Thursday, May 05, 2016

Construction Begins on New Huck's in Marion

Martin & Bayley has broken ground for a new Huck's Convenience Store at the site of the old Poe Skating Rink at 2700 W. Main St. at the intersection of Main and Halfway Road.

The City of Marion issued their building permit on April 11 for a $1.05 million building. The Carmi-based company which has operated in Marion since at the mid 1970s purchased the property a year ago on May 28, 2015, for $375,000.

This will be the company's fourth store operating in Marion, and it's sixth location used in town.

The firm, named for the late founding partners, Bob Martin and Frank Bayley, dates to 1960 when they began operating supermarkets in small communities across Southern Illinois and eventually expanding into Kentucky and Tennessee. They opened the first Huck's convenience store in Grayville, Illinois, in 1974. Since 2001 the company has been employee owned.

Other than Huck's it was a slow month for building permits in the city. The other major projects include Brokton Webb's $340,000 4-plex at 909 E. Carter St. and Lee Webb's $250,000 project for storage units at 700 N. Main St. The remaining projects are for a double-wide mobile home and two garages.

Overall, the city approved permits totaling $1.783 million in the month of April.

It looks another development will be heading to that area, J. E. Mayer LLC, the corporate owner of the land where Marion Toyota Auto Body operates on Cree Drive, just purchased the vacant Lot 8 immediately to their west this Tuesday, May 3. They paid approximately $3/square foot, or $103,629 for the .79 acre lot on the northeast corner of Cree Drive and Halfway Road.

That's the same price per square foot that Jellen Enterprises paid for slightly larger Lot 15 last Aug. 15, for the new Huddle House restaurant.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Plans to Reopen State Museum Ignore Region

The director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says the Illinois State Museum could reopen in a matter of weeks if lawmakers approve Gov. Bruce Rauner's amendatory veto of Senate Bill 317 sent to the governor last December. The General Assembly passed the legislation requiring the governor to reopen and operate the museum and its branch sites at Dickson Mounds, Freeport, Rend Lake and Chicago.

The amendatory veto replaced the list of branch sites to reopen with the language, "branch sites determined by the Department of Natural Resources in collaboration with local units of government and other public and private entities."

That would mean the addition sites Southern Illinois Art & Artisans Center at Rend Lake wouldn't automatically reopen, just the Springfield one. Apparently it would require some local partnerships to guarantee the Southern Illinois facility's future.

Rauner also added a sentence that authorizes DNR and the Board of the Illinois State Museum to "solicit the assistance of the Illinois State Museum Society to fundraise non-State resources for the museum and to provide operational assistance to the museum."

Currently the non-profit group just operates the bookstore and handles a few research issues. This would be a major change for the entity, but one that has been needed for some time.

The governor's third change would deal with admission fees. The legislation authorized the department to charge a fee, but one set by administrative rule, a time-consuming process. Rauner's change would allow the agency director to not only set the fee, but also allow different fees for different classes of visitors, such as a cheaper rate for students or groups.

DNR Director Wayne Rosenthal spoke to reporters about the change today.
Rosenthal said no decision has been made about the size of the admission fees, but Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he thought a fee of $5 for adults was reasonable. Rosenthal said that would put Illinois in line with surrounding states that charge admission fees to their state museums.

Rosenthal also said that going forward, the museum would work in partnership with private organizations to raise addition funds for the museum. He said there is no target amount for how much must be raised between the admission fees and private donations.

The museum and related facilities around the state closed in September because of the state’s budget crunch. However, unionized state employees there have remained on the job because of a pending lawsuit in St. Clair County challenging layoffs of state workers.

As part of the agreement to reopen the museum, Rosenthal said facilities in Chicago and Rend Lake would close — saving the state about $1 million.

Apparently there's been no progress about finding partnerships in Southern Illinois. That's a shame. It's time for the Rend Lake Conservancy District, DNR and Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon to step up to the plate.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Movie Shot in Southern Illinois Releases Trailer

Dig Two Graves, the independent film shot in Southern Illinois in 2013, finally released its first trailer Sunday. The movie is a Gothic thriller with a supernatural bent.

A crew filmed at a number of scenic locations across the region including Ferne Clyffe State Park, Mermet Springs and the Tunnel Hill State Trail. The downtowns of Marion and Vienna doubled for the fictional setting of Egypt, Illinois.

Other historic sites utilized included the old school in Grand Chain, "Shot" Winchester's second tavern down at Olmstead, Civil War Era Congressman A. J. Kuykendall's antebellum house in Vienna, as well as Prohibition Era Congressman E. E. Denison's house, Goddard Chapel and the Williamson County Jail Museum, all in Marion.

The film is directed by Hunter Adams and produced by P.J. Fishwick and Claire Connelly.

Ted Levine, Samantha Isler and Danny Goldring star in the movie.

from Hunter McLean Adams on Vimeo.

Monday, August 24, 2015

City of West Frankfort to Buy Outlet Mall

West Frankfort city officials have contracted to purchase the Factory Outlet Store of America mall on the city's west side from its California-based owner.

