As one year ends and another begins

What a year 2017 has been!

It’s been inspiring, frustrating, exhausting and exhilarating – often all at the same time.

The change of the calendar year often encourages reflection and a sense of gratitude and hope. For Richard and me, this year has been a whirlwind of stress and excitement. We renovated a historic commercial building. We opened a restaurant. We became business owners. All new experiences for us.

There have definitely been some bumps and bruises along the way. There have been deep disappointments and delightful surprises. I’m going to focus on the good stuff because that’s the stuff that really matters in the long run:

  • The City of Janesville staff, council and committee members that we worked with were encouraging and helpful. These people get beat up a lot. They shouldn’t. We really appreciate all they did for us.
  • Our building is beautiful and that’s because of all the talented professionals that helped turn our vision into reality.
  • We were blessed to be helped by many friends in the restaurant industry who counseled us, helped us design our space and encouraged us along the way.
  • Despite our relative inexperience, our investors believed in us and our vision and have provided both financial and emotional support to us. We couldn’t do this without them.
  •  Our family and friends have been rock-solid in their support of this endeavor and it made it possible for us to get through the tough parts intact.
  • We got so lucky when Chef Olivia Eckert decided she wanted to work for us after graduating from the Blackhawk Tech culinary program. Our luck doubled when Chef Jen Tillou joined us to help develop our menu and kitchen team. I’m so proud of these two strong, creative chefs. They are making us better every day.
  • I still pinch myself that Billy Burg is behind our bar. Never thought we could lure him away from Rockford. He is the best bartender in the Stateline area. His skill and creativity never cease to amaze me. He brought Nick with him and we thank him for that, too.
  • We have a great team of servers – Tyler, Katie, Jenni, Kianna, Josh and Andrew – that put their hearts into providing great service to our guests.
  • Our guests are incredible. We heard more than once that Janesville would never support a restaurant like ours. Well, so far, so good. Thank you to all the regulars and those of you who have spread the word about Lark. So many of you have become our friends. On days when things aren’t going so well, you are the ones who remind us why we’re doing this.

And what are our hopes for 2018?

We will be developing the second floor for a cocktail lounge and event dining. Dates are still up in the air. Moving forward, we will be offering more small-group catering services. There’s also a whole slate of event dinners and classes planned for throughout the year.

What’s happening with the downtown excites us. We’re looking forward to getting more involved and supporting ARISE. We hope to be a spark for others to join us in opening businesses on Main and Milwaukee streets.

I just joined the board of the Janesville Visitors & Convention Bureau and look forward to helping spread the word about our wonderful city. I’m a transplant (moved here in 2008) but Janesville feels more like home to me than any other place I’ve lived. Opening Lark has only deepened that feeling as we’ve met so many wonderful people in our community.

There is so much to be thankful for and even more to look forward to. Happy holidays and a beautiful 2018 to you and yours.


Joan Neeno