Monthly Archives: July 2008

Dark Knight double-take…Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent vs. Real World Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway

As I settled in to enjoy the Dark Knight in a darkened Naperville theater a couple of weeks ago, I had to do a double-take as the character of Harvey Dent appeared on screen. 

You see, back in the mid-90s, before moving from Kentucky to Chicago and exiting politics, I worked in the Office of Governor Paul Patton (KY).  Among our staff was a young lawyer named Jack Conway.  I haven’t seen Jack in a number of years; however, his political star is on the rise as he was recently elected as Kentucky’s Attorney General.  By the image above, the irony is not lost as you compare side-by-side pictures of the fictional Harvey Dent from the Dark Knight and the real world Attorney General Jack Conway.

Jack, if you happen to read this, congratulations on serving the Commonwealth and always know you will always be a better man for the people than Harvey Dent turned out to be in the Dark Knight.

Wayfarer Candle Company a Downtown Naperville business story and experience we need

Last month, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend from NYC were in town for a quick visit.  Given the fact this was her beloved’s first trip to Naperville, it was no-brainer that we would spend a day strolling through Downtown Naperville.  With the kids in tow, we were walking down Jefferson Avenue and suddenly noticed a fragrant aroma drifting through the air.  We literally stopped in our tracks and looked to our left to find an open door and stairwell leading down to one of the subterranean commercial spaces.

The sign outside read  Wayfarer Candles .  How could I have missed this place I thought?  At this point, let’s examine the facts.  Exhibit A, you have candles.  Exhibit B, you have extremely fragrant candles.  Needless to say, the bait worked and my wife and her sister led the way as we carefully navigated the steps down into the smaller-than-expected space along with the kids.

What we discovered was nothing short of a breath of fresh air amidst the stale debate as of late around skyrocketing commercial rent and new downtown development which will be delivering additional national chains to Naperville. 

Believe or not, this tight space houses both a product showroom and studio space where the candles are actually blended and poured.  We’re talking candles made from soy bean oil and custom blended fragrances.  You can imagine I was a bit nervous with my two little anxious guys in an ultra-small shop filled with candles in glass.  However, all of a sudden the owner, Mike, walked over and the tables turned as he invited my two sons into the next room to see how the candles are actually made.  Mike walked us through the entire process from the melting, to fragrance selection/blending to perhaps the greatest conversational piece which is a depression-era safe complete with a large heavy door (pictured above). 

Believe it or not, the experience of seeing and learning more about this process proved fascinating for all of us, especially the little guys.  I’ve written about the difference between a business and an “experience” and Mike’s passion creates a true experience which is both memorable and worth recommending to others.  In the end, we were all given a traditional gift which the boys picked out.

As my wife concluded some purchases, I spent some time talking to Mike and learned that he and his wife had been living in New Orleans before Hurrican Katrina.  He was working as a chef and they both loved the Big Easy.  However, after becoming displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the couple settled here in Naperville and launched their Wayfarer dream which transcends a mere shop to a large scale market strategy sell their candles through channels in bulk as well as private label deals.  In the end, we were all given a traditional gift which the boys picked out.  For now, the store is a public face for Wayfarer candles and let’s hope we can keep them there.

In a nutshell, this is precisely the type of entreprenuerial vision our community should be supporting wholeheartedly.  A start-up business which is well on its way to possibly becoming a national household name given the scope of their strategy.  I encourage everyone to support this new business which may one day require a local corporate headquarters of its own. 

Wayfarer Candles is located at 34 West Jefferson Avenue.  Be sure to follow the fragrance and look down as the store is located beneath the recently closed Antique Mall.  I’m sure Mike would love to take you on a tour.

Portraits of Downtown photography exhibit to end on July 31st

Just a quick post to let everyone know that the Portraits of Downtown photography exhibit at Art and Frame Naperville will end on July 31st. 

If you haven’t had a chance to drop by to view this unique perspective of our downtown, I hope you will have a chance to do so before the exhibit ends. 

