A couple’s decision to rethink their lives during the COVID pandemic is transforming the former Starbucks store in downtown Libertyville.
the Happy Gourmet, Dan and Kim Schlicksup’s first business venture, was cooked up last January on a road trip to Gurnee from Arizona.
Dan, an engineer for 27 years at Motorola, has traveled extensively but has been grounded by the pandemic. Kim had been an accountant before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
The long drive home gave them plenty of time to figure out what the next decade might hold for them. The answer was in the couple’s love for good food and cooking with friends and family.
“I said, ‘How about we open a kitchen store?'” Kim recalls. They love to cook together and home dinners have always been part of how the family spent time together, she added.
Work on this vision is progressing rapidly. An opening is scheduled for Thanksgiving week.
The couple want to share their love of food and cooking by offering classes and events and selling quality pots, pans, cutlery, cookware and other equipment.
“Right now everything we’ve ordered is in my living room in boxes,” Kim said Friday, checking the progress. “I started ordering in August.”
Various locations were considered, but the decision was not difficult, she said.
“But we kept coming back to Main Street in Libertyville for the community, the local culture of the shops, the events, the residential community within walking distance (and) the great restaurants,” she said.
There is a time and place for the convenience of online shopping or take out dinner, according to Kim. But sharing a tangible experience for customers is a priority.
“It’s about community, so brick and mortar is needed,” she said. “We like the idea of being a walking destination versus a 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 views of the streetscape.
The three-story brick building was erected in 1903 for the First National Bank of Libertyville, which occupied the corner of the ground floor. It later became one of the first Starbucks stores in the area and operated for 25 years until June 2020.
Various commercial uses have occupied the other spaces on the ground floor over the years. The Joyful Gourmet will occupy Starbucks Square as well as the space to the south.
“Getting that second space was huge to do what we wanted to do,” Kim said.
The conversion of the spaces presented challenges for building owner and general contractor Jeff Lovinger. Among them was work around three large safes and the installation of a commercial hood and exhaust while maintaining the historic character of the structure.
“I think it will be one of the best buildings in the city center,” he said. “We chose the right thing to do, not the cheapest thing.”
On the upper floors, Lovinger is converting a former theater and performing arts / assembly space into eight rental units. These should be ready by the end of the year.
It is also converting a separate but adjoining building at 111 School Street to what is slated to be Duck Donuts’ first location in Illinois.