ROCHELLE – After opening in October, The Spark Shop in downtown Rochelle hosted 10 home businesses looking to experience the storefront and work on future expansion.
The Retail Incubator is a collaboration between the Rochelle Chamber of Commerce, the City of Rochelle, the Retail Advisory Council, Kishwaukee College and Small Business
Development Center at Waubonnee College. This is for businesses that are currently home based but are someday looking to have their own brick and mortar location.
“From a chamber perspective, everything is going well,” said chamber executive director Tricia Herrera. “We are happy with the sales and they are increasing every week. We are delighted with the support we have received from the community and are happy to be able to help sellers have a showcase for their products. Our only goal is to grow their businesses and we have worked hard to achieve it. We don’t have a ‘road map’ for this project because it is so unique, so we learned a lot along the way and made adjustments as needed. “
The News-Leader spoke to three of The Spark Shop vendors last week about their activities and experiences so far.
Aunt B’s pastry
Brooke Cox started baking cookies and cupcakes with her nieces and nephews.
“Aunt B” officially launched her business in June after being a passion for years. She makes personalized cookies and cupcakes as well as cakes, cinnamon buns, brownies and other candies. She also offers cookie decorating classes.
“It’s a creative outlet for me,” Cox said. “I can watch something and make it something that people enjoy. I like to be in the kitchen. It was obvious to me to combine these things.
Cox worked at local farmers’ markets and vendor events over the summer and was looking for a way to continue the winter after many of these events lay dormant. The Spark Shop was the “perfect timing” for her.
“It’s awesome,” Cox said. “It’s very unique and unusual in other cities. People may be reluctant to pick up items at home. This is another opportunity for me. For my customers who know me, they know they can come down when we’re open and buy cupcakes or cookies in small portions and they don’t have to order in bulk.
Cox has been cooking since 2013. When she became a stay-at-home mom in August 2019, it gave her more time to do things like invest in herself and this led to Aunt B’s Baking. Since then, she has enjoyed her work-life balance and worked her own hours.
The main goal of Aunt B’s Baking is to one day have a stand-alone storefront. The Spark Shop helps her through the learning curve while she waits.
“One thing about The Spark Shop is how great it is to meet other vendors,” Cox said. “We work in a network and we help each other with different things. I learned a lot from them and was able to share some of my knowledge.
Krystyn Mellor named his company, Wallyswishes, after his grandfather.
Wally was a carpenter and had his own workshop. Krystyn spent time with him learning the trade. His company creates personalized crafts, interior design, signs, tumblers, shirts and more.
“I wanted to start a business when people have an idea and can’t come up with something,” Mellor said. “Something unique for an individual that I can make special for people. I wanted to bring ideas to life.
Wallyswishes started about three years ago. Mellor had just given birth to twins, two of her four children, and had started her home business. She made matching shirts for her twins and posted them on Facebook and things just “took off” from there.
Mellor is a cancer survivor. She suffers from chemotherapy-induced neuropathy and did not want to take medication every day to control her pain. Keeping her fingers on her products has helped her. Moving your hands helps fight illness.
When asked which products she enjoyed making the most, Mellor mentioned creating wedding vows on boards for a wedding gift, personalized Christmas decorations, and the job she did for a friend whose father had recently passed away.
“We took her handwriting and laser engraved it on wood for her kids,” Mellor said. “It was significant.”
Mellor said starting his small business was difficult at first. Being an introvert, it was difficult to market herself and she worked hard to deliver high quality products to customers quickly at cost effective prices.
Its goal is for Wallyswishes to one day have its own storefront. Mellor wants to keep growing and learning new mediums to reach more people.
“I am grateful to be a part of The Spark Shop,” Mellor said. “It was a great experience. There are so many great people involved and it has helped my business take off. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
The rose barn
Rosario Herebia has 20 nieces and nephews. And she loves to give gifts.
Over the years it has become more and more difficult for her to do this for such a large group. She must have resorted to cash before changing her mind.
“It’s the best for giving them personalized things,” Herebia said. “Seeing their faces when they realize it’s made for them is awesome. I love to see that.
Herebia’s business, The Rose Barn, is a personalized gift shop. She sells t-shirts, mugs, decorative items like wedding gifts and “just about anything that can be personalized.” She also runs 2 to 3 painting classes per month in local places.
In addition to wedding gifts, The Rose Barn also makes gifts for other occasions like birthdays. Herebia has worked as a team for parents of city children who play sports.
“I wanted to make an OK gift special by personalizing it,” Herebia said. “I’ve been doing this for five years. I’m busy all the time now.
Next year, Herebia hopes to open a storefront for The Rose Barn. She wants to be able to host her painting lessons at home. She likes having a space at the Spark Shop for people to pick up their orders or see her products in person.
“You just have to keep working and being consistent and making a good product and you’ll keep growing,” Herebia said.
The Spark Shop hours of operation are Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is located in the historic gas station building at 500 Lincoln Ave.