When Dana Homann and her family closed Old Capitol Goods last month she was a little overwhelmed. After 14 years running her shop, it was understandably an emotional time. Her good friend Alicia Bibb, owner of Studio on 6th, stepped in to help. “I was over at Dana’s shop and she was discussing what to do with leftover inventory”, Alicia explained, “and I thought, I have a way to help”.
When Alicia bought Studio on 6th almost 6 years ago, the back room of the shop was a break room. It was filled with mismatched furniture and messes. One of the first things she changed after taking ownership was to turn this space into a community outreach room. It began with selling artwork from special needs artists. “As word spread, it became difficult to keep that work in stock” Alicia said. The shop offers free coffee, reading materials and there is seating for conversation. More and more artists and organizations have begun to participate, and it’s easy to feel the community in this room.
Alicia encouraged Dana to sell her leftover inventory in this space and to designate a charity for a percentage of the proceeds to go to. The two friends decided to keep it in the neighborhood and chose Downtown Springfield, Inc. When asked what DSI means to them, Alicia gushed appreciation for the promotional help. “As we all know, running a business is difficult, especially a small, local one. We need all the help we can get. This is our way of giving back” she explained. “This is a win, win, win – and those are the deals I like to make” Dana added.
The new partnership will fill a hole left when Old Capitol Goods closed. You can find all the classic Springfield items like Mike Manning prints, Lincoln souvenirs, handmade wood toys, historical prints and more.
Alicia & Dana met 6 years ago when Dana’s shop was next door to Studio on 6th at Tinsley Dry Goods. “I would pop over and ask if my outfit was ok, or which necklace I should wear” Dana said with a laugh. Now, Dana will help out at Studio on 6th in her down time. She even plans to bring in Winston, her dog sometimes. “I’m excited to help such an incredible woman”, she said. The supportive friendship that the two have developed is obvious.
Over the last six years, Studio on 6th has donated to St. John’s Breadline, Helping Hands, Girls on the Run, Compass for Kids, SPARC, Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault, Sojourn House and many, many more. This shop is a testament to keeping local dollars local. “I want to encourage everyone to get downtown and put their spending money into the small businesses that make a difference” said Dana.
The Old Capitol Farmer’s Market celebrated its 19th season as a DSI program in 2018, with record breaking attendance and sales. From mid-May through October, each Wednesday & Saturday morning, the market is held on Adams Street and 4th. It boasts a total of 70 different vendors throughout the season, selling a wide variety of locally-grown and hand-crafted products, contributing to the economic, environmental and social well-being of downtown as well as the entire Springfield community.
This past summer season was the third year that DSI has partnered with Illinois Stewardship Alliance to manage the day-to-day market operations, and Springfield Area Arts Council to program the music. We are also indebted to our premier sponsor, HSHS St. John’s Hospital, plus supporting partners which include Central Baptist Church, The Dinges Family, Chef Michael Higgins, Springfield Youth Performance Group, Midwest Family, the Kidzeum, SpringfieldMoms.org and many more entities and individuals.
“The Market is a celebration of everything that is Springfield, and the partners are really proud of it,” says Market Manager Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant. “Shoppers can find everything from green zebra-striped heirloom tomatoes specially bred to thrive in this region, to homemade blueberry donuts made by local bakers using blueberries grown in the Springfield area. But the market is so much more than a great place to shop; it’s also a great investment in the community.”
2018 Season by the numbers:
NEW record: 65,856 total adult and child visitors (10% increase!)
NEW record: $23,377 spent by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers to increase their healthy food intake (43% increase!)
NEW record: $11,839 Credit/Debit transactions at the Market Booth (13% increase!)
60 Local & Family-Owned Businesses
your Farmers Market food traveled 38.9 miles to get to you
30% Women-Owned Businesses
1733 lbs of fresh produce donated
The economic impact on Springfield is easy to see. According to the National Farmers Market Coalition, sales at locally owned businesses infuse three times more back into the local economy than chain retailers.
