Last week I had the opportunity to attend a day long workshop provided by the Illinois Main Street program. The Jacksonville Main Street program was our host for the day. Just a bit larger than Sterling and about 45 minutes West of Springfield, Jacksonville has been a part of the Illinois Main Street program since 1999 and in 2012 was a “Great American Main Street” award winner from the National Main Street program.
Perhaps even more than the information presented at the various workshops I’ve attended over the years, one of my favorite things is the inspiration I get in seeing the projects in person that have taken place in the communities I’ve visited. My visit to Jacksonville proved to be quite inspirational.
As the workshop was starting early on Thursday, I travelled down on Wednesday afternoon. Rather than staying at one of the hotels on the edge of town, my friend, Judy, the Jacksonville Main Street director, tipped me off to a new business right in the heart of their downtown – The Little Stoveand Hotel TLS – a great little wine bar and Italian Restaurant recently opened. They’d converted the upper floor into 3 hotel rooms, available on Air B&B. Perfect!
The host had asked for my ETA and a fresh carafe of water and ice bucket were waiting in my room. I settled in and then walked downstairs for dinner. A fabulous little place – a welcoming feel, open, clean, about a dozen tables and seating at the bar overlooking the small open kitchen. Woodfired pizza and craft cocktails. The whole time I’m thinking….”we could do this in Sterling” – a great restaurant on the main floor, a private meeting room in the back, and 3 Air B&B’s on the upper floor of a great corner building in their downtown.
Thursday morning came and I walked the block down to “The Plaza” where our workshop would be held. WOW!
This HUGE former bank building, slated for demolition not all that long ago, is in the process of being fantastically renovated into a multiuse building – a tap room, axe throwing business, multiple small retail business and a plethora of space yet untapped, but full of potential! AMAZING!
Catching up with my Main Street counterparts, meeting a new director and board members from one of the newest Illinois Main Street communities; getting the opportunity to share about our Shoppes at Grandon Plaza project; and hearing what other Main Street communities are doing is always reinvigorating, and just another reason why I continue to love this job every day.
In partnership with a small group of Keystone Group Members, our Mural Committee got to work raising funds and starting a restoration plan for downtown Sterling’s historic murals. Bringing back the original artist, Robert Valadez, “Adelante” underwent a full restoration over the summer.
Our Economic Vitality Committee continued pursuing the creation of a retail incubator and broke ground on the project in July, partnering with the Whiteside Area Career Center’s Building Trades class for much of the construction which remains ongoing. The application process for our first round of entrepreneurs is winding down and we anticipate having 6 new businesses open later this spring! This project would not have been possible without the financial investment from area businesses and individuals like you, and the commitment of the City of Sterling. Sterling Main Street was blessed to receive a T-Mobile Hometown Grant of $50,000 for the project – having been selected as one of 25 recipients nationwide for this grant from a pool of over 400 applicants.
The Twin City Farmers Market continued work on its list of improvements to better serve our community. The year-round farmers market saw the construction of a new deck, completed for safer access to the indoor space, as well as a new glass garage door on the north side of the building, replacing an old metal rollup door that was becoming increasingly hazardous. During 2022, our Market welcomed 71 different vendors utilizing both its indoor, year-round Market space and the outdoor Sterling Marketplace pavilion.
In addition to 52 weeks of Farmers Markets in 2022, Sterling Main Street hosted a dozen other community events. 236 volunteers provided 1,288 hours of service to help bring those activities to life. Our Sip+Shop events held in both the spring and fall saw 15 different businesses participating and great attendance. Our Spring event was SOLD OUT! Mother Nature was not cooperative for our Car Show, but despite the gloomy weather it was a profitable event for our organization. We expanded our summer Pop-Up Market series to 6 events over the 3 month period. The Market series welcomed 49 unique vendors and saw quite an uptick in guest attendance. Hot Dog Day was another sell out event with over 7,000 hot dogs served up during the 3 hour event. 24 businesses took part – be it cooking, sidewalk sales, or other fun activities. The Fun Fair provided in conjunction with the B.L.I.N.D. student leadership group was a huge hit as well. Hops on the Rock saw beautiful weather for the day. Attendance was up, new regional brewery participation was up, and the feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive as we continue to grow this event. The Downtown Christmas Walk saw record turn out and near perfect weather. Seasonal Sights & Sounds was the perfect note to end what’s been a fantastic year on.
Sterling Main Street was recognized at the Illinois Main Street Conference held in Bloomington in October with The Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Revitalization for Organization. This award recognizes Main Streets who create a strong foundation for a sustainable revitalization effort, including cultivating partnerships, community involvement, and resources for its district.
Main Street was pleased to take part in a Community Pride workshop with the cities of Sterling and Rock Falls, along with other community partners. You’ll see more work inspired by that workshop coming in 2023. We also enjoy being a part of the City’s Riverfront Commission, and working with their partners Gorman & Co. and Studio GWA, in promoting revitalization of Sterling’s riverfront.
A few of our goals for 2023 and beyond…
With a continued focus on the growth of entrepreneurship and business development, Sterling Main Street will further explore ways to expand the Twin City Farmers Market, the Shoppes at Grandon Plaza and Pop-Up Market opportunities.
Sterling Main Street will continue strategic partnerships with the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Sterling, Sterling Today, Greater Sterling Development Corp, Sauk Valley Community College, Woodlawn Arts Academy, and others on collaborative projects such as the Keystone Group, riverfront redevelopment, mural restoration, banners for the 1st Avenue Bridge and more.
