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National, regional restaurant chains eyeing McHenry, consultant says

‘McHenry is definitely prime for growth,’ consultant says

Restaurant brands with locations across the region and the nation are interested in expanding into McHenry, a consultant who recruits retailers for local governments told the city Monday, putting the city in a strong position to capitalize on some of the housing growth expected to take place over the coming years.

Kyle Cofer, a project director for consultant The Retail Coach, said he is optimistic about McHenry’s chances to compete with other suburban markets both in northern Illinois and the rest of the nation for luring new food service businesses with plans to grow.

While brands like Caribou Coffee, White Castle, Krispy Kreme and Jason’s Deli said McHenry isn’t on their respective radars for expansion at the moment, Chick-fil-A has said “McHenry is a lower priority at the moment,” and Cofer said an answer other than a total rejection can be a good sign.

Many other brands, which Cofer has not yet publicly named, provided more positive responses when asked about adding a store in McHenry.

That includes a breakfast restaurant chain with a local and regional footprint that is looking for 4,000 square feet in which to open in downtown McHenry; a national pasta restaurant brand that said “McHenry is a possibility for us” and is looking for 1,800 to 2,200 square feet of space with a drive-thru; as well as a local Thai restaurant with one location already that is considering opening another.

The Retail Coach is pushing the Thai restaurateur to make McHenry the second location, and also reported a national smoothie brand said, “McHenry is in our development plan,” but is in need of a franchisee to develop a business location.

Also, a casual sit-down restaurant brand with a national footprint is interested in the market area and is reviewing sites in which to potentially expand, Cofer’s report to the McHenry City Council said.

The Retail Coach has been working with the city for a little more than six months on gathering demographic and cellphone location data pertinent to McHenry’s shopping and dining scene, in order to share that data with retailers whose ideal customer base matches the area’s profile.

“McHenry is definitely prime for growth, which is supported by some of the data,” Cofer said in an interview.

The cellphone data analysis performed so far by The Retail Coach shows McHenry’s retailers draw customers from as far north as Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, from where between 21,600 and 32,600 visits were generated.

But McHenry’s primary retail trade area – the area the vast majority of customers of the city’s retailers came from – runs from Genoa City, Wisconsin, to the north, Harvard to the west, and the northern edge of Crystal Lake to the south.

It includes a population of 223,967 now, the consultant found, and is projected to grow to 224,420 by 2026, with an average household income of $99,634 and a per capita income of $36,130, with 17.9% of the population having attained a bachelor’s degree and nearly 9% a graduate or professional degree.

Those figures form a strong profile, Cofer said, but recruitment of the brands the city wants and The Retail Coach has approached so far can take one to two years, depending on the space that’s available in a given city.

“A lot of times the perfect site can speed up this process a lot. That’s for regional and national brands,” Cofer said.

With some of the new housing approved by the city and more potentially on the way, McHenry is in a “great spot” to add retailers as it adds rooftops, Cofer said.

That’s a trend Cofer expects to see across suburban markets, where some population growth has been fueled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and more ability to work from home.

“We’re seeing a rejuvenated focus on these suburban markets, whether that’s in California, Texas or Illinois,” Cofer said.

McHenry City Administrator Derik Morefied said he is pleased with the work the consultant has done so far and is confident it will pay dividends.

The McHenry City Council hired the consultant in May at a cost of $19,750 for work this year and into next year, the Northwest Herald reported at the time.

“The perspective that they give is they work all over the country and they have some relationships with companies that locate all over the place,” he said.

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.