This year, the Market was able to match $10,932 of the SNAP sales thanks to Link-Up Illinois Grant offered by Experimental Station, for a total of $23,377 dollars that went directly back into the pockets of local farms and businesses. The SNAP Match program ensures that families of all income levels across Springfield have access to fresh, wholesome food and that SNAP dollars stay local. This year a new partnership with the
Thanks to a new program in partnership with GenHKids, during 10 Market dates from July 25th – Oct. 3rd, farmers were able to provide 1,733 pounds of fresh produce for low-income families throughout Springfield, furthering the Market as a driver of social good.
Economic Spillover for Downtown Revitalization
The #AdamsFamily continues to grow, thanks to the foot traffic created by the Farmers Market and the ability for entrepreneurs to test out their products and grow a fan base. Two 2017 vendors made the move to new brick-and-mortar homes on Adams Street in 2018: Buzz Bomb Brewing Co. and the Itty Bitty Fashion Truck. Custom Cup Coffee also celebrated its final season selling at the Market, having started as a vendor several years ago and now running a thriving brick-and-mortar location on Monroe.
More Fresh Than Anywhere
Environmentally, farmers and food vendors at the Market travel 38.9 miles one way to bring their products to market, a carbon footprint that is significantly less than that of food on grocery shelves, which travels an average of 1200 miles. Market staff inspect new farm vendors to verify that all products are grown by the farmers and not purchased from wholesale auctions or out-of-state, ensuring that all dollars stay local and truly support area family farms. We work hard so that you can trust that our market is truly “local” and “fresh.”
The Market remains one of the most popular attractions in downtown. This year, the Market received three accolades: Best Fresh Produce and Best Weekend Activity by the State Journal-Register, and Best Free Entertainment by Illinois Times. According to visitor counts recorded in 2018, 65,856 total adult and children visited the market (an average of 2,634 each Saturday) with a record-shattering 7,299 patrons on opening day, Saturday, May 19.
Chef demonstrations, educational displays by partners, and family fitness programs make the Market more than just a place to shop. St. John’s Hospital offered free health screenings, and a number of community groups offered services, such as free books from the Land of Lincoln Book Share, meditation with the Student Yoga and Mindfulness Project, and a weekly Local Business tent we added as another form of community collaboration.
We also would like to thank the City of Springfield Office of Public Works for helping ensure the safety of the streets where the Market comes alive every single week and the Convention & Visitors Bureau for promoting it to our city’s visitors.
What’s Next for the Market?
Fortunately for Springfield, the final Holiday Market takes place at the State House Inn at 2nd and Adams on December 22, and a Winter Market will take place there once a month from January – April. For a full schedule, see our calendar of events.
Monday morning will be a little different for past DSI president, Mark Tomaw. After 42 years at RSM, Mark will be retiring. He spent his entire career just off the Old State Capitol Plaza, with office locations in the PNC building and the eponymous building where Innovate Springfield resides currently. He head up several programs & events and served countless volunteer hours with a dream of making Downtown what it was when he began working in the 70’s.
He kindly lent me a few minutes of his last week (still filled with work travel & meetings until the very end) and we discussed the changes he’s noticed in our neighborhood over the years. His stories are plentiful and familiar as he shared memories of loss and re-growth.
What was downtown like when you began your career here?
It was a lot different back then, there was a lot more people working downtown… a more sense of vibrancy than we have seen in recent years. I can still remember, in the summer, if you went out on the Plaza, people were just lined up along the Old Capitol fence sitting and eating lunch and just spending time. The number of employees filled up our entire neighborhood. You had CIPS in the Illinois Building, the banks were multi-level, not to mention the state agencies that were downtown that aren’t anymore. So… big difference there.
What year were you President of DSI?
Awww… you would ask that! I believe it was ’06/’07. RSM initially began a relationship with DSI by doing their payroll taxes. I think the executive director at the time asked if I would consider joining the board. Then, at some point, I was treasurer, and then cycled through. I followed Cindy Davis. I think I was the 7th president.
What issues were you working on as a board at that time?
You’re talking 10 years ago now… so… [laughs]. To some extent, the issues were similar. Continuing to try to fill empty space, to try to promote downtown, maintain the historical integrity but promote the economic vibrancy. Early on, before I was president, I know that one of the first big issues that came up was the space at the corner of 5th & Adams, where Driftwood was. It was known as the K-mart building, because when I came down, it was a K-mart. It was empty and deteriorating and there were concerns because it was so prominent off the plaza. We needed someone to renovate it. That ultimately got done, but it was the catalyst for DSI to determine that we need a charitable organization that would be in a position where an owner of a building could donate a building, get a charitable deduction and then could use that to facilitate to get the property in the hands of a developer. That’s how the Heritage Foundation came about. It was very active for several years.
