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MusicFest brings crowds to downtown

Dorothy Roberson, lead singer of the Tina Turner Experience, sings while dancing with the crowd Friday night at the main stage during Merchant Street MusicFest in downtown Kankakee.

ReCharge reenergizing downtown

On Aug. 15, 2019, Alicia Betts and her son, Seth, opened ReCharge Coffee Bar in what would be considered downtown Manteno.

Fast forward less than two years and the Manteno-based duo — along with husband-and-wife business partners Adam and Gina Baumgartner of Peotone — now has three coffee shops, including its new hub store at 150 E. Station St. in downtown Kankakee.

Baumgartner is the owner of the downtown property known as the Station 150 Food District.

The food district will house ReCharge Coffee, the Station Street Cafe and the Donut Foundry.

A ”Pizza Kitchen” eatery will be coming soon.

The Station Street building, the recent home of Papi’s Pizza, then owned by Bradley resident Russell Lind, is the foursome’s newest addition, having only opened the location on July 13.

The Station Street Cafe will be the constant here. The cafe will offer salads, flatbreads, sandwiches and what Alicia describes as “unique foods.”

ReCharge is setting out to reenergize the local community’s love of coffee, lattes, espressos, cold brews (coffee, that is), hot teas, frappes, smoothies, Red Bull mixers and the list goes on and on.

ReCharge’s first location came to Manteno at 49½ W. Second St. The brew crew opened a second location in Bourbonnais at 415 Main St. NW — which is along Illinois 102 — on May 10 of this year in the tiny double-drive-thru-only location commonly known as ”The Hut.”

“This is a great opportunity. We want to take this to the next level,” said Seth, 20, a 2019 graduate of Manteno High School.

But expanding a business on the heels of a pandemic?

That situation did not faze Seth and Alicia, 56, in the least.

“People want to get out. People want to return, and without the patrons, we wouldn’t be here. It is our customers that are pushing us forward,” Alicia said.

Regarding the three locations: Kankakee is opened from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday; Bourbonnais is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday; and Manteno 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The downtown Kankakee location is different than the business owners’ Manteno and Bourbonnais locations. Those spots are simply grab-and-go.

Kankakee’s site has seating and has breakfast and lunch items as well.

The business also operates its own coffee bean roasting. They started roasting their own coffee beans — ReCharge Coffee Co. — in March 2020.

Seth cannot say how far ReCharge may go in the coming years, but with the Kankakee site as its distribution point for products and the coffee bean roasting site to its two other locations, anything is possible in coming years.

“A lot of people were letting COVID win,” Seth said. “We weren’t going to allow it. We were determined to keep pushing forward.”

For the foursome, though, there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish what they have in mind.

Seth sheepishly admits he wasn’t even an everyday coffee drinker until recently. How things change.

He knows there are a wide variety of locations where the coffee-drinking public can have their needs satisfied.

“We are about customer service,” he said. “Our mission is to make everyone’s experience great. We know we have a lot of work to do to perfect our brand. We take no guest for granted. We take each customer as an opportunity to serve them well.”

ONU installs rooftop panels for solar energy

BOURBONNAIS — Solar energy will soon be helping to power Olivet Nazarene University.

This summer, the university began work to install 3,100 solar panels, each measuring about 3 feet by 6 feet, on the roofs of the Perry Student Life Center and Hawkins Centennial Chapel, according to an ONU news release.

Installation is expected to take a few months to complete, with the goal to begin generating clean energy by the start of the school year.

ONU is expecting to save an average of $45,000 per year using the energy generated on the two buildings, according to the release.

The solar energy generated on campus will go directly into the buildings for immediate use, with any unused, excess energy to go into the central grid.

After a “competitive bidding process” among solar panel companies, ONU entered a 25-year agreement with Wisconsin-based SunVest Solar Inc. to install and maintain the panels, according to the release.

The company assumes all costs of maintenance and upkeep, and it retains full ownership of the panels during the contract. ONU put no money down for the project, the university confirmed.

Use of the panels is expected to increase the percentage of renewable energy used by ONU from 9 percent up to 19 percent.

Currently, ONU receives about 9 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources through ComEd, according to the release.

The idea for the solar panels was inspired by a faculty presentation three years ago by mathematics professor Nick Boros during ONU’s annual Scholar Week.

Boros presented an analysis of what the energy cost-savings might be if the university installed solar arrays on campus. Mike Pyle, associate dean of the Walker School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and biology professor Ryan Himes conducted further research after Boros’ presentation.

Installation began in May and is anticipated to finish by the end of the summer.

ONU Spokesperson Lauren Beatty said the hope is that the solar panels will be a successful venture for the university and other similar clean energy projects will pop up.

She also said that students have already played key roles in researching the viability of such a project, and more research opportunities are likely for the future.

While the panels on the top of the Centennial Chapel are fairly inaccessible to the general public, the panels on the Perry Center can be viewed from the third floor workout facilities and will likely be visited/referenced in science courses taught at ONU, she said.

Bellowing success: Merchant Street Music Fest 2021

Rebecca Rego & the Trainmen perform Saturday afternoon on the Hill Stage during Merchant Street MusicFest in downtown Kankakee.