Home World Frankfort again closes downtown street for al fresco dining

Frankfort again closes downtown street for al fresco dining

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A portion of Kansas Street in Frankfort has closed to vehicular traffic, allowing restaurants to expand outdoor dining and kicking off a summer season that will feature improvements, events and new businesses to the historic downtown district.

“It’s a fun atmosphere,” said Karen Meyers with This and That Gifts and Accessories, 11 S. White St. “We have so much going on in the summer.”

Frankfort Mayor Keith Ogle said temporarily closing Kansas Street from Ash to Oak streets, first done during the COVID-19 pandemic, is back by popular demand. The closure creates a pedestrian friendly zone where visitors can dine al fresco, shop at the downtown’s unique boutiques and enjoy the summer season.

“It’s straight out of a Hallmark movie,” Ogle said.

The village has worked on a myriad of improvements to its downtown district, Ogle said.

Two new downtown parking lots with 80 additional spaces are expected to be completed by June 1. The village secured $560,000 in grants from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for parking and lighting enhancements in the historic district, Ogle said.

A new parking lot at 2 Smith St. is anticipated to open by June 1. This lot will have 42 new spaces with another lot under construction nearby on White Street adding 38 new spaces. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)
A new parking lot at 2 Smith St. is anticipated to open by June 1. This lot will have 42 new spaces with another lot under construction nearby on White Street adding 38 new spaces. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)

The future parking lot at 2 Smith St. once contained an abandoned cabinet factory that was torn down, said Sarah Hodges, resident engineer with Robinson Engineering, which is working on the project. The lots will provide much-needed space for visitors and events, she said.

Plans are also underway for playground and path improvements at Prairie Park to create a more inviting and accessible outdoor space for families, village officials said.

Three news restaurants, Senso Sushi, Rustic Knead and Nautical Bowls, and a children's dentist are under construction in downtown Frankfort. They are expected to open in late July or Aug.. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)
Three news restaurants, Senso Sushi, Rustic Knead and Nautical Bowls, and a children’s dentist are under construction in downtown Frankfort. They are expected to open in late July or Aug.. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)

Three restaurants, Senso Sushi, Rustic Knead and Nautical Bowls, as well as Growing Smiles children’s dentistry, are expected to open by late July or August on White Street, Ogle said. The businesses are generating a lot of excitement and will add to the downtown Frankfort district, he said. Senso Sushi plans for outdoor dining.

Alex Masterson, owner of the Candle Vault, 114 Kansas St., opened her business in September, transforming a vacant bank built in 1885 to a boutique shop where patrons can create a custom-scented candle from among its 130 fragrance options. She has partnered with local artists who created handmade jars for the candles.

Preserving the building’s history was important to her. Once a site of an 1899 bank heist in which thieves stole $1,900, the building contains the original floors, copper ceiling, front door and bank vault. It sat vacant for about 30 years before being revitalized, Masterson said.

“We wanted to bring that building back to life,” she said.

Candle Vault owner Alex Masterson stands outside the original vault from the 1885 bank. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)
Candle Vault owner Alex Masterson stands outside the original vault from the 1885 bank. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)

Because the candles take time to set, she encourages her customers to visit other downtown Frankfort businesses before picking up their products.

“I definitely think Frankfort has something special to offer,” Masterson said.

Chris Hammar, owner of Hammar’s Mercantile, 4 W. Nebraska St., a home décor and gift shop, said the downtown has numerous woman-owned businesses, which help one another. The village does a good job planning events and attracting visitors to the downtown, she said.

Shoppers on a bus tour from Naperville recently complimented the atmosphere and the shops in the historic district, Hammar said.

“You can spend a great part of your day in downtown Frankfort,” Hammar said.

Frankfort resident Emma Barnard, who was visiting the downtown district on a recent sunny afternoon, said she enjoys when the village closes the street for outdoor dining. The downtown offers something for everyone, she said.

“I love how they keep the personality of old town Frankfort,” Barnard said. “It has timeless charm.”

Layne Boyce of New Lenox said the year-round events bring people together.

“It’s a good central hub for people,” Boyce said.

Francesca's Fortunato restaurant is located at the intersection of Kansas and Oak Streets which will close through Oct. for outdoor dining. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)
Francesca’s Fortunato restaurant is located at the intersection of Kansas and Oak Streets which will close through Oct. for outdoor dining. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)

One of the big draws to the downtown will be the annual Concerts on the Greens, at 6:30 p.m. Sunday evenings from June 16 to Aug. 25 on Breidert Green at Kansas and White streets. Between 500 and 1,100 people attend the concerts each week, which feature a variety of music genres, said Jesse Herder, director of events with the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce.

Car shows will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays from June 3 to Sept. 23 in the downtown.

The 12th annual Bluegrass Festival, featuring more than 20 national, regional and local bands, is planned for July 13 and 14.

The 56th annual Frankfort Fall Festival with carnival rides, entertainment and nationally-recognized arts and crafts fair will return Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.

The Kansas Street closure will remain in effect until the week leading up to the Fall Festival. After the fest, it will close again so that al fresco dining can resume through October.

John Cosgrove, owner of Trail’s Edge Brewing Co., 20 Kansas St., said it takes a small army to set up the wrought-iron fencing, Astroturf, tables and chairs and twinkling lights to create a charming outdoor atmosphere on Kansas Street.

Customers come from throughout the south and southwest suburbs as well as from Bourbonnais, Peotone and Manteno, Cosgrove said.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “Everybody has flowers. It’s more walkable. People seem to be clamoring for it. It’s worth it.”

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.



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