We started the Taste of Downtown, which ultimately became the Blues & BBQ (which is now run by Barry Friedman). The Farmer’s Market began when I was on the board as well.
I can remember some really tight times when I was treasurer. We got lucky when the weather was nice and we could get our head’s above water with the fundraising.
What do you think we need to do as a community to improve our downtown?
If I had that answer, I would have been bringing that up a long time ago [laughs]. I continue to think that we have to foster a good relationship without the City. I just think that the type of organization that DSI is… it cannot reach it’s potential with that support. That’s a challenge, because the City faces it’s own issues from a financing standpoint. Beyond that, I’m honestly not sure I have a good answer. Once you get people down here, there are wonderful restaurants and shops… we just need to get them here.
From your experience, where do you see it going from here?
Obviously, I want to see it more vibrant than it is. The nightlife is much more than it was when I first started. There are so many restaurants and music. We also have so many more downtown residents… I want to see that continue to grow.
After 42 years working in the same location, what is your favorite place…
to have lunch? Of all the years, definitely Cafe Moxo
to have a drink after work? I know what it was 40 years ago… there was a little place just south of Capitol called Midway Pub. It’s an empty lot now.
to shop? I never did much shopping… ask my wife [laughs].
So, what now?
“We’ll travel a bit. I’m thinking I’ll just see how it goes… I don’t want to be too busy”, he says with an sly smile.
This morning, the Sangamon Mass Transit District (SMTD) announced a discount fare for the Downtown Shuttle. Regularly priced at $1.25 per ride, the reduced fair is only $1.00 per ride. Additionally, there is a discount pass good for 10 rides that costs just $5.00. Passes can be shared by families or friends riding together. This is perfect timing as the summer heat makes hopping on an air conditioned shuttle pretty tempting!!
Passes can be picked up at the SMTD Offices at 928 South 9th St. or are available on the shuttle directly. Note that drivers are not equipped to make change and cannot accept debit or credit cards, so exact change will be needed.
The Downtown Shuttle has faced a danger of being cancelled, which would be tragic to many retail shops & restaurants. The route is based primarily on key business corridors in the downtown neighborhood. As many local business owners know, we get plenty of complaints about parking (although garage parking is plentiful). The Downtown Shuttle is a welcoming solution to giving tourists and locals alike an easy way to get around.
The service runs every 20 minutes from 6:20am to 6:20pm and every 10 minutes from 11:20am to 1:40pm Monday – Friday. To see the route and learn pick-up/drop-off times, visit the SMTD Downtown Shuttle website.
Look for signs at the following locations: Stratton Building, Washington & 2nd, Capitol & 5th, and Adams & 7th.
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of visiting with Connor Homann from What’s The Shirt inside of Old Capitol Goods. A self-proclaimed “International T-Shirt Mogul”, Connor brings his quirky sense of humor to this charming shop off the Plaza. Connor’s parent’s opened Old Capitol Goods years ago, and as you often see with local businesses, this innovative son has taken over for his parents and brought with him some new upgrades.
Connor’s father originally offered screen-printing capabilities in the back of the shop, often producing large amounts of t-shirts for local company fundraisers and events. After learning about not only screen-printing, but also direct to garment (DTG) printing in St. Louis, Connor decided to apply his talents here in Springfield.
There are a few things that make this a specialized offering, of which no one else in town provides. The first being that What’s The Shirt uses water-based inks which are all eco-friendly. Most t-shirt companies use a type of plastisol ink that is harmful to the environment. Connor’s DTG technique produces a softer, more light-weight feel on the t-shirt, versus the textured feeling of vinyl. Another awesome specialization is that What’s The Shirt can print just one of a design. Many t-shirt providers require a minimum order due to the work that goes into the set-up. “Think of it as a comparison to your printer at home”, Connor explains.
“You can print just one, or many, where as if you need a mass amount of prints, you would go to a printing company.” The largest run of t-shirts that Connor has printed with the DTG technique is around 400 for last year’s Amaranth Apple Festival. He also still provides traditional screen-printing for larger orders if requested. What’s The Shirt can create custom designs from scratch, offer design assistance, or simply print what you send them over email. How easy is that?!
