Roy some produce to get the stand started while waiting for his own plantings to grow.
Anyone who would like to donate food or plants for the stand can contact Amanda Rauch through Facebook Messenger.
Back to the crowds
The signs of getting back to normal have been unfolding on a weekly basis, but one that would tell me enough people have been smart enough to get the COVID vaccine and enjoy life again would take place if Third Street in Geneva were blocked off for an event.
And that is scheduled to happen next weekend when the Geneva Arts Fair returns to the downtown area along Third Street.
It takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 24 and Sunday, July 25.
Finding the invaders
The Kane County Forest Preserve District news release sounded ominous enough.
"There are underwater invaders in our local streams and rivers, and we want you to help us find them."
The district called out for help from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, to find rusty crayfish at the Glenwood Park Forest Preserve in Batavia or at Ferson Creek Park in St. Charles.
It describes a rusty crayfish as a tiny aquatic creature that's an invasive species in Kane County.
Basically, families are needed to dip nets to collect, identify and remove these crayfish.
If someone asked us to volunteer for this sort of thing about 30 years ago, our family would have been all over it. A favorite outing for my son and his buddies unfolded at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve, where they would spend hours catching crayfish in the creek.
I would echo the forest preserve district's advice on this one. Wear closed-toe shoes and clothes that can get muddy.
No registration is required for this program, but information is available at (630) 444-3190. Glenwood Park is at 1644 S. River St. in Batavia, and Ferson Creek Park is on Route 31, east of Wildrose Springs Drive in St. Charles.