Room 363 had 5 inches of water in the basement . . . which has dirt floors. Maybe this flood and the mess in the basement will cure Mark of his habit of just opening the door and tossing things down the stairs? Maybe? Yes, Mark, I've seen you do that.
Mark is currently waiting for the mud to turn back to dirt, but the store is still open! He's like the post office, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night . . .
Although . . . he will shut down to help his fellow business owners. Mark and a crew of volunteers worked to sandbag shops and restaurants along the river for several hours last night. As the city trucks dropped loads of sand in front of Sullivan's Steakhouse and Centennial Beach, volunteers grabbed shovels and began to fill sandbags.
Those sandbags were then placed in front of businesses in danger of taking on water from the rising DuPage River, like these in front of Alicia's Photography.
It was backbreaking, intense work for hours. Filling bags, loading dollies or the backs of pick-up trucks and delivering the bags to the doors of businesses as the water rose in front of our eyes. It was scary, oddly fun and sometimes emotional for those in danger of losing even a small part of what they've worked so hard to create.
It's funny because I hear sometimes how Naperville is too commercialized, there's not enough "mom and pop" shops, but at times like these you realize there are still lot of small business owners downtown who aren't part of massive corporations that can easily foot the bill in case of an emergency. Business owners without flood insurance who would feel this hit to their bottom line.
The volunteers were an eclectic group of management and staff from the larger businesses like Apple and Sullivan's Steak House, mixed in with small business owners like Alicia (Alicia's Photography), Mark (Room 363), Oriana (Casa by Charleston) and Neda (Sugar Monkey Cupcakes), Anne and Joe (Bows and Babes), North Central College students, friends and passerby's just jumping in to help - all working together to cover any area that had even a remote possibility of taking on water.
Earlier this week I had read about a South African philosophy called Unbuntu. I'm sure I'm going to butcher the translation, but it roughly means: I am because we are. Watching these people work together made me think about this philosophy and how it applies to our special downtown. The businesses are successful because of the individual roles each one plays in their collective environment, one no more important than the other. I remember at one point thinking, these are the types of business owners we want in our downtown. People who see downtown as a whole, who are caring and conscientious of their neighbors, who finish sandbagging their shop, but continue to work to help the others. This is what community is all about and it was eye-opening and comforting to witness the strength in ours. The sunshine may not have been in the sky yesterday, but I definitely went home with it in my heart.
I stole this next picture from a friend, and Alicia will probably strangle me. This photo was taken at the end of the night when the work was completed. Even after a full day of worry, keeping tabs on water levels and weather conditions, moving things to high ground and hard work, they still ended the night with giant smiles and laughter.
Thank you, as a person who loves my downtown, to all the Marks and Alicias out there for your passion and willingness to roll up your sleeves and work hard.
So, flood waters behind us, tomorrow is an exciting day at Room 363. I can hardly wait to see what Mark has planned for Naperville's Wedding Walk tomorrow, Saturday, April 20 from 10-5pm. A list of all the businesses who are participating and the deals or displays they'll have can be found here. No, not there. HERE.
When I left the store today, Mark was still working on the wedding display in his courtyard and I don't want to give anything away, BUT it involved some really cool vintage pillars and piping. I'll make sure to share some pictures of the final product in the next blog for those of you who don't live close enough to visit.
If you're a bride-to-be, stop in to see the beauty Mark creates when he partners with his friend Traci from Whimsy.
These are some of the things you'll see in the shop tomorrow.
The vanity in the picture on the right is stunning in person.
Here's a few more snapshots from around Room 363. Notice the new vintage fireplace, belt bracelets, lots of birds and nests, cows and other fun accessories to keep your space light-hearted and cheery.
I must also draw your attention to the water fountain, which brings a nice ambiance to the store with it's loud trickle. When Mark first posted the fountain on his Facebook page, it looked like this:
I walked into the store Wednesday and noticed the fountain cozied in next to the sofa and nesting tables. Upon closer inspection, I realized it now has fish in it. I'm starting to suspect that Mark is on a mission to own at least one of every animal. My money is on his next purchase being a goat. I will not be shocked if I walk in to find he's set up a goat milking area using some cool vintage goat cage (is that thing?) he's tracked down set up in some dark corner of the shop. He may want to consider buying farmland soon.
By the way, for those brides stopping in during the wedding walk, your fiance told us he'd really like a cool t-shirt from the men's room. They're a nice breathable cotton that will work well no matter what resort town you jet off to for your honeymoon. (That was actually false marketing, I have no idea what the fabric is - I'm sure they are extremely breathable -they're cool though and that's all that really matters, right?.)
Stay dry, safe and even if your wedding has long since past, like me, please still visit this weekend to join in on the fun!