City in the Spotlight: Dyer
Over the last three decades, the town of Dyer has clearly been on the rise.
When Town Administrator Rick Eberly grew up in the town some three decades ago, the population was somewhere between 5,000 to 6,000 residents, but that number has more than doubled since then, as the last U.S. Census saw the town having more than 16,000 full-time residents.
“Growing up in a small town was nice,” he said. “Everyone knew everyone else, Little League games weren’t competitive and everyone was cheering everyone on. That was a neat thing.”
For Clerk/Treasurer Pat Hawrot, the town has provided her “many great moments” in the 34 years she has called it home.
“Our 100-year centennial celebration and Calumet Avenue completion was pretty special,” Hawrot said in reference to the 2010 celebration of the town’s first century since incorporation.
“(Dyer) is a nice, quiet, safe community that has quite a few restaurants and a great hospital,” she added. “It’s an all-around community with great parks, churches and schools as well.”
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The close proximity to the city of Chicago is another added bonus for Dyer residents, Hawrot said.
“A lot of people in Dyer work in the city and our Congressman (Pete Visclosky) is working hard on getting the South Shore line extended here to make it an easier and more active commute. We are hoping that comes to fruition very soon.”
Dyer resident Raymond Lukas says the great thing about Dyer is that “it feels like it's away from everything but at the same time a stones throw away from the city. We don't get the congestion of traffic like in other suburbs, especially those in Illinois.”
Hawrot says one of the town’s best-kept secrets lies right in the building her and all of the city workers are based out of, Dyer Town Hall.
The building’s basement is the site of an extensive homage to the town’s history. Spend a day within the walls of the Dyer Historical Society and it won’t be enough to discover half of the artifacts and bits of information located there.
Originally established in 1987, the Historical Society has flourished since in recent years under curator Kathy Powers, who has been a volunteer at the Society since 2003.
“We didn’t have anything near what we do now,” Powers said. “This has really grown by leaps and bounds.”
Among the cherished items found in this spot are a piano from the State Line Hotel made in 1907, a rocking chair donated from a notable local resident from the early 20th century, old radios, record players, extensive genealogy lists and an old-time coffee maker.
“We have tons of history on the Fire Department,” Powers said while showing off the original fire wagon used by the Department more than a century ago.
Extensive information on the historic Lincoln Highway and Henry C. Ostermann monument have been popular as well.
“People have showed a lot of interest in the re-doing of the monument,” Powers said, while also noting that the Historical Society is a popular place for scouts looking for a sticker on their merit badge and families looking to do research on their family history or history of the town in general.
“We have an outstanding relationship with the town departments and town council,” Powers said. “They are all great in helping if I need something moved or rearranged.”
Membership is $10 a year, but “whoever wants a newsletter, gets one,” Powers said.
“That’s the place to go if you want to know the history of Dyer,” Hawrot added. “Kathy works hard in preserving all types of history.”
The number one supplier of Dyer, Franciscan St. Margaret Health: Dyer, is an impeccable facility that has served the community for more than a half-century.
Located right on U.S. 30 immediately adjacent to the Illinois state line, the hospital boasts “a very integrated health care unit,” according to Tom Gryzbek, president of the Hospital.
“We have a large number of growing programs including GI surgery, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and general surgery,” Gryzbek said. “We also employ a number of physicians, surgeons and psychiatrists in a number of positions. Our desire is to meet the needs of the community and engage in planning sessions with town of Dyer.”
Gryzbek, a Dyer resident, says no matter their income or insurance-status, every patient is treated with “the same dignity and respect.”
“We continue the holistic approach with the patients,” he said. “We believe we are called to look at the whole person.”
Marla Hoyer-Lareau, chief nursing officer at Franciscan St. Margaret Health: Dyer, touts St. Monica Home, the residential program offered for unwed mothers and young, pregnant women with no place to go.
St. Monica Home is a separate building on the hospital grounds.
“Each lady has their own room and we teach them about childcare and assisting them in what they need to become great mothers,” Hoyer-Lareau said, noting that the women are also given a chance to continue their education while at St. Monica Home.