“Portraits of Downtown” is open now through July 31st at Art and Frame Naperville (702 West Fifth Avenue, behind Naperville North High School) M-F 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM and Saturday from 9:30 – 4:00.  SM

Omnia arts project once again proves all Naperville politics are local and that the safety of anonymity brings out the worst in people

First, I want to applaud Bev Frier on what appears to be a big vision for having the arts take a larger center stage here in Naperville.  Like so many, I’ve only heard minor details and innuendo regarding the project, yet at least we are talking about the future potential of the arts within our community.  Time will be the judge as to whether it is the best time, project and location for Naperville.

I’ve been reading with great interest and disgust the Naperville Potluck Blog postings regarding the political maneuvering and, perhaps, naivity swirling around us these days.  It’s at least nice that people are yelling and screaming about something other than land acquisition for new high schools.  At the same time, anonymous behavior on blogs, such as the potluck, tends to bring out the worst in people and ends up making our community look regretably stupid for the most part.  There is a clear difference between a healthy and respectful debate of our collectively shared community interests and divisive inflammation of the keyboard.  The answer is live face-to-face community dialogue and I do hope that it happens soon. 

If Bev Frier had a true political agenda which transcends her stated altruistic intent, then I believe she would have played her cards much differently.  Is it the best location and project?  I guess we’ll know in time.

The one lesson I believe we are reminded of as a community is if you intend for a visionary large-scale project to become a cherished community treasure for present and future generations to enjoy then you should build the vision with the involvement and participation of those you intend to influence in obtaining support from the very beginning.  

Any form of change is, by nature, sticky business and it can only succeed through an evolutionary inclusive process of participation and well-rounded perspective.  We must examine the full picture and people must have an opportunity to invest themselves in making the determination as to what is in the best interest of our community.  SM 

Pondering Wisdom and Understanding in Life

Life is full of contradictions and irony.  How often do we get to a point where we feel we’ve found a good place only to be surprised by an unexpected “zig” when we believed there had been a “zag”?  Philosophers remind us that life is a continual learning process and that we shall all go to our graves which much left unlearned… but what is the best use of today?

My wife and I went to see The Dark Knight today and I couldn’t help but examine Heath Ledger’s performance and wonder what was going through his mind and his personal life as he delievered what I believe to be an Oscar-worthy portrayal of a very dark and disturbed personality.  From all accounts, I do believe he was a good person, but I also believe he was most likely haunted by the pressures of being “Heath Ledger” as his star continued to rise and he found himself pushed to the edge of fatique and burnout as he poured his life into his roles.  He is certainly a reminder that these fleeting moments of life are all too short. 

Life is short and how much of it are we willing to waste on waging the wars of past lifetimes and mistakes in life?  So much of life’s confusing demands sometimes just have to be let go.  As participants in the “American Dream” we all try to be super-human when we should simply be ourselves.  

I believe I mentioned it in an earlier post, but I think it is important to regularly ponder the question of what we would do differently if we learned our lives would end within one year so we that might not delay in living that life and making good on those things that matter the most.  Instead we often live our lives as though life itself will last forever.

In the end, there is something profoundly beautiful in once and for all letting go of a difficult and draining circumstance in life.  What would you like to do differently in your own life?  What would you let go?  What would you hang onto?  SM  

Cape Cod Visit and “Best Place” Ranking Has Me Thinking About Naperville’s Own Future

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about my own personal fears regarding Naperville’s future and whether or not our uniqueness and charm can be maintained.  Given our recent “best place” ranking for 2008 dropping in the near vicinity of a weeklong vacation to Cape Cod, MA, I’ve had allot to think about.

Our journey took us up into the tip of Cape Cod into North Truro, just minutes outside of Provincetown.  Aside from being a wonderfully colorful place, Provincetown is best know historically for being the first landing point for the Pilgrims dating back into the 1600s.  They remained in the area for five weeks prior to moving further inland in search of a more suitable terrain in which to settle. 