Another upgrade Connor has brought to this local shop is an online store, DivergenTee. You can find over 450 pre-designed offerings that are funny, cultural and/or political. “I’ve had great success with this”, he says, which really says a lot considering the competitiveness of online shopping these days.
So, next time you need a single gift or a large order of t-shirts, be sure to check out What’s the Shirt and hit up Connor. You’ll enjoy, if nothing else, his great conversation and humor (but I can almost promise you’ll walk away with a new shirt).
Opening Minds through Art (OMA) is an award-winning, evidence-based, intergenerational art-making program for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of neurocognitive disorders. Its failure-free program provides opportunities for creative self-expression and social engagement for people with dementia. OMA also provides volunteers with opportunities to improve their attitudes toward aging through the weekly interaction with OMA program participants. The goal is to help create a society that values older adults with dementia. This program achieves this by building genuine friendships between people with dementia and volunteers as they engage in art-making.
Volunteers have been working with dementia patients once a week at the Springfield Art Association since the beginning of April. Before artists are matched up with patients, they are prepped with background information such as the participants interests, family members names, favorite colors, and of course health background. The patient works with the same artist every week to bring comfort and familiarity. Together they learn and create artwork, while developing a friendship.
Each participants creations will be on display at the SAA Collective Gallery June 8th & 9th. Be sure to stop by and show support for these amazing people!
JOIN US (FREE TO ATTEND) ON
JUNE 8, 2018, 5:30 – 7PM
AT SAA Collective
420 South 6th Street
Springfield, IL 62701
Featured Artists Names:
Ginny (Virginia) Reiser
OMA is supported by an Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative-Specialized Supportive Services (ADI-SSS) Project grant from the Administration for Community Living through the Illinois Department on Aging, as well as a grant made by the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln King’s Daughters Organization Blackstock Fund to the SIU School of Medicine, Center for Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Disorders www.siumed.edu/alz.
The Springfield Area Arts Council (SAAC) has produced summertime concerts for over thirty years. The outdoor performance series is called “Artist on the Plaza,” and it features local talent on the Old State Capitol Plaza/Grounds every Wednesday from noon to 1 pm between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Funding comes from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, the City of Springfield, and downtown merchants — meaning you can grab your lunch to go, grab a table and a chair outside on the Plaza, and relax to different music each week, all for free!
6 – Springfield Area Youth Jazz Band, instrumental jazz
13 – Carole Vetter, rhythm and blues vocalist
20 – Tater Tot, eclectic vocal and instrumental
27 – Phil Steinberg, Sinatra stylist
4 – Rick Dunham, Elvis Himselvis
11 – Matt Mifflin, vocal and guitar
18 – Britney Long, singer/songwriter
25 – Casey Cantrall, vocal and guitar
1 – Saint Andrew’s Society, Scottish dance
8 – Springfield Dance Theatre, dancers
15 – Rowdy Dawson, country-western vocal and guitar
A big welcome to one of Downtown’s newest business, Paparazzi Peggi Photography!!
Peggi Trees Gant is the owner and photographer of Paparazzi Peggi Photography and if you haven’t had a chance to meet her, you’re missing out! She has a personality that literally lights up the room and she can make you feel so good about yourself just by saying hello!
She is a long time local and has done work for political parties, proms, weddings, downtown events, and has been featured in Springfield Scene Magazine. She’s an amazing mother to three wonderful children and loves her family! She says that “starting small, staying consistent, and being available to her clientele” has made her business what it is today. She’s most excited to see what avenues having a studio will bring to her. You can typically find her shooting downtown for this season’s prom pictures, capturing our great neighborhood during events, or at her new studio at 427 E. Monroe!
Welcome to the Downtown Family, Peggi! We’re so excited to have your spirit!
Last week, we met with Michael Higgins and learned about his approach with “doing the we best we can.” Our food system is a big part of our environment. Eating local and buying from small farmers are all part of lessening our carbon footprint while contributing to our local economies.
This week, we’re meeting with Rachael Thomson (Board President) and Leah Wilson (Executive Director) of the Kidzeum Health and Science Children’s Museum.
