Winter Wine Walk

Sip your way through downtown Wheaton at this oenophile-friendly event from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. on January 19. Enjoy 12 one-ounce tastings at 20 retail and dining locations, including Ivy, Jeans & a Cute Top Shop, Kimmer’s, and Muldoon’s.

Ivy owner Dick O’Gorman, a board member of the Downtown Wheaton Association, says the event committee started the wine walk three years ago. “It took off very, very well,” he says. “I think we had 500 people come through here last year. It’s just plain fun.” Ivy serves cheese, meat, and chocolate in a private room off the patio (shown), where guests can enjoy food and wine around the outdoor fire pits. Tickets are $25, which includes a souvenir wine glass. For more information, including a list of participating venues, or to purchase tickets, visit

Photo courtesy Downtown Wheaton Association

Safe Cities

Adams Park in Wheaton

Despite stories of violence dominating local headlines almost weekly, recent FBI data suggest that Illinois is the third-safest state in the country—especially in Chicago’s suburbs. analyzed information provided by law enforcement agencies and demographic trends correlating to crime, including population density, unemployment, education, and income in cities with more than 50,000 people.

According to the study, the safest city in the state is Wheaton, followed by Palatine and Hoffman Estates. Wheaton’s safety score of 90.43 lands in the top 5 percent in the country, due to its low citizen-to-officer ratio and a recent 17.8 percent drop in violent crime. For more data on your western suburb, visit

Serious Slumber

Though his focus is ears, noses, and throats, this ENT finds sleep to be a common link in pediatric problems

From first working with airway and cardiac issues as an EMT to eventually developing an interest in cardiac surgery in medical school, Eric Gantwerker was certain that he wanted to specialize in otolaryngology (ear-nose-throat issues). But it wasn’t until his residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that his desire to focus on working with kids within this area was solidified. And it wasn’t until he really got into practice that he came to understand that as a pediatric otolaryngologist, he wasn’t just treating the child on the examination or surgery table.

“You actually have two patients to care for—the child and the parent,” says Gantwerker, who currently practices at the Loyola Center for Children’s Health in Oakbrook Terrace. “But I really enjoy trying to get the kids involved in their own care and creating that bond with the whole family as they progress through treatment.”
In addition to common childhood ENT maladies such as ear and sinus infections, one issue that more of those families are dealing with these days—and one that Gantwerker believes parents should be on the lookout for—is sleep apnea. The condition causes excessive snoring or difficulty breathing at night, which can lead to a host of related sleep deprivation problems for little ones.

“Sometimes it shows up in things that aren’t so obvious, such as kids who are having trouble getting potty trained, or are dealing with hyperactivity during the day,” he explains. “These may be tied back to the fact that they’re not getting the sleep they need. It’s the little nuanced things that we don’t always think about that could be a sign that something else is going on.”

Photograph by Michael Hudson

Going to the Chapel

After meeting in downtown Naperville, this sweet couple married at nearby North Central College

Thanks to the popularity of taking wedding portraits before the ceremony, the time-honored tradition of a groom seeing his bride for the first time walking down the aisle has become more rare. But when Brent Flickinger, 34, and Erica Price, 26, married at North Central College’s Koten Chapel, the Naperville residents both wanted that old-fashioned reveal. “It was probably the happiest moment of my life,” Flickinger says. “I couldn’t hold back the happy tears.”

The couple said their vows in front of the chapel’s stunning stained-glass window, and instead of lighting a unity candle, they created a unity canvas. “We had our parents dip their thumbs in ink and make a heart, and then we each did one to connect the hearts,” Price says.

Their first dance to the acoustic version of “Latch” by Sam Smith recalled the couple’s early days of friendship after meeting as employees at Ted’s Montana Grill in downtown Naperville. “Back when we were just friends, we would always go to … Peanuts [Bar & Grill] after work. … There’s a jukebox and I would always play that song,” Price says. “Whenever Brent would hear it on the radio, he always said it reminded him of me.”

