‘Come grow with us’:  Bellwood Mayor welcomes 2018 with economic development progress

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Among the many development projects scheduled to be completed in 2018, Thortons Gas Station and convenience store, located at the intersection of 25th Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway, opens its doors for business.

L. Nicole Trottie

BELLWOOD |  On a bone-chillingly cold Friday, the Village of Bellwood presented its residents, members of the surrounding communities, and travelers on both I-290 and the 25th Avenue corridor with a warm, new place to visit and enjoy fresh hot food from a real kitchen as well hot coffee, cappuccino, and hot chocolate. Oh, and they could also fill up their cars with diesel or several levels of unleaded gasoline while they warmed up.

Thorntons, a family owned, leading independent gasoline/convenience-chain retailer based in Louisville held the Grand Opening of its location at 1125 S. 25th Ave on January 12 with a huge crowd that included Mayor Andre Harvey, State Representative Chris Welch, (D) 7th District, Hillside, and members of the Bellwood Board of Trustees and its Chamber of Commerce.

“This is a great part in revitalizing the Village of Bellwood and the 7th District,” Welch said. “I am honored to join Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey, Clerk Janel Moreland-Pruitt, Village Trustees, the Bellwood Chamber of Commerce and officials from Thornton’s Gas Station to officially open the new business.”  Welch added that measures taken by cook county and the state, including the overturned Cook County Sugar Tax were instrumental to bringing more businesses like Thorntons to Bellwood.

“Thortons opening its doors in Bellwood at the high-traffic intersection of 25th Ave and the 290 Expressway is a game changer,” Mayor Harvey said. “We’re happy that Thorntons picked this site that was vacant for 10 years, to continue the momentum of Bellwood’s economic development efforts along the 25th Avenue corridor.”  Mayor Harvey thanked Thortons management for having the vision to open a gas and convenience facility to attract Bellwood residents and provide the village a competitive advantage by picking up foot traffic from I-290, that the village conservatively estimates will increase revenues by more than $300,000 annually.

This Thorntons is open 24 hours per day and not only includes 20 covered pumps that offer diesel fuel and several levels of unleaded gasoline including Thorntons special Unleaded15, but also features an award-winning convenience center that practically doubles as a restaurant.

Hamoud Hamoud, General Manager, Thortons said guests are treated to a “real kitchen with real cooks handcrafting real food from delicious, high-quality ingredients.” Chicken sandwiches, sausage egg and cheese biscuits, and burritos are only a few of the items available. In the deli case, fresh eats such as wraps, sandwiches, fruit trays and other healthy options are available all day. The enormous roller grill cooks brats, sausages and hot dogs to combine with a huge variety of fresh toppings.

Visitors can also enjoy the made fresh daily donuts, muffins, and other bakery treats as well as soft serve ice cream with a wide variety of toppings. The frozen FizzFreez drinks are also a national favorite that come in a variety of seasonal and other flavors that can be mixed and matched.  Guests can also wash it all down with the aforementioned coffee, hot chocolate and cappuccino, or they can pour from a huge selection of tea and fountain drinks that also have numerous “flavor shots” available.  This Thorntons also offers the regular convenience store items like candy, bottled beverages, and paper goods. Domestic, imported and premium beers and liquors are also available.

During his speech, Mayor Harvey assured residents that because Thorntons would be open 24 hours per day that there would be a regular police presence at or around the location. Both Mayor Harvey and Representative Welch also took time during their speeches to thank Peter Tsiolis and his company Strategic Project Management, which acts as the Economic Development Department for the Village of Bellwood.  When asked about why Thornton’s was the choice to bring to this location, Tsiolis said, “Well, look at this place. Why wouldn’t this be your first choice.”

Tsiolis went on to describe the seven-year process of bringing this major player to the area: “In January 2010, after Strategic Project Management was recently retained by (the Village of) Bellwood to serve as its Project Management and Economic Development arm, we sat down and analyzed all four corners of the village looking to prioritize parcels of property for redevelopment.”   Tsiolis said of the opportunity, “It became pretty apparent to us that this was a Class A property due to its proximity to I-290 and 25th Avenue. It also happens to be situated in one of the villages key TIF districts. With the closing of the Wilson School several years before and with no possibility of redeveloping that into a new school, one would think that the school district would also have been in favor of seeing the site redeveloped for commercial purposes to help the Village grow.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.”

Tsiolis suggested that contentious board members hindered development efforts for years. “Certain members of the school board and those behind them stalled any effort to redevelop this site for years. It wasn’t until the board membership changed that that obstacle was eliminated and development could move forward. Through our years of networking and experience, we immediately reached out to representatives high up in Thorntons and pitched the location. As many know, Thorntons is very deliberate in their site selection process, and we were able to convince them and help them understand all the merits of this site, especially the coming additional traffic value provided by the new 25th Ave bridge. The rest, as they say, is history.”

The transformation of the 25th Avenue corridor took a huge step forward in the cold on Friday, the 12th of January 2018, and with Thorntons firmly in place and Strategic Project Management shepherding in more new and important projects, the Village of Bellwood and the entire area look to be in good hands well into the future.

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