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Crystal Lake: The Clear Leader For Business Development In Illinois

Reclaimed, a furniture store at 82 Railroad St in Crystal Lake.

The coronavirus pandemic has not slowed down Crystal Lake. The Illinois city of 40,000 in McHenry County, 30 minutes from O'Hare International Airport, continues to push forward with major economic development efforts attracting retail, mixed-use development and commercial projects.

As Crystal Lake continues to grow, the demand for retail and restaurants remains strong. Last year alone, 75 new small businesses opened locations in Crystal Lake. The city is seeking to continue that growth by attracting a variety of restaurants and retailers, including sit-down restaurants, breweries, distilleries, apparel and technology retailers. Recent additions to the area include Raising Cane’s, McAlisters, Tropical Smoothie and three new housing projects that will add more than 360 housing units to the community.

In light of the pandemic, the city continues to act quickly to support the business community through an "I Shop Local" campaign, mobilizing capital to assist small businesses and through offering webinars and guidance with state and federal resources.

Some of Crystal Lake’s biggest enterprises have been expanding during the last six months. Aptar, a global leader in drug delivery, consumer product dispensing and active packaging solutions headquartered on Exchange Drive in Crystal Lake, recently expanded operations. Autotrol, an industry leader in custom AC and DC gear motors, also expanded its facility and operations to bottle hand sanitizer products for clients across the nation.

All of this combined retail and industrial growth has led to nearly 500 new jobs in Crystal Lake in the past year.

“The aim is to keep growing responsibly, and build upon the quality of life Crystal Lake residents already enjoy,” Crystal Lake Mayor Haig Haleblain said. 

Crystal Lake Brewery

The successful openings and expansions of Crystal Lake businesses in the middle of unprecedented times can be attributed not only to the support the city has shown its small-business community during the pandemic, but also to the strong business-friendly environment the area has fostered for decades.

Examples of the city’s business-first attitude can be found in the success of two local companies: Mariano’s and Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen.

Mariano’s is a Chicago-area grocery store that opened a location in Crystal Lake two years ago. In March, the chain was looking to hire more than 300 employees to keep up with the tremendous demand for its services.

“The entire Mariano’s team is excited to be open in Crystal Lake,” said Amanda Puck, director of Strategic Brand Development for Mariano’s. “Since the grand opening in April 2018, we have enjoyed our partnership serving the local community and working with the city. The location is a great anchor to the northwest of Chicago and easily accessible for our customers and our vendors.”

Zak Dolezal, owner of Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen, an eco-conscious gastropub that serves food made with sustainable ingredients from local farmers and producers, said that since he opened the restaurant in Crystal Lake in 2008, he has always felt the strong support of both the local community and the city.

Duke's Zak Dolezal

"Crystal Lake’s downtown is incredible,” Dolezal said. “The city has done a good job of supporting small businesses and making sure there’s a good variety to attract customers. The amount of effort that the city and Downtown Association put into Crystal Lake is what keeps business thriving.”

Businesses aren’t the only things expanding in Crystal Lake; construction is on the rise as well. New developments are finishing up construction, including the Woodlore Estates by Lennar, a subdivision of 68 townhouses, 105 age-targeted single-family homes and 319 single-family homes; The Springs, a luxury 280-unit gated apartment complex offering studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments; and Church Street Apartments, a former Lutheran church and school in a residential neighborhood that was converted into a new apartment complex with 32 units and two duplexes.

“Crystal Lake is ready to support retail with available sites for new businesses, build-to-suit opportunities and retail units that are move-in ready,” Haleblain said. “When it comes to retail, restaurants and new development, Crystal Lake is the clear leader for business.”

This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and the city of Crystal Lake. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.