Today, Provincetown is a creative and open-minded mecca for artists, accepting of all people and a carefully preserved historic landmark watched over by the highly visible Pilgrim Monument (pictured above).  Aside from a strong art vibe and plenty of interesting people, the biggest aspect I appreciated about Provincetown was the absolute lack of any form of commercialized business or national chains.  Commercial and Bradford Streets, the epicenter of activity, is lined with endless art galleries, local theaters, music venues, bars, independent restaurants, candy shops, indulgent ice cream shops, unique one-of-a-kind shops and more which can all be accessed by foot.  Given the combination of “high brow” and “low brow” experiences, any air of pretension was lost in the coastal night air.

Provincetown is one-of-a-kind and could never be easily duplicated.  Additionally, there is a truly authentic sense of place and history.  Entreprenuership and small business rules local commerce and greenspace, including the national seashore, is abundant. 

Given all the discussion and debate I’ve heard about Naperville’s own future, including concerns from others ranging from local business leaders to residents, our greatest fear is the loss of our own uniqueness to the almighty dollar. 

We must expand our creative and innovative investment in our community and protect our downtown and other areas from becoming overly commercialized. 

We must foster a strong arts collaboration, not competition, through public and private support remembering that any art event promotes the arts community as a whole. 

We must expand public-private partnerships to foster entrepreneurship and originality, not to clear the way for national chain stores and restaurants to saturate the our downtown. 

We must create a multitude of activities downtown to create more options after dark to merge with the current nightlife. 

We must avoid the exploitation of greedy self-interest and keep the skyrocketing prices of housing and commercial space downtown to make room for all who dream of living or building new business concepts in downtown. 

We must continue to preserve and enhance our green space which has made one of the biggest differences in our community. 

We must value the richness of culture which resides in our community and continue cultivating a more metropolitian attitude driven by appreciation, understanding and acceptance for each other.  

We must also continue to give back to our world which has given us all so much in life.   

Finally, we must never forget that “community” should not be the control of the few but rather the resolve and cooperation of the many.  Let’s work together Naperville to build an even stronger future!  SM 

Mixed emotions as CNN/Money Magazine once agains selects Naperville as a best place to live in America for 2008

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see our beloved community once again receive special honors from  CNN/Money Magazine as being a best place to live in America, this time in the #3 slot.  However, given my unique vantage point as publisher of the World of Naperville and the official Naperville Examiner for the millions who visit monthly, I hear as much from the detractors as the promoters regarding perceptions of our community.

As one might suggest, our latest accolade has already incited a mixed response from around the Chicagoland area, which shaped my Naperville Examiner posting entitled CNN/Money Magazine names Naperville 3rd best place to live in America for 2008.  My point really was that being named a “best place” to live does not mean your community is a “perfect place”.  We know Naperville is far from perfect and has an assortment of shortcomings, yet it is still a badge of honor to those of us who take great pride in our community and want the rest of the world to give us a chance in having the same experience. 

It’s natural to hear the stereotypical bashing we get from proud urban-dwellers in not only being a suburb but also being “Naperville”.   However, I was a bit taken by some of the extremely nasty opinions registered online by those who claim to live in Naperville.  Though it’s never fun to hear criticisms, I believe it is important that we listen closely and count are blessings that our fellow residents care enough to complain.  Most of the complaints center not around what Naperville “is” but rather what residents are afraid Naperville is becoming… an exclusive overly commercialized oasis reserved for the priviledged and wealthy elite.

Yesterday, I walked through the downstairs exhibit at the Naper Settlement with my seven year-old and as I again reflected upon our community’s history, I couldn’t help but think of the pioneering entrpreneurial spirit of Joseph Naper and the other families who built Naperville.  It made me envision the ideal future for Naperville, and instead of over-indulged excess I see the same pioneering entrepreneurial spirit carrying us forward and preserving all that has made Naperville a best place to live.    

Stand proud Naperville and let’s answer the call to keep our community unique in the face of the growing pains which will challenge us in the coming years.  Let’s open up the next chapter in Naperville’s history through reinforcing our commitment to education, our economy, the arts, creativity, entrepreneurial energy, our greenspace, fighting to preserve the uniqueness of downtown and the way in which we treat each other and those who visit our community.  SM