Glen Ellyn history has embedded itself into the building at 800 N. Main St.: all over the walls and in the floors.
Sepia murals of bygone icons such as the Hotel Glen Ellyn line the brick building's exterior, and metal plates that once secured grocery counters remain ingrained in its polished concrete floors.
This space, which has filled itself with so much history yet feels comfortably contemporary, made its debut this summer as Stacy's Corners Store, the newest venture of the Glen Ellyn Historical Society.
Stacy's Corners Store will raise its profile soon as part of Tavern Day, a celebration with live music and historic tours that will be held by the Glen Ellyn Historical Society around the site from 1 p.m.–4:30 p.m. Sept. 26.
But on most days, many people find the store the same way Myong Suh did on a recent Wednesday morning. A Lombard resident, Suh, strolled into the store, not sure if it was a restaurant, a bar or a retail space. He was lured inside by its sidewalk-to-roof murals of a bygone Glen Ellyn and its people.
Suh burst into adjectives as soon as he strolled through the store's glass doors.
"Beautiful," he said, surveying the décor and the variety of items for sale. "Gorgeous!"
Impressed surprise has become an increasingly common reaction as people discover Stacy's Corners Store, where the proceeds from the sale of its smorgasbord of antique, seasonal, private-label, locally focused and handcrafted goods benefits the Glen Ellyn Historical Society.
Gary Babbitt, merchandise manager for Stacy's Corners Store, said "as people come in, I see more and more people say, 'Oh! This isn't what I expected.'"
In creating the space, said Babbitt, the historical society wanted to get away from what people typically think of as a "museum store."
"We didn't just want to sell books and old records that didn't have any relevance to people's lives," said Babbitt. "People can come in and be educated, if they choose to be. At the same time, we took a contemporary approach and carry merchandise that serves daily needs."
Visitors can find quirky, retro items such as a vintage swan wagon, handmade quilts or a wooden cutout of a maid, but they can also find knitted baby outfits, Glenbard West and South caps, "Boo" napkins for Halloween and Amish-made gooseberry jam and pineapple salsa.
Fittingly, the store itself has a storied history. According to Dan Anderson, chairman of the Historical Society's Development Committee, the building, located on Main Street just south of Five Corners, began as a grocery food store in 1959. It had incarnations as a sporting goods store, a hardware shop and most recently, as a Century 21 real estate office.
The flowing, open 2,000 square feet that now comprises the store and what the Historical Society has dubbed its welcome center (a space with brochures, bathrooms and an exhibit of vintage toys and a dentist chair), was once six offices and a couple of conference rooms. With the help of volunteers, community organizations and private donors, said Anderson, the Historical Society raised $130,000 to renovate the space into Stacy's Corners Store.
Historical Society director Jan Langford says the goal is for the store to raise $60,000 for the Historical Society's programs. She adds that she also envisions the store generating more awareness about the Historical Society, which has about 400 members and was first formed to preserve Stacy's Tavern, the stagecoach inn started by Moses Stacy before the Civil War that still stands as a museum near Geneva and Main.
The store's walls are painted in muted yellows and greens. It also features an alcove with a table and chairs where local groups meet. A stream of Historical Society volunteers such as Ruth Leszczynski, of Glen Ellyn, a former antiques dealer, help store manager Jennifer Porter with day-to-day duties, performing data entry, arranging merchandise and ringing up customer purchases.
Amid the swirl of merchandise, the store has not lost its identity. A timeline of Glen Ellyn history lines the wall and in a case, wedding gowns from as far back as 1869 are displayed to browsers. A section of the store has dedicated itself to village merchandise, with a bevy of Glen Ellyn books, Glen Ellyn coasters and even Glen Ellyn soap.
Because Stacy's Corners is what Babbitt calls a destination store, meaning its location near St. Charles and Geneva roads doesn't have the advantage of luring random downtown pedestrians and window shoppers, it must rely on word of mouth and a reputation for reasonable prices and quality merchandise. That, stressed Babbitt, means the store undergoes a constant evolution in what it sells, playing off, for instance, the Halloween and Christmas seasons, as well as what people want to buy. The approach has already had an effect.
"Look at all the lovely items they have here," said Leszczynski, gazing at clusters of jewelry, umbrellas, glassware and birdhouses. "I can't resist buying every time I come here."
Stacy's Corners Store, 800 North Main St., is open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Sun. (when Stacy's Tavern Museum is open) and closed on Mondays. Tavern Day runs from 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Sun., Sept. 26, at the Stacy's Tavern Museum Campus at Main and Geneva. For tickets or more information, call 630-469-1867 or e-mail email@example.com.