Their friendship blossomed and soon led to romance. Flickinger proposed in Lake Norfolk, Arkansas, on an annual summer vacation in 2017 with Price’s family. Price’s mother—Naperville magazine sales director Jenni Price—vacationed there with her family as a kid. “Now we all go with my cousins, aunts, and uncles,” Erica Price says. “That’s a super special place to me. And now we can bring our kids there when we go someday.”

Their reception at Prairie Landing Golf Club in West Chicago featured rustic walnut-toned wood and rose gold details, along with floral arrangements of white ranunculus and eucalyptus leaves. “It was everything that we expected,” Price says. “Everyone was dancing all night, and we had a photo booth that everyone just loved.”

Price now works as assistant general manager at Jackson Avenue Pub, and Flickinger is general manager of Front Street Cantina, just a block away on Jefferson Street in downtown Naperville. They honeymooned in Jamaica and enjoy going for walks and snuggling with their white pit bull, Lando.

Venues Ceremony: Koten Chapel at North Central College, Naperville; Reception: Prairie Landing Golf Club, West Chicago
Bride’s attire Wolsfelt’s Bridal, Aurora
Bride’s accessories Shoes by Guilty Shoes,; earrings from Francesca’s, Naperville; bracelet borrowed from a friend; veil borrowed from sister-in-law Annie Price
Hair and makeup Melanie Bauer and Jacki Cope of Amber Waves, Jessica McKane of LuxeSkin Med Spa
Bridesmaid’s attire Bill Levkoff
Groom’s and groomsmen’s attire Black Tie Formalwear, Aurora
Invitations Paper Source, Naperville
Catering and cake Prairie Landing, West Chicago
Music DJ Tony Ho
of Sounds Abound, Naperville
Florals Christine Plier of Town & Country Gardens, Bartlett
Rings Jared Galleria of Jewelry, Aurora
Transportation Party bus by Naperville Limousine; tuk-tuks by Tuk Tuk Naperville

Photos by Rebecca Haley Photography

Naperville Nuances

The chamber’s inaugural Leadership Naperville! program

Chamber program offers an inside look at the historic and operational structure of the city

I recently was invited to join a new pilot program offered by the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Naperville! Longtime members, as well as those new to the city, spend six weeks getting behind-the-scenes insight into the workings of the city. Whether you are a new resident or a native who has some time on your hands, this can be a great way to find out more about your community. Here are six things I learned:

  1. The leaders of Naperville are happy to share their success stories to motivate others.
  2. If you’re new to Naperville, this course can give you a handle on what makes the city tick.
  3. If you want to get involved, try volunteering.
  4. There are several qualities that all good leaders share.
  5. Collaboration is a key to success.
  6. The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce is well respected by its members.

For Ashley Strubel, a sales manager with Rightsize office furniture, the course was an opportunity to learn more about the community.

“I live in Plainfield and I had never been to Naper Settlement before,” she says. “Learning about Naperville’s history helped me learn why some things are the way they are here.”
During the course we visited six key places. At Edward Hospital we all learned what makes a good leader (and I personally learned that teamwork is invaluable when you lose your car in the parking lot).

Christine Jefferies, president of the Naperville Development Partnership, taught us about the importance of commercial business on our taxes.

“The split between commercial and residential taxes are 25/75. Without commercial taxes, homeowners’ taxes would go through the roof. Economic developments lesson the burden on all of us,” she says.

We learned that Naper Settlement is a museum that doesn’t live in the past. A tour of historic Naperville on the Naperville Trolley and a quick visit to the museum’s archive facility on Fort Hill Drive taught us that the city has always learned from history to develop a better future.

At City Hall, state Representative Grant Werhli talked about the importance of balancing civic duty with work and family.

We visited “the safest place in Naperville” when Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis showed us the emergency operations center below ground at the fire department, and finally we learned about the importance of volunteerism to all of the 80 nonprofits that are members of the chamber.

Best of all was the opportunity to get up close and personal with the people who have their fingers of the pulse of Naperville. Whether you are looking to become a leader, or are simply looking for an insider’s view of the city, this is a great opportunity for personal growth.

