June 10, 2014 | 04:11 PMGENOA CITY — David Laurine’s travel center could be one of the village’s biggest business proposals in recent memory.
The 11,600-square-foot building that’s going up on Highway 12 near the park-and-ride and the Wisconsin-Illinois border will be the location of a Mobil gas station, deli, full bakery, a convenience store with a drive-thru window and maybe even a restaurant and ice cream shop.
“I went into that thing, and it’s big,” said Village President Bill Antti, about Laurine’s building in a May 28 phone interview. “It looks fairly big on the outside, but when you go in it, it looks twice as big.”
In recent emails, Laurine said he intends to open in October, “but we have specifically not set a deadline due to the fact that we intend to incorporate many interesting and time-consuming features” to the interior — vaulted ceilings, marble tile floor and antique accents.
“The old McVickers Theatre in Chicago had an all-brass lobby, with fluted columns around leaded glass murals with incredibly ornate brass fretwork, which we are recreating in our deli-bakery,” Laurine said.
Laurine said he’s been working on this plan for about three years, and the project is situated on the corner of his 80-acre property on 229-231 South Road. “We have owned the property for over 30 years and decided to build the travel center as a hands-on, family-run business.”
Laurine said he wants to build an “electronic reader board” to promote community events and announce new businesses opening in Genoa City.
Will that help the village improve its ailing business climate? Will it remind Highway 12 motorists that, between Lake Geneva and Richmond, Ill., there’s a place called Genoa City?
“I think it’s going to raise awareness of the village,” Antti said. “I think a lot of people who take 12 now don’t realize there even is a Genoa City.”
Which perhaps explains why it has been difficult for several businesses to stay open in the village, especially within its downtown area. For decades — not long after Highway 12 was rerouted outside of downtown — officials have wanted something to rejuvenate the local economy.
“Our goal is to use this venture to bring other businesses to the area, such as a drug store,” said Laurine. “We have to generate more activity to (this) corner, in order to warrant the need for a stop light. We feel the additional activity we’re bringing to the area will be beneficial, not only to us, but to all the area businesses.”
Previously, businesses such as Walgreens expressed an interest in building in this location, but one reason nothing progressed in the area of Highway 12 and South Road has been the lack of traffic lights.
Is Laurine’s project going to harm the existing business climate in that area? A BP gas station and Wayne’s Pizza have operated for years next to each other not far up the road, at the intersection of Highways 12 and H, off Elizabeth Lane.
“I kind of look at it as, you see a McDonald’s, then you see a Burger King pop up next to it,” said Antti.
He thinks Highway 12 travelers going either into Illinois or Wisconsin will see the area as a place to get gas or a bite to eat.
“I think it will enhance the businesses that are already there,” Antti said.
Laurine’s enthusiasm made an impression on Antti.
“He’s very much hands-on,” said Antti. “He seems to take real pride in this. He’s very enthusiastic, and it’s like I told him, it’s kind of like it’s his baby.”
This is the second new business to open in Genoa City.
In April, village Trustee Roger Cagann opened The Lost Sock in the former Genoa City Laundromat building. A story about it also appears in this week’s Regional News.
“That’s another good thing for the village,” Antti said.
Does this signify an economic rebound?
“I think it’s beginning,” he said.
When asked what else he’d like to see in Genoa City, Antti simply replied, “All the stores filled.
A rejuvenation of the downtown area. That would be great.”