Building Memories: Baubles, 26 W. Jefferson Ave.
By Joni Hirsch Blackman For The Sun January 24, 2013 5:48PM
Kellyn Machacek, owner of Baubles by Maclyn Jewelry, located at 26 West Jefferson in downtown Naperville stands among the dozens of displays in the store on Tuesday, January 22, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 28, 2013 6:14AM
To a generation of Naperville dancers (and their moms,) 26 W. Jefferson Ave. will always be Kay Clay’s Dance Supplies.
For many years, Kay Clay’s was to dance what the Naperville Sport Shop was to soccer and baseball. It also may have been Naperville’s first yoga studio — Clay taught yoga there for many years.
Some were surprised the place could make a go of it, let alone become a minor landmark.
“When Kay Clay went in, I couldn’t figure out what the heck they sold in there,” said then-neighbor Tom Klingbeil of the old City Meat Market across the street.
“I’m like, you can actually run a store selling dance stuff?!”
Shynell Owen was one of those dancers from the age of 3 on who bought her tutus, ballet slippers and tights in the well-stocked shop. Not only that, she eventually grew up to work there.
Owen worked at the old store for the last years it was on Jefferson, and is the store manager of Kay Clay on Ogden Avenue, where the business continues.
“The same carpet, walls and lighting for all those years — everything was old and out of date. It would have cost more to renovate than to move,” Owen said. “Besides, we have our own parking lot now.”
Next, jewelry store
One shop’s move is another shop’s gain. When Kay Clay left downtown, it opened a space in 2010 for Kellyn Machacek to move her Baubles by Maclyn jewelry store from Chicago Avenue, where it had been for four years, to Jefferson.
“I wanted to be on Jefferson, the foot traffic and the visibility are great,” she said.
Machacek has been in the jewelry business for 20 years, starting in retail jewelry working for an independent jeweler when she was in high school. She later ran her own jewelry business from her home for several years before opening the first store in Plainfield in 2004. That store remained for three years. Meanwhile, she opened the second store in Naperville, which is her only store now.
“I love my spot here. I like to think we’re art gallery meets street fair — crafty, unique, different. We have cool, fun handmade pieces for $50 next to artisan gallery pieces for $300 to $400,” she said.
“We have a niche, between fine jewelry and costume. Thirty to 40 percent of our pieces are handmade by independent artists.”
Jewelry prices run from $20 to $500, though the majority are probably in the $60 range.
“We do a lot of cool, nichey-type things; we’re not a cookie cutter store,” she said. “If you see a ring and come back in two months and it’s gone, it’s gone, you can’t get it. It’s good, don’t see yourself coming and going.”
Machacek also can turn souvenirs like foreign coins into jewelry and makes sterling silver pieces out of old flowers from weddings or other special events. She can even turn children’s fingerprints into jewelry, and enjoys creating one-of-a-kind rings for couples. She loves to design jewelry and re-design fine jewelry pieces.
“That’s my forte. I love to do redesigns. I advertise that a little bit, but it’s more word of mouth,’”she said. “I have diamond suppliers and a bench jeweler, but you can’t walk in and buy something in a case. It’s totally custom, one piece for one person. You’re able to get a nicer quality piece for less money.”
Machacek’s landlord Bruce Herkert is happy to have a tenant with experience and staying power like her. He remembers his first tenant, shortly after he bought 22-26 W. Jefferson in 1986, a little differently.
“She was a woman who had never been in retail before. She wanted to have an accessories shop,” he said. “She had one counter, something like 18 feet long in the whole section. Whenever someone went in there, she was sitting on the back porch smoking cigarettes. I don’t think it lasted a year.”
Eye doctor Murry Rice had been in 26 W. Jefferson when Herkert first bought the building, but was retiring about the time the sale went through. After the accessories shop closed, Kay Clay moved in and stayed long enough to be a neighborhood staple.
Herkert bought the building because he’d previously owned a commercial building downtown and had sold it, and had heard this one was available. He figured it was a good investment.
“People tell me I was really smart to buy this building,” Herkert said. “I’d rather be lucky than smart.”
Herkert doesn’t know a lot about the building’s history, though he heard it began as a two-story building that was renovated in 1955 when the top floor was removed. The salon, Artistic Creations in 22 W. Jefferson, was originally a staircase leading to the top floor.
Photos do show the building as having two stories years ago.
According to Genevieve Towsley’s columns, the building was originally owned by Frank Strubler, whose confectionary and cigar store was there.
“Strubler made and served ice cream in the summer in a screen terrace at the back and this was a popular gathering place. The Strubler daughters, Clara and Ella were the fountain clerks,” Towsley quoted August Germann as saying in the late 1950s.
Several other confectionaries followed, she wrote: Harvey Williams, Julian Heim, Andrew Stoos and Dick Yender. In 1936, Harry Seidel opened the Main Food Store in connection with Joe Faulhaber’s Meat Market on the site — the address was 22 W. Jefferson. Old phone directories list the food store being there from 1937 to at least 1955. Towsley said the building was sold to Dr. A.B. Slick in the ’30s and Sam Rubin in 1951.
Jan’s Gift House took over half the space in the mid-1970s, 24 W. Jefferson, and in 26 W. Jefferson was then-owner Dr. Murry Rice, an eye doctor. Klingbeil remembers Rice’s office had a small sign and curtains in the window.
The building itself had its 15 minutes of fame a few years back when Naperville made Money Magazine’s list of top places to live.
“My wife’s friend in Minneapolis told us our building was in the magazine!” Sure enough, there it was, with the old Kay Clay awning.
And no matter whose name is on the door, some things never change. The building, which began as one space, has thin walls separating the various basements, Owen said.
“We could hear everyone’s conversations and even hear them typing on typewriters. It was definitely interesting!”
The toe shoes are gone. Some tiptoeing, perhaps, continues.
Joni Hirsch Blackman is the author of “Downtown Naperville.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.