Sterling Main Street will continue its volunteer recruitment efforts to engage more of the public in its committees and event planning.
How you can help
Our 2023 Partnership Campaign is now underway. In addition to the many specific event-related promotional opportunities Sterling Main Street offers, we have a number of ongoing programs and revitalization activities for which funding is also needed. Partnership opportunities are welcomed from both businesses and individuals.
To learn more about all of the ways available to support Sterling Main Street…
The T-Mobile Hometown Grant initiative has been a tremendous resource for small town America since it’s inception in early 2021 and Sterling Main Street is blessed to have been selected to receive a $50,000 Hometown grant in support of our Shoppes at Grandon Plaza project.
WACC Building Trades class members join the Celebration
Guests check out the construction progress
Thanks also to Air Play Espresso & Bakery for allowing us to hold our celebration in your warmth after the award announcement on site.
Some of the members of our Economic Vitality Committee
Representatives of T-Mobile along with Sterling Mayor Skip Lee and Sterling Main Street Executive Director Janna Groharing
The Shoppes at Grandon Plaza, a retail incubator project by Sterling Main Street, is being designed to attract small businesses, create more retail shopping options, and bring people into downtown Sterling. Its inaugural season will open in the spring of 2023!
The long-term goal of this project is to continue to foster entrepreneurship in Sterling and the greater Sauk Valley region, specifically as it relates to retail shopping. To provide a structured setting for new businesses to test their market, while also providing the ongoing educational support and training for those entrepreneurs to help ensure their best chance of long-term success in a competitive and challenging retail environment. And further, to provide a pipeline of new businesses to keep storefronts occupied and add to the prosperity of the communities in which they locate.
As construction of the incubator units continues, the Application Portal for prospective businesses is now open. Applications will be accepted until December31, 2022 at 5:00 PM.
Applications will be reviewed in early 2023 and Vendors will be notified of their acceptance in February 2023. Possession of the units will be delivered to vendors at the beginning of April and vendors will have one month to customize their spaces prior to the May 2023 opening.*
An independent jury will review all applications and select the vendors for the 2023 season. The jury committee will strive for diversity in vendor offerings, and applications will be reviewed with this in mind.
For more information on the application process and the online application form, please visit https://sterlingmainstreet.org/sgpvendors/, or contact Sterling Main Street Executive Director, Janna Groharing at 815-626-8610 or by email at email@example.com
*Please note that Sterling Main Street will do it’s best to adhere to this timeline. As the incubator units are currently under construction, modifications to the timeline may be needed due to unforeseen construction delays. Every effort will be made to keep vendors, once selected, fully informed on the construction process.
While fundraising remains ongoing, we’re in the final stages of planning on the Adelante restoration that starts NEXT WEEK! August 16th! Want to get involved? Join us at the office TONIGHT (Aug at 6:30 for our final planning meeting. Or Donate Now –>> https://bit.ly/3yGQurP
Looking for other ways to get involved in your community? Our Design Committee, Economic Vitality Committee and Hops on the Rock Planning Committee are all meeting this week as well.
Design Committee – Tuesday, August 9th @ Noon | The Precinct, 113 E. 3rd Street
Economic Vitality Committee(Retail Incubator Planning) – Tuesday, August 9th @ 4 PM | The Precinct, 113 E. 3rd Street
Hops on the Rock Planning Committee – Tuesday, August 9th @ 5:30 PM | The Precinct, 113 E. 3rd Street
Join us and help make a difference in your community. Sterling Main Street is a volunteer-based organization and our success depends on you! Our committee meetings are open to all, so just show up, or contact us for more information on getting involved. Call 815-626-8610 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where to even start with the extensive list of Thank Yous we have to share for an amazing Sip into Spring event, kicking off downtown events for 2022!
First to our participating downtown businesses. Without your support of and participation in our Sip & Shop events there would be no event. Your enthusiasm and creativity inspire me and brings such a great energy to our downtown. So thank you to Brink’s, Curt Repass Country Financial, Fringe & Co. Salon & Western Boutique, Nares Event Co., Lisa’s Brickhouse, Manny’s Pizza & Tacos, Merle Norman, NASOS Beauty Supply & Boutique, Primitive Frills, Rusty Fox, Smoked on 3rd, UOI Boutique, Vintage Cousins Emporium and West End Moxie.
Next to our Sponsors: The Candlelight Group, Martin & Co., Midland States Bank, Select Employees Credit Union and RRCA Accounts Management. Your continued support of our downtown events allow them to continue to grow each year!
A very special thank you goes out….
To Denny, Jess & crew at Champs on Light Street for the use of their banquet room for our end of the evening festivities,
To Gustavo Medrano & Sauk Valley DJs for always been such a huge supporter of our small businesses and for keeping the party going,
To Elisa & Chelsea from Odds & Events Co. for their creativity and amazing set up of our selfie stations and table décor, taking our “Flower Power” theme to the next level,
To Brink’s, Manny’s and Smoked for our “Taste of Downtown Sterling,” keeping our guests fed at the end of the night; and
To our volunteers, Christa & Julie from Mike Sprague State Farm, Kim from Bartini’s, and Kris from the Sauk Valley Area Chamber for lending your time in helping us smoothly get through the mad rush of check-in for our SOLD OUT event!
And last but certainly not least, Thanks to all of YOU who bought tickets and took part in Sip into Spring! Despite the SNOW, we had a blast and I we hope you did too! Thanks to your support, our downtown we’ll keep our downtown looking colorful all summer long!
Without ALL of you none of this would be possible!