The St. Francis Treatment Center is also available for adolescents aged 14-18.
“We are blessed to have the Sisters in our organization,” Gryzbek said, referring to the group run by the Franciscan Alliance - which operates the Dyer hospital and several other facilities in the region.
Eberly refers to the Hospital as “a very good partner with the town of Dyer.”
“We have partnered with them on a number of different projects and they have been more than generous in what they have done for the town,” he said.
For a town of its size, the restaurant scene in Dyer is full of life. When approaching from Illinois, visitors are immediately hit with the choice of taking in a relaxing atmosphere at White Rhino Bar & Grill, picking up some fresh foods from the new but popular Foodie’s Marketplace, or heading eastward on U.S. 30 to grab a bite at the restaurant at Meyer’s Castle or the much-respected Gino’s Steakhouse across the street.
“Gino’s is like a second home for me,” said Brittany Dickson, who has been a hostess and bartender at the restaurant for eight years. “We treat everyone like family, have regulars and know what they want when they come in. We always have a table ready for them.”
Foodie’s Marketcafe has been around for only two-and-a-half years, but has already garnered the No. 1 ranking for Dyer restaurants on tripadvisor.com.
“We have the greatest customers here who come in every week to show their support,” said Cathy Cameron, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Tim. “We live in Dyer and are proud to have brought something nice to the community.”
“We have three different restaurants that specialize in breakfast and just do breakfast and lunch,” Eberly added. “We have a number of choices for lunch and hang around for dinner as well. There is a unique property called Meyer’s Castle - built in depression area for Meyer family - now doubles as a home and rest/banquet facility. That is a really neat experience if someone hasn’t been there.”
Lukas recommends stopping at “Jelly for breakfast, White Rhino for lunch and at Rob’s Meats to get some great tasting steaks to cook on your grill as you listen to the birds peacefully tweet and fly by.”
The friendliness of the town does not go unnoticed by residents, visitors or people who commute for business. Lansing, Ill. resident Diane Glowacki, owner of White Rhino Bar & Grill, said the community has “people that have been very good to us since we have opened.”
“This is a nice community, which is very family-oriented with good family people,” added Joe Sannasardo, owner of Your Style Barber Shop on Joliet Street. “Although we have grown a lot, it is still Small Town, U.S.A. is many ways.”
Sannasardo said moving to Indiana from Chicago more than a decade ago was the “best move” he ever made. “I do not miss Chicago a bit, it is a better deal all around to live in Indiana.”
An old-fashioned barber shop in its purest form, Your Style will allow customers to sit a read a magazine while watching television before getting a cut.
Brian Benedict provided a spot-on review for the Barber Shop on its Google+ page.
“Joe at Your Style Barber Shop will give you the haircut you need and deserve. Great service, never a long wait, and conversation that will take you back to the time when your dad would take you in for a haircut as a kid,” the review indicated.
Right next door to Your Style is another prime example of how small businesses have thrived in the Dyer community. Hoosier Sports, 1514 Joliet St., has offered screen printing, embroidery, plaques for Little League, girls softball and school teams in addition to sports memorabilia since 1989.
The key to success for a small business, according to owner Judy Hein, is being involved.
“If you are active and involved in the town and with the schools, you will always be able to reap the benefits,” said Hein, who is the wife of the former president of the much-successful Dyer Little League and mother of current Police Chief David Hein.
“Dyer is a great town to raise a family,” she said. “Our kids grew up here and have raised their families here as well.”
Hein herself has been a member of the board of directors for the Dyer Chamber of Commerce for years and assists with the organization of many town events, including the “Corn Roast,” which is a yearly favorite organized by the Chamber.
Hein’s daughter was also on the committee to open Dog Park, which was recently opened as a part of Central Park, the town’s largest recreational area.
“If you follow your heart and are actively involved, it is generational,” Hein said. “It is rewarding to see our family continue to make it all happen in Dyer.”