A deal was signed last week according to reporting by the new Frankfort American, a twice-weekly newspaper sponsored by Morthland College that's only in its fifth issue.

The city has 60 days to review the building and terms before closing on the deal, details of which have not been released. Officials including Mayor Tom Jordan has spent the last two months negotiating the deal for the 25-year-old mall.

Colliers International has been marketing the outlet mall with a sales price of $2,050,000. The building has 91,063 sq. ft. of leasable area which gives it an asking price of $22.51/sq. ft.

The mall is about two-thirds rented and anchored by VF Outlet.

The paper reports that the city hopes to keep the existing retail stores inside and add other retailers or business that wouldn't interfere with retail. Following the success of their industrial incubator building they hope to continue that model to add more retail development both inside the mall as well as development of the entire 20-acre tract will the mall sits.

The mall is owned by DeSantis Properties of Fresno, California, which did not respond to calls by the paper.

Ironically and historically, there's a tie between the DeSantis name (but certainly not the company in this case) and the city. In 1920, a seriously deranged Sicilian named Settimi DeSantis and another man killed two teen boys in some woods south of Royalton, across the county line in Williamson County.

The killings, believed by the public to have been the work of the Black Hand, led to the West Frankfort Race Riot which targeted Italians living in the city. It took the National Guard to restore order. Williamson County prosecuted both men for murder. DeSantis' accomplice hung himself during the trial in the county jail (now the Williamson County Jail Museum). The jury found DeSantis guilty and hung him on a vacant lot on the east side of the square behind what's now John Brown's on the Square.

Hat tip to Jeff Webb, a former staffer of the old West Frankfort Daily American and a photographer with the new paper. He stopped by to talk to me yesterday at my Giant City Lodge book signing and told me about the story and the publication.

He also pointed me toward the new Main Street Baking Co. & Mercantile at 328 E. Main St. in West Frankfort. Of this afternoon it's now carrying books published and distributed by

Besides rolling in the dough with loaves of fresh bread and sandwiches they offer everything your sweet tooth desires, except donuts. For that they will point you down the street.

That's Owner Darla Dawson on the right and her manager, Esther Willis, on the left. The Benton Evening News had a nice profile piece on Darla earlier this summer.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Huddle House Developer Files Deed

Although Robert Jellen, developer of Marion's new Huddle House, took out a building permit two months ago on June 19, the deed for land nestled among Comfort Suites, Quality Inn and and Best Western wasn't filed until last week on Aug. 12.

The county clerk and recorder's website shows a sales price of $124,407.00 for Lot 15 of Cree Commercial Subdivision. That comes to $3/sq. ft. for the .95 acre tract at the corner of Comfort Drive and Henry Drive.

The eatery will be located on the second lot to the north of 20s Hideout Steakhouse and Bar.

For more on the restaurant check out the earlier blog post, "Huddle House headed for Marion."

Last of Herrin Massacre Bus Tours Takes Off Saturday

If you ever wanted to learn more about the Herrin Massacre now is the time. Our last tour of the summer will be Saturday starting at 9 a.m. with the bus leaving from the Williamson County Jail Museum at 105 S. Van Buren St. in Marion.

S.I. Treasure Tours conducts the tours and yours truly, Jon Musgrave of and the Southern Illinois Tourism News blog, serves as the guide. The tour includes visits to the jail museum, Station Carbondale railroad museum and the Herrin City Cemetery, as well as lunch at an area historic site.

Go to to reserve your seats now.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Huddle House headed for Marion

Just when I was saying to myself how West Main Street in Marion didn't have many restaurants, compared to other major streets in the city like Court Street, somebody went and done something about it.

Now this was back in February when I first heard the news, but it's official now. Marion is slated for a new Huddle House at 305 Comfort Drive off of West Main Street. Owner Robert Jellen took out a city building permit June 19, though no deed has been filed yet. It will be two lots north of the 20s Hideout and across the street from the new Sunshine Gardens assisted living facility that will be opening soon.

The permit gives a construction value of $850,000, which is actually a bit less than the new Krispy Kreme franchise which broke ground in June as well. The June 4 permit for that project showed it valued at $900,000.

Back in February the developer of the new Huddle House had been looking at the former Shell service station location in between 7th Street and Interstate 57 on the north side of West Main. The station, which was torn down last year, operated independently as Fuel Mart. Since then I'd heard he'd changed his attention to the west side of the interstate.

If you're wondering just what is a Huddle House, you're in for a treat if you've not dined at the one in Paducah, or the fairly new one in Greenville, Illinois, on your way to Springfield. According to the frequently asked questions on its franchising site, a "Huddle House is a Southern-style dining experience and community gathering spot that has been serving comfort food at a great value for five decades. At Huddle House, we serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and our motto is 'Any Meal. Any Time.'"

It's basically a modern, better decorated Waffle House, and the food is good - at least the one in Greenville is.

