At first glance, the Trend + Relic home décor store in St. Charles looks a bit misplaced in an old industrial district tucked into a neighborhood on the east side of town.
But once inside, it's easy to see what owners Karri Custardo and Heather Corcoran fell in love with.
The former label printing plant site at 1501 Indiana Ave. has been transformed into a vintage and new home décor mecca with the handmade work of various artists and artisans on display. The high ceilings, warehouse feel and, especially, the amount of current space and ability to expand was too hard to pass up.
Custardo isn't new to this home décor game; she's just new to St. Charles. She moved to St. Charles and opened Trend + Relic last summer, during the high point of the pandemic. But she hasn't been disappointed.
"We weren't sure how it was going to go," said Custardo, who opened her new store after years of operating "From Shabby to Fabby" in Winfield. "But I have to tell you; we've been really blessed. Everything has been good, and we are being very careful in offering curbside, touchless delivery, and people are coming in wearing masks, and we clean everything."
The approach to the pandemic is one thing, but Custardo and Corcoran have a game plan in mind for Trend + Relic that illustrates a vision for what will work best for this type of store.
"We had some concern about the location, but we know it's a destination, though not many people are going to stumble upon it by accident, though some have," Custardo said. "When people come to us, they generally know what they are looking for."
Plans are in place to expand the current site another 4,000 square feet by taking over an adjoining space once held by the CrossFit training center.
"What drew us to this building was the history, and we just loved the high ceilings and the big glass garage door put in prior to us getting here," Custardo said. "That was a huge selling point for us just so customers could easily get furniture out of the shop or dealers could bring in furniture, plus the light it brings into the building."
The new addition will also include another glass garage door and give Custardo more options to set up her floor plan.
"We are looking for dealers, and we're pretty particular about dealers," she said. "If we have somebody who makes signs, we want them to be handmade and be the only one here with painted signs."
Rather than rush to fill the warehouse-type setting with a bunch of dealers, Custardo is taking her time.
"When customers walk into a big place, they tend to see a lot of repetition, and we don't want that," she added. "We want everything to look and feel differently."
After building her interest in this type of work by refinishing furniture and operating out of marketplace booths, she started her own store in Winfield.
In teaming up with Corcoran, a real estate agent and artist specializing in pet portraits and room staging, Custardo feels it won't be long before her decision to relocate and change the name to Trend + Relic pays off beyond expectations.
To that end, she hopes to start drawing area residents consistently and even pulling in tourists when shopping excursions into the Tri-Cities become routine again.
"I'd like to get on chamber and visitor bureau lists and things like that, if there are programs to bring people into this area for shopping at stores like this," Custardo said.
Festival holds out hope:
Up to this point, the Geneva Chamber of Commerce hasn't wiped Swedish Days off its slate. And that includes the huge parade that officially ends the event.
At this point, when any summer festival holds out hope that it could take place this year in some form, that's at least better than last year.
Many more of us should be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by late June. But likely not enough to say we can go nuts and run around downtown Geneva for its popular summer festival like everything is all seashells and balloons again.
The chamber folks have their thinking caps on quite tight, coming up with alternative events and different ideas. But chamber communications manager Laura Rush reminds me that they have to work closely within state guidelines as well.
Still, some ideas may stick for years to come; others will simply make sense for this year, given our various phases of escaping COVID-19.
Even though the weather is probably more of a factor than any new planning for the St. Patrick's Day events (without the parade) in St. Charles this year on Saturday, March 13. Festival planners in other cities may want to keep an eye on that one to see how area residents respond to new ideas.
About the fish fry:
With Lent upon so many of us, the question about where to find a good fish fry comes up in conversations and social media chats.
I've addressed this topic many times in the past, but this year has a different twist with the COVID-19 pandemic still hanging around.
Plus, one of my favorites in the area was at the Claddagh Irish Pub in the Geneva Commons. And that place has been closed for a couple of years now.
So, it leaves me just a few thoughts on places I have been that have good fish 'n' chips or Friday specials. The all-you-can-eat stuff doesn't appeal to me any longer, and just having one serving usually works fine for fried foods.
I have to say that my favorite fish sandwiches at this time of year come from Culver's and Wendy's. I make a point to get one at each place during Lent.
I have also enjoyed the fish fry at McNally's Pub in downtown St. Charles and The Dam Bar and Grill and Nobel House, both in Geneva.
In Geneva, the Walrus Room gets a lot of high marks on social media channels for its fish fry, as does Gammon Coach House in Batavia. I am sure there are many other favorites out there, as well as some newcomers such as Knead urban eatery in St. Charles.
Don't overlook your favorite pizza places, as they generally have some interesting meatless options at this time of year. For one, Joseph's Pizza Cucina in Wasco is pushing eggplant, shrimp, baked clams, and plant-based burgers in addition to cheese or veggie pizzas.
If you stay home:
Of all of the potential meals one can grab via pickup, a fish fry lends itself well to that option. Carryout is something I would recommend during Lent.
But if you're inclined to stay home, I sort of stumbled on this option during a shopping trip -- and it's really good.
If we continue to be kept at home because of the slow vaccine rollout or more bouts of snow, the beer-battered cod at Costco is not a bad option. More than a few boxes of this frozen food choice have been in our freezer over the past couple of years, regardless of whether it is Lenten season or not.