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Who knew that a local business economic movement could be inspired to fruition all from a online magazine article?

When Batavia Alderman Marty Callahan read the Strong Towns article “Low-Cost Pop-Up Shops Creates Big Value in Muskegeon, Michigan”, he hoped that his fellow Aldermen and community members would be as interested as him in the idea of tiny retail businesses in Downtown Batavia.

To say they were interested is an understatement, the City Council as well as Batavia City Staff were all on board to not only support with a vote, but also with grant funds, to make this idea come to life. They looked to the downtown partnership organization, Batavia MainStreet, to assist in bringing this project to life.

Batavia MainStreet Interim staff, Jamie Saam (owner of Bulldog Plumbing Inc and LocalConnect LLC) and Board President, Bob Hansen (owner of Funway Entertainment Center) took the basic foundations of the small-scale business spaces that Muskegeon created to the next level. The plan was to find a location in Downtown Batavia, work with local businesses, volunteers and Batavia High School Building Trades Students to design and build the 12×12 shop buildings, and put out a call for start-up businesses or already existing homebased local retail businesses to apply for a space for a season running form the end of May through December 2020.

Once the location at 114 East Wilson Street was selected because of it’s convenient location right in Downtown Batavia adjacent to the River Street Woonerf, home to the very successful Batavia Farmers’ Market and an underutilized property owned by the City of Batavia, the real work began.

Partnering with local architect Steve Vasilion and engineer John Greene, plans were draw up and presented to both the City of Batavia and the Building Trades Students. Once approved, construction began with most work being completed by volunteers including Batavia Alderman Tony Malay and other skilled laborers including some local tradesmen. The construction season started in February 2020 and soon came to a unknown future in March thanks to the onset of Covid 19.

Thankfully, much of the construction was to be completed outside as well as in enough space for people to be physically distanced and safe. While construction by the BHS Building Trades Students did come to a halt in March, much of the framing was completed by those students prior to the shutdown.

The Batavia Boardwalk Shop Jury Committee of 14 unique individuals from the Batavia Community gathered together in February to accept eight new businesses for the 2020 Season. These businesses would be led by Jamie Saam, Bob Hansen and other staff and Board Members at Batavia MainStreet through a Small Business Incubator Program. This program would assist these small businesses with creating business plans, obtaining proper licensing, paying sales tax, as well as marketing ideas, and other business tips along the way with a hope of at least one business would grow out of the Batavia Boardwalk space and into a more permanent brick & mortar location in the local area.

The businesses that were selected for the 2020 season from June 13th through December 20th were The Unboring Granola, Desmond Brown, Dash Ten Works, The Sweet Life Confectionery, Light & Pine Collective, Hayle B’s Bakery, The Other Half (Simply Him) and Larson Pet Shack.

The Batavia Boardwalk Shop offers a unique shopping experience as you wander through eight tiny local businesses positioned along a boardwalk path decorated with gorgeous ever changing planters and local made BarcoBoard picnic tables. Local shoppers will love the variety of shops this season including everything from custom pillows, granola, pet supplies, baked treats, hand poured candles, men’s gifts, candy and more!

If you’ve shopped the Boardwalk this season, you will be excited to learn that five of your favorite tiny shops have signed leases in Downtown Batavia in larger spaces beginning in early 2021. We may even see a few more find new homes around town as well.

What’s happening in 2021 on the Boardwalk?

Applications for the 2021 season on the Boardwalk will be up on downtownbatavia.com will be posted live on December 1st for local artists, artisans, homebased businesses and start ups to apply. Applications will be accepted until January 31st, when the Batavia Boardwalk 2021 Jury Committee will select eight (possibly 10 shall we be able to build two more units) businesses from applicants. Previous Boardwalk businesses can re-apply, but the jury is responsible for selecting based on selecting retail focused businesses they think are needed and will be supported in Batavia and by surround community visitors.

If you are looking for a unique local shopping experience join us on the Boardwalk Fridays 12p to 7p, Saturdays 10a to 4p and Sundays 12p to 4p now through December 20th at 114 East Wilson Street in Downtown Batavia. Tell them Fox Valley Magazine sent you!

Boardwalk Shops
114 E Wilson St.
Batavia, IL 60510

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