Rachael and Leah believe that sustainability starts with the young future leaders of the world. Starting in 2004, the concept of the Kidzeum was born to bring awareness to childhood health and obesity while teaching concepts of environmental stewardship. Not only are they using an already existing building as the home of the Kidzeum, but they are also creating ways to be more energy efficient. Efficiency measures include all LED lights, doing as much as they possibly can through digital outlets, having all mechanical and electrical systems meet the current energy code, and using photocell sensors near windows, just to list a few. Leah says staff will be very conscious of their own individual carbon footprints too.
The Kidzeum will have many exhibits that promote conservation and sustainability includng a Farm to Market Gallery that teaches visitors the story of seed through plant cycle, harvest, storage, processing and distribution in efforts to promote buying local and reducing carbon footprints. Another exhibit will teach children how to reduce their own carbon footprints in their own homes.
Leah says that sustainability is a “contact-sport” where the best way to learn is to let kids get their hands into things. Rachael and Leah feel that through education, we can help better serve the planet. Rachael states, “Kids are mold-able and will be inheriting the mess that older generations are leaving behind.” To change the paradigm in which we live, we need to start young in education and teach “reduce and reuse” as something that IS the status quo.
Often in the realm of sustainability, it’s easy to lose hope. But, having just one meeting with Rachael and Leah reignites that hope for the future! We cannot wait to bring this museum to life!!
Follow the Kidzeum on Facebook to stay up to date on all of the progess!
*This sustainability blog post is the Second of a three part series about how Downtown Springfield organizations contribute to sustainability initiatives.*
Ice caps are melting, our population is growing, and our winters are getting longer. So, what does that mean for our farm-dependent state? In Illinois, our farmers depend on the land and climate to work together so that they, as growers, can yield bountiful crops.
Often, we are left overwhelmed as to what we can do to help the earth. From recycling, eating and shopping local, to turning the lights off when you leave a room, sustainability starts small and at the heart. Downtown Springfield, Inc. interviewed three of our business owners regarding their efforts to make Springfield sustainable, delving deep to showcase what makes them unique.
Michael Higgins, owner and chef of Maldaner’s Restaurant, says that buying from small farmers and eating organic is the way to go. Coming from California, one thing Higgins wanted to do when he arrived in Central Illinois was to bring more variety to Springfield. He noticed that the Midwest grew really great tomatoes, but unfortunately only one species seemed to exist. By working with local farmers and by providing them with seed, Higgins was able to add to the Midwest variety. Then in the late ’80’s, Higgins began offering organic chicken to his customers by working with farmers he met at the Illinois Product Show. One can see the pride in Higgins’ eyes as he speaks of the bond between the consumer and farmer. “It’s 100% trust,” he states. Small Farmers, away from agri-business, “ARE small businesses and we need to remember that,” Higgins says.
We are trusting these farmers to feed us with incredible food that provide us with the nutrients we need and at the same time, they are trusting us to understand that where we buy from is important. Buying from farmers markets and your local or small farm not only helps them but helps our community, and helps our planet. We asked Higgins what he thought was the best solution to feeding our growing population while sustaining our planet and he had the best answer: “Do the best you can.”
How does buying organic help the planet?
Organic farming is less intensive on our landscapes causing less erosion to our soil compositions. While it does often require more land in general, the amount of pesticides and herbicides are far less than conventional commodity farming — meaning less chemical run-off to our water systems and airways. While too much demand on small farms can do harm by exploiting them, the good news it that more and more “big business” farmers are transitioning to organic due to the consumer demand!
Like Chef Higgins says, all we can do is try our best. Try our best to educate ourselves as to what is harmful to ourselves, others, and the planet. While remembering that even the smallest act is helping and that if we all did one small act, like buying local, those many small acts add up to a pretty big one!
Stay tuned for next weeks’ sustainable highlight when we meet with new Director Leah Wilson and founding Board President Rachael Thomson of the Kidzeum Health and Science Children’s Museum.
*This sustainability blog post is the first of a three part series about how Downtown Springfield organizations contribute to sustainability initiatives.*
Downtown Springfield, Inc.
3 W Old State Capitol Plaza, Suite 15
Springfield, IL 62701
P: (217) 544-1723