Tiny stores under construction for McHenry Riverwalk plans – Shaw Local
In 20 or 30 years, McHenry High School students Kyle Lindquist and Brian Blau may be showing their own children the tiny shops they helped build for McHenry’s Miller Point.
The Town of McHenry, the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce and the RISE Up Foundation also hope that in the future, area entrepreneurs will point to the stores as where they started their first business.
“They will be leased for a season,” said McHenry chamber president Molly Ostap. “The intention is to give someone the opportunity to test an idea before going to a brick-and-mortar place.”
By summer 2023, the city plans to install 10 tiny shops as part of the Miller Point master plan. The students and their teacher plan to have the walls built before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Small business owners are encouraged to rent these shops for the season as a business incubator. If successful in smaller stores, the hope is that tenants would move into community retail stores.
Carl Vallianatos, assistant superintendent of McHenry High School District 156, brought the idea to Ostap after seeing the Batavia Boardwalk Shops.
For the past three years, this Kane County town has been inviting small businesses to rent the tiny stores for their season.
As a chamber council member, Vallianatos knew the city was looking for Miller Point ideas, and as District 156 official, he knew high school construction students could build the tiny stores. His design students could do the designs and the marketing students his logo.
“It morphed into this huge collaborative project, … the 2.0 plan which is bigger, better and more elaborate,” Ostap said.
Over the summer, 18-year-old Lindquist and 17-year-old Blau, both seniors at McHenry High School, volunteered to help their construction teacher, Dan Rohman, build the first prototype for the tiny stores.
Now his construction students are learning by doing how to build walls for the two different-sized stores planned. One will be 12ft by 12ft and the other will be 12ft by 16ft.
Once the walls are complete, McHenry’s Parks and Recreation Department will store them and Rohman’s classes will begin on the rooftops.
Then in the spring of 2023, the tiny shops will be placed on foundations at Miller Point. Each building will have electricity and units for the heating and cooling of the stores.
There were a few bumps along the way during construction, Lindquist and
Blau said. While building the prototype this summer, they determined that the store’s window and door were too close together to accommodate electrical boxes, Lindquist said. “We had to fix that and reduce the window size,” he said.
“It was kind of a stepping stone” to learning the construction trade, Blau said. “If you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world” and you correct it.
The duo and students from other classes have had seven or eight meetings with city and chamber officials during the 2021-22 school year. They also met with teachers, Vallianatos and other volunteers to plan stores and a marketing plan.
“That’s pretty cool,” Blau and Lindquist said in unison.
Rohman thought the tiny stores and having them built by construction students “was a great idea” when Vallianatos suggested it.
“I didn’t know the magnitude or the level of that, originally,” Rohman said.
Working on stores in the classroom changed her teaching plans for the year. “Usually we go slower and are more structured. It’s aggressive to start a project so quickly,” he said.
In a recent lesson, he covered the measurement of exterior walls and remembered to subtract the thickness of two 2 x 4-inch pieces of lumber to get the interior dimensions.
It’s not just her class that’s part of the little boutique project. Graphic design students created the project logos and marketing students are working on promotional and other marketing plans.
With proper maintenance and a solid foundation, the stores could stand for decades, Rohman said.
While area businesses have paid for or provided lumber, roofing materials and other needed supplies, more donations are needed to complete the project, Rohman said.
All proceeds from the RISE Up Foundation’s Splash Into Country Concert Festival, scheduled for September 16-17 in Petersen Park, will go to the Miller Point and Riverwalk Project, Mayor Wayne Jett said.
The tiny shops are “pretty important” to the overall final plans for the park, Jett said.
Once the site of a restaurant that burned down, the tiny stores are the keystone of the overall revamp, Jett said. The presence of stores here will also help attract foot traffic to both sides of downtown McHenry.
Other parking spaces have also been added and more are planned. But making the area accessible to people walking, biking, boating or kayaking on the river is part of the overall design, Jett said.
Once open to the public, the tiny stores will be open beyond summer hours, Jett and Ostap said.
Tenants must commit to being open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May through October, Ostap said. Then they’ll “move on to a holiday market in November and December and ShamROCKS the Fox in March, for St. Patrick’s Day the following year.”
“It’s not quite year-round, but for most of the year it will be the location of Riverwalk Shops,” she said.