ROSSVILLE — After a massive downtown fire in February 2004 took out a huge block of small businesses, Rossville has been struggling to regain a retail district.
Up until late last year, the struggle had been frustratingly slow for many Rossville residents.
In December 2006, a new Casey’s General Store was constructed on the site where the downtown fire had wiped out many small businesses. Late last year, a new Dollar General store opened at the south end of the village.
Gowns for less
In November, Sherry Decker purchased the building at 129 S. Chicago St. and opened Twisted Sister.
“My first thought when I opened the shop was to be able to provide formal gowns and dresses for young girls and women that couldn’t afford them,” Decker said. “Having grown up in a family of eight girls, I knew the cost of these dresses and how some people couldn’t afford them.”
So Decker put the word out and soon the dresses started coming in.
“People were great. They would bring them and just donate them and a lot of them were in great shape,” Decker said.
So far, Decker has been able to provide 220 formals to girls and women for proms, weddings, recitals and farewell events. But that is just the start of Decker’s business venture.
“I started getting in gently used clothing, home furnishings and antiques,” she said. “People really began asking for used furniture.”
With her gently used dresses and clothing filling up the first building, Decker negotiated the purchase of the next two buildings north of her original building. She purchased those two buildings in February and was able to move in July.
“The addition of these two buildings allowed me to display my furniture and antiques better,” Decker said.
In the beginning, Decker went to auctions to find quality home furnishings for resale, but she soon had people bringing items to her.
“I have been getting items from older persons downsizing or estates of local residents,” she said. “I haven’t been to an auction in over three months.”
Decker stresses she buys low, which allows her to keep her prices low when reselling.
“I don’t want to pay a lot for items for the store because I don’t want them sitting around, I want to move them out the door at a reasonable price,” she added.
In May of this year, Decker acquired her fourth building and a vacant lot, which are north of her existing buildings.
“I am currently using the fourth building for storage only,” Decker said.
As for the vacant lot, she had crushed stone put down on it and hopes to have local craftsmen sell items there during special events in town.
There are plans to have a fall festival in Rossville Oct. 8-9, so Decker hopes to have some artisans and craftsmen put their items up for display in the vacant lot.
Decker, who is a retired senior vice president with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, credits her large family with helping her get the business going and for filling in when she is not available.
Twisted Sister is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Operating a bar is nothing new to Keith Eisenmann.
Eisenmann operated The Other Place bar in Cissna Park from 1979-97. He spent the past few years as an over-the-road truck driver.
On July 1, Eisenmann opened The Other Place II in Rossville.
One might call Eisenmann the eternal optimist because when asked why he bought a bar in Rossville, he answered “a riverboat in Danville.”
However, it is doubtful Eisenmann will need to rely on the possibility of a riverboat casino in Danville to measure his success. He already is up and running with a Mexican food night on Tuesdays. On Wednesday from 4-9 p.m., he offers chicken wings for 50 cents each. On Friday night, Eisenmann is offering a fish menu with cod and shrimp, as well as pork tenderloin.
Eisenmann also plans to expand his food offerings, as well as adding more dining space and a beer garden.
“I want to serve steaks and chicken on Saturday nights,” Eisenmann said. “I also want to add a salad bar.”
Eisenmann said he just doesn’t want to be known as a bar but someplace where the area residents can come and get something good to eat.
The Other Place II is open for lunch 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Eisenmann said he could use some help from the village by easing the restrictions on being open on Sunday.
“Under the current village ordinance, I can only be open six Sundays during the year,” Eisenmann said. “I am making a tremendous investment here and it would sure help if I could be open every Sunday.”
Eisenmann also has plans to start a Jeep car show on Labor Day weekend.
“I think it would bring more people into town,” Eisenmann said.
Eisenmann, who resides in Rankin, is so bullish on Rossville that he hopes to purchase a home there in the near future.
Cut Up Shop
Moving on north of The Other Place II is the Rossville Farmer’s Market and Cut Up Shop at 113 S. Chicago St. This building had been operated as a butcher shop and market in the past, but had been closed for several years.
Rosella Ray, longtime downtown business owner, has operated the Raynbow Shop Antiques and Gifts for the past five years at 111 S. Chicago St.
“I owned the Market Place Shoppes across the street for 20 years,” Ray said. “I had sold them before the fire wiped out that block of buildings.
“The fire destroyed so much,” she added. “I’m so devoted to this town, so I opened my shop when there weren’t many here.”
Ray’s devotion to the downtown also prompted her to buy the adjoining butcher shop. She enlisted her grandson Garrett Douglass to reopen the butcher shop. Douglass opened his shop on Sept. 3.
“I have been selling beef off of the farm for the past 10-12 years,” Douglass said. “I thought this was a natural progression for that business.
“We will be offering fresh beef and pork for sale,” he explained. “Our meats will be hormone-free, source verified as well as disease and drug free.”
In addition to fresh meats, the shop features a full-service deli with various types of meats and cheeses for sale.
“We have installed a full commercial kitchen,” Douglass said. “We want to be able to offer lunch specials, also.”
In addition to meat and cheese items, the shop will carry Lingley Brothers sweet corn and hopefully be able to add fresh fruits and vegetables from area growers.
“Local farmers markets are usually only one or two days a week,” Douglass said. “We want to be able to have those fresh items available every day.”
Douglass said the shop offers fresh cheesecakes and pies made by area bakers. Future plans for Douglass are to be able to offer bundles of meat for sale.
“I realize some people may not have room for a quarter or half of a beef or hog,” he said. “I want to be able to offer bundles of meat with the cuts they want in them at a reasonable price.”
Douglass is operating the shop along with his friend and neighbor, Paige Brown. The shop’s hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Pawn, tan shop
Over on Attica Street, the Village Pawn and Tan Shop opened Sept. 10. Owner Shawn Cade purchased his buildings from the village about six months ago.
“I have always wanted to open a pawn shop,” Cade said. “So when I had the chance to buy the buildings from the village, I decided to go ahead with it.”
Cade, a life-long resident of Rossville, believes the way the economy is makes a pawn shop a good business to start.
“People are always looking for a little extra cash,” he added.
Another factor influencing Cade’s decision was his wife, Jill. She will lose her job with ConAgra when the plant closes in Rossville next year.
“She’s been there for about 12 years,” Cade added. “So I thought this would be something she could run after she loses her job.”
Until the tanning salon is up and running, which Cade said will be in about 90 days, the pawn shop has limited hours. It will be open 6-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sundays.
Cade said the tanning salon will have five tanning beds and eventually will be doing spray tanning, also.
“The closest place to go to tan is Danville,” Cade said. “This will be a lot more convenient for people wanting to tan.”
Rossville has had four new businesses open up recently. They are Twisted Sister, The Other Place II, Rossville Farmer’s Market & Cut Up Shop and Village Pawn and Tan Shop.