Wilmette, News

Chalet eyes remodel and expansion of signature Wilmette store

The business’s plans will likely be up for formal review in June

One of Wilmette’s longest-tenured businesses is planting the seeds for a project that will grow its roots in the village. 

Chalet, the popular nursery and garden shop, has submitted preliminary plans to completely remodel and add on to its existing store on Lake Avenue. The business appeared in front of Wilmette’s Appearance Review Commission earlier this year to request feedback on an upcoming proposal for an addition, a complete facade remodel of the existing buildings and multiple other site improvements, according to Village records. 

Lucas Sivertsen, Wilmette’s business development coordinator, told The Record that Chalet’s initial meeting with the Appearance Review Commission was “informal” and to “make sure the conceptual design was in line within what the village would approve.” He added that it was a “positive meeting” and Chalet is continuing to refine its plans. 

Chalet’s monument sign at the northeast corner of Lake and Skokie Boulevard. The business has operated in Wilmette since 1917.

Representatives from Chalet declined The Record’s request for an interview to discuss the business’s plans. 

“It is too early for us to speak on this,” Carleigh Thalmann, a marketing specialist for Chalet, told The Record via email. “We are still in the planning process with the village but would love to share once plans and approvals are final.” 

Chalet will likely appear in front of Wilmette’s Zoning Board of Appeals for a first formal review of project plans on June 21, Sivertsen said, noting that village officials have yet to conduct a full review of plans. 

He described the scope of the project thus far as “an expansion to provide additional retail area as well as expand the garden center and a complete refresh of the exterior of the buildings.” 

Chalet’s plans could head to Wilmette’s Village Board in mid-July after a review by zoning commissioner, per Sivertsen. 

The family owned local business first opened in 1917 and has grown from a small yard-care operation to one of Wilmette’s hallmark businesses.

Chalet’s initial proposal to the village features plans to construct additions on the west facade to make way for a greenhouse, vestibule entrance and additional retail space, according to a memo prepared by Wilmette’s community development department. 

Additionally, Chalet’s is proposing a new design for the existing three buildings at 3123 Lake Ave. Modifications to the store’s landscaping, hardscape and parking configuration are also part of the proposal, village documents show. 

Proposed new signage on the west and south elevations of the business’s main building may require approval of a sign variation.

A view of the proposed improvements to the store’s west side.

Larry Thalmann, the third-generation owner of the longtime Wilmette business, told the Appearance Review Commission in February that Chalet’s existing facilities need improvements as the main structure was built in 1955 by his grandfather, according to the meeting’s minutes. 

Ownership originally planned to only propose facade improvements but the project’s scope grew with the hope of unifying the site and updating facilities, the project’s architects told the commissioners. 

Katy Lambert, one of the project’s architects, also reportedly told the commission the site’s existing parking is not efficient. The proposed plan would add additional parking spaces while simultaneously reducing asphalt. Future phases of updates could allow for added outdoor sales and a truck turnaround, she added. 

Initial plans from Chalet call for the primary retail main entrance to be moved to the west facade, architects said, noting the added-on gabled-roof greenhouse will have its own point of sale. Project planners told the board a goal of the proposed work is to maintain the existing “charm and history of the site but to make it more cohesive and an architectural expression of the 21st century,” per the minutes. 

Commissioners showed support for Chalet’s plans during their initial review but did detail some concerns related to the existing parking on the site while expressing that additional parking could worsen problems. 

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martin carlino
Martin Carlino

Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.

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