The chamber’s events manager, Beth Ann DeFranco, is hoping to run an extended version of the trial course late spring, and you don’t need to be a chamber member to attend.

“It’s aimed at people who want get in touch with the community and maybe become more involved,” she says. “It’s really for anyone who lives here who wants to make Naperville a better place. This course just touches the tip, the next one will dive a little deeper.”

For more information about the next course, contact the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce at 630.355.4141.

Photo courtesy Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce

Project Asia

Eschewing extravagance, a Naperville couple instead focuses on personality

Although its quaint exterior blends beautifully with others near the historic district, the unique interior decor of Peter and Dotsie Poli’s new home reflects 12 years spent abroad. A painting from Vietnam, a table from Singapore, and a statue from Cambodia provide both visual interest and personal meaning in the couple’s newly refurbished Dutch modern home.

“I wanted something that had character,” Dotsie, an international education consultant, says about their home search after moving back from Singapore in 2017. Instead of building, the couple worked with architect Thomas J. Ryan, builder C.T. Schillerstrom, and interior designer Angela Graefenhain to gut a 1950s square ranch that Dotsie says “had great bones.”—MD

The Circles of Love oil painting by Angela Graefenhain “represents how we are all interconnected with each other,” says the artist.

An ornate glass and wood table from India sits atop a contemporary American rug (Verve rug, midnight, $599, West Elm), blending East and West.

The shape of the Tango LED Pendant in gold leaf by Modern Forms ($629, mimics the round glass table below.

This corner accent piece was purchased at A Chair Affair, the annual fundraiser for Bridge Communities.

The Polis collected artwork throughout their travels in Asia, including this painting from Vietnam that now hangs in Dotsie’s home office. “Peter went out to grab breakfast one morning,” she says, “and he came back with this giant rolled canvas.”

When purchased, the rooms in the Poli home were much more segmented, says Graefenhain. “The goal was to open up the space and have one large room, which is very inviting and cozy.” A door panel from India provides interesting detail under the glass of a dining table purchased in Singapore. “I love that you can see through it visually,” says the designer. “It gives it so much character and warmth.” Streamlined, modern furniture from Room and Board fits the scale of the narrow family room.

The repeated shape of a hexagon creates design unity, which can be found in bathroom sinks and tiles as well as the kitchen backsplash that really pops against the blue cabinets and grout. “The hex is very classic, but it has a modern aesthetic,” says Graefenhain. “I just love that backsplash. It’s really fun.”

Photos by Rory Mcfadden

Family Foundation

GiGi’s Playhouse Fox Valley supports individuals with Down syndrome

A local nonprofit coordinator now gives back to the organization that supported her daughter

When Katie Vaughan’s daughter was born with Down syndrome, she and her husband were thrust into an unfamiliar world. “Zoe was going through things my friends’ children weren’t. As a family we were going through things no one truly understood,” Vaughan recalls. When her daughter turned 1, they visited GiGi’s Playhouse, a nonprofit that supports individuals with Down syndrome and their families. “When I walked into GiGi’s, I saw they got it. They understood right away all the different trials and tribulations that happen with a special needs child.” Feeling welcomed and accepted, Vaughan saw her daughter thrive. Now, in her role as site coordinator for GiGi’s Playhouse Fox Valley, she makes sure other families have the same positive experience.

A Place of Acceptance
GiGi’s Playhouse was created to change the way the world views a Down syndrome diagnosis, and send a global message of acceptance for all. While many online support organizations exist, GiGi’s Playhouse is the only one with actual physical locations where people can gather for support. The nonprofit began in 2002 when founder Nancy Gianni gave birth to her daughter GiGi. When hospital staff realized GiGi was born with Down syndrome, the atmosphere in the room immediately changed from celebration to sympathy. After attending a support group in a sterile hospital room, Gianni was inspired to create a warm and welcoming place where families could come for resources and networking—a place where the diagnosis would be celebrated and supported.

