New shops spur a Central
Business District resurgence
seeing too many vacant storefronts, downtown Arlington
Heights is starting to fill its nooks and crannies.
New and unusual retail businesses have recently taken
up residence in the more visible downtown storefronts.
Downtown Arlington Heights, the Central Business
District, continues to attract restaurants. A longtime
Arlington Heights favorite, Bangkok Cafe is planning to
move from the south end of the village to a storefront
on Vail Avenue later this year. Wild Fish, a new sushi
restaurant, has joined Fitness Cafe, Cold Stone Creamery
and Noodles & Co. along a previously unsuccessful
corridor in the Arlington Town Square shopping center.
Not all of the new downtown businesses are retailers.
Two exercise and weight-loss companies have set up shop.
They are Curves in Dunton Plaza and Slender Lady on
Evergreen north of Northwest Highway.
Arlington Heights village officials have been
tracking sales-tax figures of about 30 businesses, both
restaurant and retail, in the central business district.
Without revealing specific information, citing
confidentiality reasons, Deputy Director of the Planning
and Community Development Department William Enright
said village officials have reason to be optimistic.
"Sales of retail goods have increased this year over
last year," Enright said. "The downtown retail sales and
restaurant sales are doing very well."
Three of the newest business to open this spring in
the central business district are specialty shops, that
cater to a cost-conscious, and quality-conscious,
Shabby and chic
As customers wend through a pastel maze of antiques
and lush fabrics, unusual furniture and decorator items,
handmade purses and jewelry, the Wild Rose proprietor
Nance Ludkowski doesn't need to see their reaction when
they enter the store for the first time. She has heard
them gasp in surprise often enough.
"It's a very European cottage store," Ludkowski said.
"It's kind of like a Paris flea market.
"I always tell people it's so not ordinary," she
added. "If you want something different, this is the
store you should go to."
Business has been brisk since she opened the Wild
Rose last April at 15 N. Vail Ave., for many reasons,
"I have great prices; I think that's why it's going
well," she said. "In this economy people are looking for
something different and affordable."
With its "shabby chic" theme, the Wild Rose is
attracting attention from customers who live nearby, as
well as outside the immediate area. Two men who own
retail businesses in Chicago drove to Arlington Heights
just to see the shop, Ludkowski said.
After looking in towns such as Long Grove and
Hinsdale, Ludkowski said she decided to move to the
central business district.
"Arlington Heights is kind of the new, up-and-coming
Chicago," Ludkowski said. "I think this place is
starting to happen."
Ludkowski has been preparing to open a store like the
Wild Rose for 15 years, she said. The Barrington Hills
resident said she has long held an interest in
decorating, as well as acquiring the unusual and
In addition to the merchandise in her store,
Ludkowski represents three different furniture lines,
including a custom line called Eminence.
The store is a perfect fit for what's happening in
Arlington Heights, Ludkowski said.
"They're all redoing their homes," Ludkowski said. "I
cannot believe how many people are adding on to their
homes. If it continues like this, I'm a happy camper."
Past for sale
Old but not necessarily antique, the merchandise at
Island Girl Salvage bears a familiar fascination for
customers who happen by.
"A lot of people come in and say, 'This reminds me of
my grandmother's house,' " said Elizabeth Ross, who
opened the store May 1 with co-owner Tabitha Long.
The store mixes large architectural pieces, such as
fireplace mantles, 1930s sinks and fixtures, with
smaller items such as lamps and pictures. Throw in a few
choice pieces of vintage designer pottery and fabrics
for an eclectic mix of items seen in American homes
starting sometime after the Victorian era though the
Both Arlington Heights residents, Ross and Long began
plotting to open a store in the village about a year
ago. Since October, the partners have had a booth in the
Colonial Antique Mall in Woodstock, which they will
continue to operate. The pair originally met while
working together at a local telephone company in
"The idea formed probably last summer this was the
direction we were going to go," Ross said. "We didn't
know how. We didn't know when. Then we got laid off."
The layoffs, rather than deterring them from risks,
spurred them to plunge into their new business.
"You can always find a reason not to do anything,"
Ross said. Looking for pieces to put in her 1926 house,
Long had difficulty finding items within her price
range. And with so many great old homes in Arlington
Heights, the partners suspected others had similar
experiences, Ross said.
"The reception in the neighborhood has gone well,"
Ross said. "People seem really excited. We've been just
The store fills a need that few other antique stores
in the area offer, Ross said.
"You don't have to 'schlep' downtown," Ross said.
"It's just like shopping on Halsted Street without the
Leave with food
Just try to leave the Tuscan Market & Wine Shop
without tasting of something, whether it's a sip of wine
or a freshly baked cookie.
Perhaps owner Mirhell Dulin is operating under the
influence of his Italian great aunt. When he would visit
her home kitchen, she would alternate showing him how to
cook and popping food in his mouth.
"You brought food if you went somewhere, and you
would leave with food," Dulin said. "It's a sign of love
Or maybe Dulin just wants to share the unusual finds
and good values his years in the food and wine business
have helped him seek out.
"If I won't serve it at home or drink it, I won't
sell it," Dulin said.
Tuscan Market has a separate room set up for wine
tastings, which private parties may book. The same room
also has specials on different types of wines that
regularly turn over.
"I believe in volume and value," Dulin said. "My wine
prices are cheaper than the chains are. I know how to
Dulin opened his wine shop and deli in late May at
141 W. Wing St. He said he is thrilled with the response
he has received and is four or five months ahead of
where his business plan anticipated.
"Our business is up 20 percent a week," Dulin said.
"It's well beyond my expectations."
After working in Chicago for the company that now
operates a major discount liquor chain, Dulin moved to
Europe, becoming one of the first to import high-end
California wines. He spent several years in Europe and
organized he first international wine fair in England.
Dulin gradually worked into the restaurant business
while in Europe.
Returning to the United States, Dulin opened the
Chardonnay on Halsted Street, which he ran for five
years. More recently, he owned Venice Cafe on Wacker
Drive, where he presided over a brisk lunch business.
Realizing he had hadn't had a vacation in nine years,
Dulin sold the restaurant and contemplated his next
"I wanted to do something low-key with my wine and
food background," Dulin said.
After nearly opening another restaurant in Evanston,
Dulin found the space in Arlington Heights, which he
proceeded to decorate to recreate the ambiance of an
Italian market, complete with freshly baked bread.
"I met Mayor (Arlene) Mulder," Dulin said. "She sold
me on her and sold me on the town."
Finding the right space in the newest building in the
Village Green development sealed his decision to locate
to Arlington Heights, he said.
"It's a beautiful, very European building," Dulin
said. "Putting this in a strip mall wouldn't have the