Dog Park opened in November 2013 with two different areas, one for large breeds and another fenced-in area for smaller dogs.
Central Park, right off Calumet Ave. and 213th St., is highlighted by a pavilion that will become a showplace once the 77 acres that make up the park are more developed.
The park is gradually becoming the town’s crown jewel since it was purchased as a recreation area in 2007.
“We have some walking paths that are part of that already, and it will double or triple in size once we get the park developed. We will also have a hockey rink, soccer and baseball fields and tennis courts,” said Eberly, who has been town administrator since 2010 and previously served as Dyer’s zoning administrator and redevelopment director. “Central Park is already about three-times the size of our next biggest park and will have a lot to offer the community when it’s developed.”
Dyer is not short on events that attract visitors from throughout the Midwest either.
Freedom Festival, which started as just a Fourth of July celebration, has turned into a week-long gathering with a carnival, music, and food vendors.
Eberly says the town has increased in terms of area and development as well.
“When I was younger we had land, but year-by-year everything is becoming more developed,” he said.
And as far as Dyer has come over the last few decades, Eberly says the future only holds more benefits in-store for area residents.
“We have an economic development project we think is going to be developing on Calumet Avenue that will spur additional development,” he said. “It’s an assisted living nursing facility that will bring in 120 new jobs to the community. We are hoping to have construction begin in April and completed this year.”
But Dyer is about more than development, it is a place for families to enjoy a good quality of life all year-round.
“The fireworks display is gorgeous for 4th of July and the town always finds great local bands to play concerts in the park during the summer and fall,” said Lukas. “Even during the winter we have great spots for sledding. It's almost like a year-round of small activities in our backyard.”
Meyer’s Castle, 1370 Joliet St. From Castle website: “Meyer’s Castle is an example of Jacobethan Revival Architecture and was built between 1929 and 1931 by Joseph E. Meyer. The castle is surrounded by two huge banquet canopies where wedding receptions and private events are hosted.”
Central Park, Calumet Ave. and 213th St.
Foodie’s Marketcafe, 151 Joliet Street - Ranked NO. 1 on Tripadvisor.com. Reviewer from Griffith states: “Love this place. I have really enjoyed the variety of food they offer. I have tried the soups, sandwiches and, of course, desserts. I have yet to try one thing I didn't like. They also sell a few kitchen accessories which are great to peruse while waiting on your food.I enjoy this place because the food is awesome and the prices are fair.”
Another reviewer states: “The restaurant staff is extremely knowledgeable about their menu which carries classics with a slight variation which equals deliciousness! The soup, sandwich and salad menu is worthy of a second stop. The decor is retro and fun and the restaurant is definitely clean. The kitchen is open so you can see the fresh ciabatta bread being sliced for sandwiches. The coffee and meals are served in/on dishes and silverware you would expect to see in someone's home. It all feels very welcoming. Definitely worth a stop.”
The Scrambled Diner, 250 81st Ave.
Texas Roadhouse, 2070 Calumet Ave.
Jelly Pancake House, 936 Joliet St.
Svagati Ristorante, 1082 Joliet St.
Sanfrantello’s Pizza, 1050 Joliet St.
Gino’s Steak House, 1259 Joliet St.
Dyer is governed by a five-person elected city council. The clerk-treasurer is the only other elected position. The town administrator (formerly town manager) is appointed.
Dyer students attend Lake Central High School, which is located in nearby St. John.
Kahler Middle School, 600 Joliet St.
George Bibich Elementary School, 14600 81st Ave.
Protsman Elementary School
Saint Joseph School
Plumb Creek Christian Academy, 735 213th St.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Town of Dyer has the proud distinction of having been listed on the "100 Best Places to Live in the US" by CNN and Money Magazine.
Dyer prides itself on its Mission Statement: “Dyer provides exceptional essential services and strives to enhance a dynamic pace-setting quality of life while promoting pride in the community.”
The main thoroughfares in Dyer include U.S. 30 and Calumet Ave.
Foodie's Marketcafe in action!