When Liz and Marty Connolly started to downsize their life earlier this year, the owners of decided to turn it into a homecoming of sorts, returning the Mokena gift shop to its Frankfort roots.
"We decided that (relocating to) Frankfort--since we started here--would be best," said Liz Connolly about the store's move this month. "We tried to find something here available and luckily the first day there was. So it was meant to be to come back to Frankfort."
The Connollys opened Cottage Creations in 2000 in Frankfort where is now. They stayed at that location for about five years until they moved both their shop and house to a spot on LaPorte Road in Mokena. The business thrived, but after time, it was becoming too consuming.
"We just decided that, at our age, the upkeep and the grounds and the business and the house just became one practically," Connolly said. "We just needed some time for ourselves and still keep our passion."
In three months' time, the Connollys packed up both house and shop (they moved to a new home in Mokena).
"It was a wonderful fast move. We got everything up quickly and business went on as usual," Connolly said, adding that there was no downtime for the store, which specializes in German and Irish imports.
"The village was excited to have us back. All the merchants were excited to have us back in town," she added. "We always had a good reputation with both villages for a long time. We've been around for 11 years. And we just love what we do."
A move can be a scary prospect for a business. Will customers come to the new location? But Connolly said they've cultivated a strong client base thanks to their store's philosophy.
"We have based our business on customer service No. 1," she said. "Being fair, being respectful, being caring. Those are your main key points to any business I think."
It's an approach that has paid off in more than just sales. Not long after Cottage Creations opened in Mokena, Connolly received a touching e-mail from a customer who had stopped in earlier in the day.
"She wrote the most wonderful paragraph about finding this little place in nowhere land kind of," Connolly said. "In the end, she wrote 'I came as a stranger, but I left feeling like a friend.' I sat there and cried. That's how I want all our customers to feel all the time. And that's how customers should feel no matter where they go. That's how they should feel. They should feel special. It's important."
And Connolly wants to share Cottage Creations' years of success with the rest of Frankfort's downtown retailers. She's been doing cross-referrals with other stores and is involved with downtown business organizations. Connolly said the downtown has a lot to offer, and she wants to do what she can to make it thrive.
"During the summer, you have a lot of people walking the street," she said. "I would still like to see more retail businesses ... because I think it's vital to the downtown. The more shops will draw more people. And, of course, the more people will draw shops. So it benefits everybody as far as real estate concerned.
"Once we get more retail down here, I think it will grow. People are looking for that small-town shopping."