Princeton becomes wacky, zany, crazyville!

LOOKING JUST A little crazy with their crazy attire are the “crazy” employees of Jillian’s Corner Cottage, 102 S. Fulton St. in Princeton. Pictured are, from left, Joan Giese, Jill Dietz and Brian Farley.     Ian Stepleton photo 

by Ian Stepleton

Brian Farley has seen some crazy things in his days in Princeton.

Co-owner of Jillian’s Corner Cottage for three years and Jillian’s Restaurant for 10 with Jill Dietz, he has some stories to tell.

Maybe that’s why he’s so excited for Crazy Days in Princeton.

Scheduled for Friday, Aug. 12 to Sunday, Aug. 14, the Princeton Chamber of Commerce describes this retail event as, “Princeton has some crazy, crazy merchants who sell their wares at crazy prices during Crazy Days. Walk the streets of Princeton, take advantage of the craziest sales ever and enjoy lunch or dinner at one of our fine eating establishments.”

Sounds like a perfect event for the lighthearted Brian!

He and Jill will be among the businesspeople in Princeton bringing the crazy that weekend — and they’ve got big plans to amp up the odd.

What’s so crazy at Jillian’s Corner Cottage?

“Crazy people, crazy prices, crazy place,” Brian said, laughing. “We even have a Crazy Days sign.”

Well, that’s not that crazy.

Tell me, what’s the craziest thing in this crazy store?

“Probably our workers!” Brian quipped. “But don’t tell them I said that.”

In all seriousness, as a merchant in town for a decade, he has seen some unusual requests, both at their restaurant (200 S. Fulton St.) and at the Corner Cottage (102 S. Fulton St.).

“People thought it was a bed and breakfast,” he said.

Really? Did they come in with their bags, ready for a good night’s rest?

“I think they did everything but that,” Brian said. “They were looking for a bed and breakfast; [that’s] just down the road.”

Meanwhile, over at Jillian’s Restaurant …

“We get a lot of crazy requests at the restaurant,” Brian said. “Somebody wanted their French toast made without browning it. I did it in the microwave. It didn’t brown it, and it did cook it — but it looked anemic! And they were happy.

“People have brought in their own peanut butter and jelly, and wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made.”

Sure, people have silly, even crazy, requests sometimes.

But as Brian noted, just creating Jillian’s Corner Cottage was a crazy endeavor unto itself.

“It was a tear-down building when I saw it, [we] put in 25 new windows,” he said … then added, because he couldn’t help himself, “Jill and I were getting plastered every night — we sprayed 2,500 pounds of plaster in here.

“We [also] had a gal who helped paint it … and get it in shape and help get our shop off the ground.”

Brian describes the project as “a labor of love,” but one that turned an old building into a beautiful structure with plenty of life.

“It took us about three months to do everything,” he said. “But we love what we did. [And] everything just fell into place. Somebody was selling a house down the street and they couldn’t get the cabinets out of the house because they were so big; we ended up taking them out of the house and bringing them here.

“One of our customers had an old stove they didn’t want anymore. That was heavy, but it added to our food theme [in this area].”

That was nearly three years ago.

With the crazy workload of rehabbing an old building at the same time as running a restaurant behind them, Jill and Brian now are focusing  on the future — one that includes all the fun zaniness of Crazy Days in Princeton.

“We figured for Crazy Days, we’ll offer 10-percent off our already low prices,” Brian said of the “quality things at reasonable prices” that Jillian’s Corner Cottage sells.

Then, suddenly, on the fly Brian came up with another crazy offer.

“We’ll give away a crazy basket; it will have all kinds of crazy stuff in there,” he said, creating this new promotion on the spot. “Maybe it will even have some butterflies in there I wore — autographed!”

Baskets are kind of a “thing” for Jillian’s Corner Cottage.

“Our [business] started with, Jill used to do gift baskets in the restaurant. Now it’s blossomed to, we have a whole gift basket room,” Brian said, noting these range from kids baskets to wine baskets. “We have a little bit of everything for everybody. And everything is reasonably priced. You cannot come into the store and not buy something.”

There’s a Christmas room year-round, complete with four rotating trees smothered in ornaments, plus  a “man cave” room with fun stuff for the guys.

There’s a pet section because, as Brian said, “they are a part of the family,” too.

There are lotions and home decor items and gifts-a-plenty.

“There are a lot of different things in the store here,” Brian said.

All that fits within the four walls of Jillian’s Corner Cottage?

Sure, it could sound … crazy … but why not? It’s all about offering what customers want, whether they’re from within the community of Princeton or elsewhere.

“Our stuff is unique, one of a kind,” Brian said. “We try to buy things that would be unique for our customers.”

Crazy or not, it works.

Just ask the customers themselves.

“Just last week a good customer of ours sent us a thank-you letter for having such a beautiful store and having such good prices to buy [gifts] for her family members,” Brian said. “That makes you feel good.

Nothing crazy about that.

Ripples after the ‘Splash!’ 

Due to some amount of miscommunication between myself and Clyde Olson, with whom I spoke for my last “Splash!” column, I need to clarify one item.

No, Prairie Lanes in Markesan still will not reopen. Sorry, bowling fans.

Rather, I misstated when the auction of all the remaining equipment occurred — or, rather, will occur.

“The auction is Aug. 27, on a Saturday, and our daughter, Susie, will have the honor of rolling the last official ball at the place,” Clyde said. “We’re looking for a good auction.”

Regardless how the mistake occurred, we regret the error!