The restaurant is believed to be going on Lot 15 of Cree Commercial Subdivision, which contains .95 acres, slightly larger than the narrow .74-acre gas station lot on the other side of the interstate. The typical freestanding Huddle House restaurant is usually fairly narrow itself, usually "2,200 square feet on a lot between 25,000 and 30,000."

The company recommends a minimum traffic count of 12,000 vehicles a day. West Main Street offers 15,100 in front of the site and 25,900 cars pass over Main Street everyday on Interstate 57, according to the state's traffic count, which shows at least two-year data from 2013. They also suggest an area with at least 12,000 population within five miles, which Marion surpasses.

Huddle House celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with 34 new restaurants opening, 10 of which were new construction like the Marion one.

Typically open 24-hours, Huddle House serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all day. The menu offers a mix of Southern inspired comfort food, including signature Big House breakfasts, crispy hash browns, creamy grits, golden waffles and fluffy omelets, all made to order. Other favorites include Big Bold Burgers, Big House sandwich platters, country fried steak with green beans and marinated grilled chicken with sweet potato fries.

The core values on which Huddle House was founded – serving quality food in a warm, friendly environment that brings the community together – remain intact today.

If the new restaurant operates 24 hours a day, it would join the interstate McDonalds and Steak 'n Shake as the only 24/7 eateries in town.

Huddle House isn't the only new development heading for West Main Street and Halfway. More on that tomorrow or so.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New Hotel Aims for Downtown Carbondale

Construction of a new 85 unit, 4 or 5 story Home2 Suites hotel in downtown Carbondale could take place by the end of the year.

The hotel will be located on just under an acre of vacant property on the north side of Elm Street stretching from Illinois to University Avenues. About 60 percent of the rooms will be extended stay suites and developers plan a coffee shop on the ground floor as well. Today's Southern Illinoisan has the story. This story the day before provides a bit more information.

The Carbondale City Council approved the sale of the .9617 acre lot to Sai Krishna LLC of Carbondale last night. Closing is to take place within 30 days and be "substantially" complete within 18 months.

The council sold the property at a bargain price of $75,000 which is just $1.79/sq. ft., significantly less than commercial property on the eastern outskirts of the city. However securing a quality hotel in the heart of the city has long been a part of the community leader's plans for decades and even predate the current city hall structure.

The land includes a parking lot, a vacant lot and a half-block city alley. It's immediately south of PK's bar in the 200 block of South Illinois Avenue.

An earlier story quoted city officials on the demand for a hotel.

Carbondale Assistant City Manager Gary Williams said the city had a hotel feasibility study performed in 2013 and found that it would be a favorable and economically feasible project.

Williams said when the project was complete, the city garnered interest immediately. He said the location on West Elm between University and Illinois avenues is a solid location.

“It is positioned a little over a half mile from SIU and it is less than that from SIH,” he said. “Those are two of the biggest demand generators in our region.

At Tuesday's council meeting Curtis Conley, who is both manager of PK's and president of the Carbondale Music Coalition, strongly supported the hotel. Ditto for Southern Illinois Healthcare President Rex Budde who said the development would benefit the hospital.

The development company Sai Krishna LLC registered with the Secretary of State's office earlier this year on March 6. The state lists Pradeep Reddy of Carbondale and Naresh Patel of Harrisburg as managers with Reddy also serving as the LLC's agent of record.

A few years ago Reedy and his wife donated three acres of land for the region's first Hindu temple at 1209 E. Walnut St. and has served as president of Hindu Temple and Cultural Society of Southern Illinois. Patel operates the Comfort Inn and Super 8 hotels in Harrisburg.

The new lodging development comes after a rash of much needed older hotel/motel demolitions in Jackson County.

The old Best Inns of America motel, last operating as the Unicity Inn east of the University Mall has recently made way for a new IHOP restaurant that broke ground in April. Developers paid $875,000 for the tract which will also include, "3,000 square feet for another “fast-casual” themed restaurant and 10,000 square feet of retail."

The city is also working on demolishing the former Horizon Inn, originally the city's first Holiday Inn, on Main Street. The city took ownership of the three parcels for around $2,000 and is looking for a develop who will demolish the building and redevelop the land.

In Murphysboro, the Southern Illinoisan reported yesterday that the Apple Tree Inn at the intersection of Routes 13 and 127 in Murphysboro has a new owner. The motel closed earlier June 1 following a foreclosure sale earlier in the day by the Jackson County Circuit Clerk. Joe Koppeis of Columbia, won the auction with a bid of $125,000.

Koppeis is the owner of the Holiday Inn in Sparta, the real estate company Admiral Parkway Inc., four shopping centers, hardware stores and a Domino’s franchise throughout Southern Illinois.

Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said he has been in contact with Koppeis, but knows there aren’t any concrete plans. He said Koppeis is commissioning a few studies to determine what would be the most feasible for the location.

Although Stephens is in the dark about what may be coming, he said the developer does have plans to demolish the building.