Gianni founded the first GiGi’s Playhouse in Hoffman Estates, and two years later opened a second location in Fox Valley. In only 15 years, the nonprofit has grown to 40 locations throughout the U.S. and Mexico, and has over 200 inquiries to open more sites. By 2020, the organization hopes to have a site in every major U.S. metropolitan area.

Practical Programming
GiGi’s Playhouse offers programs that are educational and therapeutic and makes a lifelong commitment to its families. “All our programs are purposeful and advance different skills,” Vaughan explains. “Most importantly, they are all are free. We are 100 percent funded by donations, grants, and sponsorships, and 99 percent run by volunteers.”

At GiGi’s Playhouse, families experience love, encouragement, and acceptance. “We are always looking for celebration moments,” Vaughan explains. “Celebrating even the smallest successes is so important. It’s what makes people want to be a part of what we are doing and keeps them coming back.”
Recently the nonprofit launched an initiative in schools and on social media called GenerationG, which inspires people to be more accepting, generous, and kind. “If we can help people appreciate those with differences, we’ll make the world a better place for everyone.”

Vaughan, a former teacher, became site coordinator in May 2018 after volunteering for several years with the preschool prep and literacy programs at GiGi’s Playhouse. In her current role, the Oswego resident and mother of two handles everything from coordinating programs and volunteers, to conducting administrative and marketing tasks. Vaughan also volunteers for the National Association for Down Syndrome’s welcome basket program by visiting families of newborns with Down syndrome in the hospital.

Special Encouragement
Though the work might be difficult at times, Vaughan looks no further than to her daughter for inspiration.

“Zoe has so many challenges, yet she keeps going with a smile on her face. She has so much perseverance and brings joy to so many people,” Vaughan explains. “When you have a child with special needs you truly understand what’s important. Being able to love people and have love in return is really what we are all here for. That’s what I feel people with Down syndrome show the world. That’s why it’s so important to support them and this community.”

For more information about GiGi’s Playhouse, including its Chicagoland fundraising gala on February 2, visit

Photo courtesy Gigi’s Playhouse

Newly Opened | January 2019

This fast-casual, farm-to-table chain in Springbrook Prairie Pavilion serves wraps, salads, burgers, fries, meatballs, bowls, and smoothies using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.
2555 West 75th Street, Naperville

After a substantial remodel of the former Heaven on Seven space, Chris Mason brings elevated American comfort food to downtown Naperville.
224 South Main Street, Naperville

Ike and Oak Brewing Co.
This new Seven Bridge spot features craft beer brewed onsite and handmade artisan pizza, plus an indoor/outdoor beer hall.
6315 Main Street, Woodridge

A Place to Hide

Pierce Tavern is a homey hangout for wood-smoked eats and boozy treats

Given that downtown Downers Grove’s newest restaurant, Pierce Tavern, is located in one of the village’s oldest buildings, it makes good sense that it’s operated by siblings with deep dining roots in the area.

Sam and Patricia Vlahos grew up in their father’s restaurants around the western suburbs. “I think his most recognizable was Jonathan’s steakhouse in Lombard, which he ran for 35 years,” Sam says. After opening Fuller House in Hinsdale in 2015, the siblings wanted to replicate the concept in other west suburban downtowns. When the historic stone building on the corner of Main and Curtiss streets in Downers Grove became available, they easily envisioned their next venture. “We grew up in Oak Brook and went to all Downers Grove schools,” Sam says. “We always wanted to do something in Downers.”

Inside, you’ll find antler chandeliers, lighting made from twisted rope, and reclaimed barn wood. As a nod to the building’s storied history as Downers Grove’s first bank and first library, there’s a column tiled in pennies and bills, plus a wall covered with books. And the place is named, of course, for village founder Pierce Downer.

The owners call Pierce Tavern “a neighborhood hideout,” even months after the September opening. The only problem? It seems that everyone wants to hide out here, fueling an hour-plus wait on weekend nights. If you can’t score a table, catch a barstool on either side of the bar, or in front of the open kitchen, for a casual date night.

