The First Ward Recommendation Report – Small businesses you should know!

The First Ward Recommendation Report – Small businesses you should know!

Since we’re all so sick of pandemics, presidential races, and Springfield shenanigans, I thought it would be a lot more fun to cover some local small business truly deserving of our collective attention and patronage. And that’s particularly true at a time when these fine folks have all taken the obvious economic hit.

But wait! There’s more!

Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, it does! Because my good friend and the other half of the Ward and Wright comedy team will provide us with passages on two Geneva, Illinois, businesses he’s become quite fond of!

I can’t wait! So, let’s get started!

Support Local Business

1. Vargo’s Dance

Nestled in the heart of beautiful downtown Geneva (northwest corner of State and Second Streets), Vargo’s Dance Studio is one of my favorite places on the planet, and owner and instructor extraordinaire, Jamie Vargo, is one of my favorite people on the planet.

Jamie Vargo
Jamie Vargo

Vargo’s Dance specializes in couples dancing generally applying the Salsa, Swing, or Hustle methodologies. They do not offer children’s classes, however. Reservation only group lessons have recently restarted without the traditional partner rotation for all the obvious reasons.

So, if you’re interested, and you certainly should be, check out their online schedule, grab your favorite dance counterpart, email Jamie to make August reservations, and you’ll be good to go! Don’t let your hubby back out either, because, As Ms. Vargo likes to say, “These beginner classes are quite husband friendly!”

Having already made our reservations, my lovely wife and I will be participating in this evening’s $15 per person (7/24) cash only 7 p.m. BYOB beginner swing lesson. The remarkable Carl Linder will lead the festivities with Jamie right beside him to reasonably keep him in line.  (Good luck, Jamie!)

My wife and I take private lessons from Ms. Vargo, as well, and if she can teach me how to dance…

Aside from the getting the heck out of the house and sheer fun of it aspects, 1.5 years of dancing has had some significantly positive side effects. Sure! My wife suddenly seems a lot less likely to throw my sorry butt out of the house, but I’m a far better – and much looser – athlete, too!

Running now takes far less “effort” and I’m proud to report I’m generally injury free. Better yet, my shoulder impingement syndrome and minor hand and wrist arthritis have virtually disappeared as a result of that regular full-body movement.

Dancing truly is the fountain of youth because physically, I feel like I’m 35 again! Put more simply, I simply can’t recommend Vargo’s Dance enough! See you there!

2. Amanda Leutenberg

Amanda isn’t as much a company or store – though she has a temporary location – as she is an incredibly talented artist specializing in woodworking pieces. In fact, the “serial killer” plaque I so enjoyed sharing on Facebook was her work.

Serial Killer 2


Meanwhile, her equally talented daughter, Kyle, crafts the finest boards, one of which is prominently placed on this cook’s kitchen counters, while husband Chris comes up with all manner of wonderfully handmade wooden boxes.

Amanda’s recent Etsy store push racked up a massive 898 sales in a very short time, and now she’s getting wholesale orders from other store owners!

If you want to see Amanda’s work for yourself, she’s set up through December in one of those small temporary Batavia rental shops at Route 25 and Wilson Street. Her store hours are:

  • Friday     10 to 6
  • Saturday  9 to 5
  • Sunday   12 to 4

There’s nothing better in life than seeing good friends succeed, and I firmly believe the sky is the limit for this exceptionally talented family!


But why listen to me ramble on again when you can listen to Bill Wright, instead? Here are two of his favorite Geneva operations:

3. Galena Garlic Company

I was pleased when Jeff Ward asked me to write about my dear friend, Laszlo Marton’s business, Galena Garlic Company, a family-owned concern established in Galena, Illinois, in 2003. Laszlo’s mission is to sell U. S. grown garlic and carry products that help people cook healthy, delicious, and simple meals. His business has grown to include stores in Nashville, Tennessee, Madison, Indiana, and, of course, one right here in downtown Geneva (318 West State Street).

Galena Garlic Co. Geneva, IL | Galena, Kane county, Geneva

When you walk into one of Laszlo’s stores, you’re welcomed as an extended family member by a fantastic staff that defines customer service. You can start by sampling certified extra virgin olive oils infused with a wide variety of flavors and all manner of balsamic vinegars. My favorite is the garlic olive oil.

The GG team is well-versed in the crush date and chemistry of these oils, so you know you’re getting nothing but the best – everything is always fresh and they never use additives. Galena Garlic also sells over 300 different gourmet blends, as well as a wide variety of rubs, seasonings, and artisan salts. Don’t forget to check out their soup and soaps while you’re there!

GC just harvested the garlic at their Elizabeth, Illinois, and Clark Range, Tennessee, farms, and trust me! You haven’t had garlic until you’ve had freshly grown garlic. They’re taking orders right now, so send Laszlo, or his daughter Nina, an e-mail at to reserve yours!

One last thing! Galena garlic generally hosts the Midwest Garlic Festival in Elizabeth during the first weekend in August, but this year Laszlo will host a Virtual Garlic Festival from August 8 through the 15th with other Midwest garlic farmers taking part. You can find all the Garlic Fest details on Galena Garlic’s Facebook or Instagram pages.

Don’t forget to visit their website at

4. Art History Brewing

Two weeks ago, my wife and I set out to have a Friday afternoon beer at a Brother Chimp Brewing Company in North Aurora, and we enjoyed it very much! The owner of that establishment graciously referred us to another one just up the road in Geneva, so we ventured off to Art History Brewing (649 West State Street).

And I’m happy to report we were quite pleased we visited this excellent establishment.

The proprietor, Tom Rau, started as a homebrewer and took his passion to Munich, studying at the prestigious Siebel/World Brewing Academy. After graduating with a diploma in International Brewing Technology in 2018, Tom planned to open his own brewery, and this year, Art History Brewing became a reality.

Art History Brewing and Taproom

Being quite the beer snob (I, Jeff Ward can attest to that!), I highly recommend this microbrewery. My favorite offering was their Gravitace, a Czech style Lager.

Having lived in Germany in my youth, I can personally attest that this beer compares quite favorably to any of the great pilsners I had in Europe. I truly hope it stays on the menu as I plan on bringing home a “growler” (large jar of beer) every time we visit.

Rest assured, my wife and I will hurry back to Art History to sample their other fantastic beers soon!  Please check them out at and I will post more about them on my Facebook group page, Wright Deck Beers.

Prosit! Art History Brewing!


Thank you Bill Wright for masterfully taking over half of today’s column. Are you available for this kind of thing, on a regular basis!

And speaking of a regular basis, Bill suggested I make these local business profile pieces much more of a habit, and I think he’s right. Just don’t tell him I said that because he tends to get a big head. So, if you own a small Kane County business, or you want me to promote your favorite business, just drop me a line here, and I’ll be happy to write ‘em up!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice the step, kick, cross, slide swing move for this evening. The last time I accidentally whacked my wife in the side of the head she chased me all the way around the block!



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