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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published July 23, 2009                                                         

Grant and Gateway squares
count on loyalty

Shop owners say returning customers, easy parking, one-stop shopping bring people back

By Christine Cuthbert

   They’re not in the heart of the downtown business district, privy to sidewalk sales, festivals and event traffic, but shop owners at Grant and Gateway squares say it’s the loyal, returning customers that keep them in business.
   “Probably 70 percent of my business is regular customers,” said John Powers, manager of Burhops Seafood.
   Residing in Grant Square for the last 20 years, Powers said, Burhops has developed a following for its fresh food, but the convenience of having other diverse shops in the same center bring added clientele.
   “Walgreens is my biggest pull because it brings people in for prescriptions and other things,” Powers said.
   George Thomos, and his sons Tom and Dean, took over ownership of Grant Square Restaurant a year-and-a-half ago. Like Powers, they agree that the handful of shops in the center help draw people to their restaurant.
   “You have almost everything you could need in this parking lot and you can get a lot done in one stop,” he said.
  Thomos said he has a group of regulars that come to eat on a daily basis. He and his sons opened their first restaurant in Naperville years ago, and they’re excited to finally be introducing Hinsdale customers to their famous chicken wings soon.
   “We think people will like them,” he said. “This restaurant is a very family-friendly place.”
   Meanwhile, over at Gateway Square, Jo Changelian, owner of Luv It!, said the popularity of Egg Harbor Restaurant on the weekends creates plenty of shopping opportunities for diners on the waiting list.
   “Egg Harbor always has a wait on Saturday and Sunday mornings, which means people walk around and look in the shops in the center. It benefits the whole center,” she said. “The combination of stores here allows shoppers to get a lot done in one stop.”
   During the holidays, Changelian said, people will bring their holiday family photos to Wolf Camera. While their film is being processed, shoppers will pop into Luv It! and begin looking at which cards they want to use for the photos.
   Changelian bought Luv It! in 1990, but the store has been in Gateway Square since the center was built in 1985. Other stores that have been in the square for more than 20 years include Calico Corners, Hinsdale Clothiers and Prime and Tender Meats. Along with pulling local residents, Changelian said, Gateway Square also draws shoppers from Elmhurst and other surrounding communities because of its proximity to Ogden Avenue.
   “From a retailers standpoint, the first thing that’s a plus is the availability of parking,” she said. “And I like the ambiance here with the flowers planted in the courtyard. It’s a very pleasant place to work and shop.”
   A Thursday and Sunday morning Farmer’s Market located in the center’s parking lot also draws customers from outside Hinsdale.
   “We have some (farmers) that come from Michigan twice a week and they’ve been coming for years,” Changelian said. “It’s kind of like a family here. We’ve watched their children grow and now their grandchild comes.”
   A family-friendly atmosphere is something Kramer Foods has continued to achieve over the years as well. Located in Grant Square since 1959, the store originated on Washington Street near where Jade Dragon Restaurant currently resides. Owner Kim Ludwigson said the store moved to the new location because the shopping center was brand new at the time. And decades later, available parking and friendly staff has kept customers coming back to Kramer’s day after day.
   “We have several customers who have been coming here for a very long time,”  Ludwigson said. “It’s very family-like here. A lot of the people who work here have been here 30-plus years. That’s a long time, and you get to know customers really well when you’ve been here that long.”
   Like at Gateway Center, Ludwigson said, the parking is a plus for customers and throughout the last five decades, not much has changed at the store.
   “The technology has changed, but the customer service has remained the same,” she said. “The customers are so nice, they make it easy.”








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