The Vlahos siblings hired a bar director to create a cocktail menu unique to Pierce Tavern, and it leans heavily on spirits infused in-house. The light and bubbly Gone With the Gin features smoked rosemary-infused gin, while the Merchant Man pleases the palate with brown butter-infused bourbon, chocolate-walnut bitters, vanilla demerara sugar, and a single oversize ice cube. With a price tag of $10 a pop, the value is definitely there and I’ve no doubt shelled out more for much less impressive options at other spots around town. Sam says the cocktail program has proved so popular that they may follow suit and level up the drinks at Fuller House too.

The food menu is borrowed mostly from Fuller House, with some new dishes in the mix, such as juicy seared pork chops with peppery bacon-and-peach relish, dreamy white cheddar grits, and garlicky sautéed spinach. A domed wood-fired oven visible in the open kitchen turns out Neapolitan-inspired pizzas ranging from the simple, traditional margherita to the Sunny Side Up pie with an egg and bacon. There’s also a smoker at work, cooking low and slow to make tender meats, such as the brisket that’s stuffed in tacos topped with fried onion strings and white barbecue sauce.
Though downtown Downers Grove has seen a few new restaurants established in the past year or two, it’s still a pretty sleepy scene after 9:00 p.m. That makes Pierce Tavern’s late-night kitchen—which serves food until 10:00 p.m. on weekdays and 11:00 p.m. on weekends—just right for a bite after a movie at the nearby Tivoli Theater. Truth be told, though, I’d destroy an order of the fried calamari—with sweet chili sauce, flecks of fried basil, and spicy sambal mayo—any time of day or night.

Photos by Felicia Roumelitis and Jacquelyn Gillium

Arms Ready

Get guns fast with moves from the head trainer at St. Charles’ Norris Rec Center

By Andrea Masoncup

If you run, cycle, or hike, your legs and lungs are accustomed to getting a good workout, but what about your upper body? Strong arms help hold you up while on the bike, and they help you power up hills, whether you’re running or walking. If your upper body has largely been ignored, the good news is it doesn’t take long to firm things up.

GOAL Increase upper-body strength, tone and define arms

PLAN Perform 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise

EQUIPMENT Body weight, dumbbells, and exercise tubes

Stand in front of a chair or couch seat. Place hands on seat with fingers pointing forward. Keep back flat and walk legs out in front of body. Bend arms and lower body toward ground, with elbows directly behind body. Straighten arms to complete 1 rep. Do 10 reps.
Start in a forearm plank. Keeping abs tight, spine long, and hips still, pick up right arm and right palm on ground. Repeat on left side, ending up in a high-plank position. Repeat, replacing right palm with right elbow and left palm with left elbow. That’s 1 rep.
Attach tubing to the upper part of a door hinge. Sit tall on a stability ball or bench and grasp tubing handles. Keeping feet flat on the floor and chest high, pull elbows down and back, squeezing shoulder blades together. Pause and slowly return to starting position.
Extend both arms out to the side, bending arms at the elbows (like a goalpost), with dumbbells in each hand. Straighten your arms overhead and touch dumbbells together. Return to starting position.
Hinge at the hips so upper body is near parallel to floor, dumbbells in hand with wrists below shoulders. Draw weights up to chest with palms facing away from you (supinated grip) by bending elbows and squeezing shoulder blades together (like you’re rowing a boat). Slowly lower weights back to starting position and repeat.
Grasp two dumbbells and stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Bend forward at the waist until your back is parallel to the floor (keep knees bent), palms and dumbbells facing each other. Raise dumbbells up and out to the sides, moving from the shoulders only, until arms are parallel to the floor at shoulder level. Lower to starting position and repeat.
Start in a plank position. Bring index fingers and thumbs to meet, forming a triangle under chest. Bend elbows and lower torso as close to ground as possible. Push through palms to straighten arms. Modify this move by dropping to knees. Do 10 reps.

Illustrations by Ievgenii Volyk