City’s restaurant growth shows economic change


By Keisha Howerth

The city’s economic situation is showing “positive signs” as more restaurants open.

DeKalb is pursuing retail and restaurant opportunities that may interest students, along with residential growth. Roger Hopkins, the city’s economic development consultant, wants to see DeKalb grow with nationwide economic recovery.

“Retail business expansion is continuing with the economic recovery,” Hopkins said.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, 160 retail and service businesses were registered with the Illinois State Chapter as looking for locations in 2012. The number has since grown to 260 businesses looking to expand as of spring, according to a retail report created by Hopkins.

Matt Duffy, DeKalb Chamber of Commerce executive director, said there’s room for more businesses in DeKalb. There are opportunities for businesses to expand on Lincoln Highway, Annie Glidden Road, Peace Road and in the old location for Small’s Furniture City on Sycamore Road.

DeKalb is in a good regional position for most businesses, especially for fast food and sit-down restaurants, Hopkins said.

“Leading the growth of businesses looking for new locations has been the ‘fast casual dining’ category,” Hopkins said.

With the success from the September openings of Dunkin’ Donuts and Jersey Mike’s, DeKalb continues to pursue more fast food businesses, like Chick-fil-A and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Hopkins said retailers are aiming to appeal to young middle to upper-middle income consumers who want to eat on the go.

“[Restaurants] have been successful in the area, catering to either the college neighborhoods or the community center areas such as the Sycamore Road corridor,” Hopkins said.

The city is also looking to get more full-service restaurants in the area to attract year-round residents. Hopkins said Buffalo Wild Wings, Ruby Tuesday and Applebee’s have brought the most overall retail success to the city. Faranda’s Banquet Center, opening Tuesday at 302 Grove St., is also likely to draw customers to DeKalb, Hopkins said.

“The expansion of Faranda’s creates a new destination business and banquet facility for the regional market,” Hopkins said.

Restaurants and other hospitality businesses have been expanding in the downtown, West Lincoln Highway and Sycamore Road areas. The city is also looking to improve restaurant availability for Peace Road, Annie Glidden Road and South Fourth Street, where gateway and employment areas are underserved, Hopkins said.

DeKalb’s economic situation has remained stable and is at the same level it was at a year ago in retail and employment, Hopkins said.

“We’re seeing positive signs in the economy,” Duffy said. “There’s enough going on with growth and changes.”

One of the city’s priorities is attracting furniture businesses, but because DeKalb serves a smaller population compared to other neighboring cities there has been less success in getting one.

“Retailers tend to focus more on populations that have higher income, like Chicago and Naperville,” Hopkins said.

Activity is beginning to emerge as housing construction recovery is being done along the Route 47 and Randall Road corridors. Real estate broker Mike Carpenter said there has been up to 26 permits to build houses.

Carpenter said “we are still in a soft economy” but economic recovery is on the way.

“We hope that recovery expands to DeKalb, Sycamore and Cortland next year,” Hopkins said.