McHenry Riverwalk Shoppes open for business

Tiny shops will be incubator for local businesses

Store owner Kristina Dillard along with husband, Nick, hang the sign for their tiny shop, Sub Urban Design, during the grand opening and ribbon cutting of the new McHenry Riverwalk Shoppes in downtown McHenry on Friday, July 21, 2023.

Danny Springer baked for 19 hours straight so he would have 13 flats of bread ready for The Bumble Bread Co. on Friday.

Demand was so high on his first day of business that Springer expected to sell out of the 202 loaves he made before 6 p.m., when his store was set to close.

Springer is a small-business owner who won one of the 10 McHenry Riverwalk Shoppes in December. A grand opening was held Friday morning for a crowd of about 400 people at McHenry’s Miller Point Park. Much of that crowd stayed and shopped at the new storefronts afterward.

“We have been following it on Facebook and in the newspaper. We wanted to be a part of the community and see all the shops” when they opened, said Susan Vernooy of McHenry, who was one of those shoppers. “I love this kind of stuff.”

Now that the stores are open for business, the individual shops will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, said Amy Humbracht, the Riverwalk Shoppes manager for the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce.

Some owners may choose to remain open on weekdays if they remain busy on those days, Humbracht said.

The hope, Mayor Wayne Jett said, is that the tiny shops businesses are successful so their owners decide to move into brick-and-mortar storefronts in McHenry once their leases are up.

It’s something some of the tenants already are talking about, Julie Skaggs of the Mad Soyentist Candle Co. said.

As part of their lease agreements, the tenants were required to attend workshop classes over the past six months.

Those classes included topics such as social media, marketing, taxes and regulations, Skaggs said. It also meant a lot of time talking.

“We are all friends now. A couple of us have talked about doing a co-op after the six months” when their leases are up, Skaggs said.

The city isn’t kicking them out, but it does want to rotate new small businesses into the space each year. Applications for the 2024 season will be available on the Chamber’s website in mid-August, Humbracht said.

A couple of us have talked about doing a co-op after the six months.”

—  Mad Soyentist Candle Co. owner Julie Skaggs

Humbracht noted the cooperation, volunteerism and donations needed to get the shops open.

Students in McHenry High School trades classes built the walls during the 2022-23 school year. Design students came up with the Riverwalk Shoppes logo, Humbracht said.

In total, 924 people volunteered to aid in construction, 59 businesses and residents donated lunches for those volunteers, and $894,050 in money and product was donated, Humbracht said

“That doesn’t count the $2.27 million that the city of McHenry is putting into this project,” Humbracht said.

McHenry’s portion of the project includes site preparation and redeveloping Miller Point Park.

In December, the City Council approved the Riverwalk Shoppes, new public bathrooms, a spray pad and a new venue for outdoor music in the park.

Construction started March 20, with the first tiny shop wall going up May 1, McHenry Parks and Recreation Director Bill Hobson said.

The bathrooms should be done in two weeks, and the entire park redevelopment should be finished by Sept. 1, Hobson said.

Once the project is complete, Miller Point and the shops become the Riverwalk’s hub, Hobson said.

“It makes McHenry special” and a destination for people coming into town and shopping, he said.

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