Last month Peoria Magazine led us on a journey of local food artisans. Who doesn’t like to eat, right? What a savory issue for all to sample! As I reflect (or should I say salivate?) on that food issue, a couple of things come easily to mind: We have a wide variety of culinary talent in Peoria, and many of those talented chefs are under or around age 40! And that brings me to say congratulations to this year’s class of 40 Leaders Under Forty. Let’s take a deeper dive into these and other up-and-coming business owners in downtown Peoria.
As the ambassador of development in the downtown, the Downtown Development Corporation (DDC) has the responsibility to not only help developers get started, but to also shed light on new business owners, thereby giving them the spotlight they sometimes need to promote their new beginnings. Just within the past few years, we have welcomed so many new entrepreneurs to the downtown that business is literally booming before our eyes!
Several names and faces come to mind. In the development space, Casey Baldovin is leading the way to reimagine the 800 block on SW Adams Street with mixed-use projects such as Adams & Oak and The Center. In the service and entertainment arena, I think of the following young business owners: Michelle Heeren, Venue Chisca and Heaven on Earth, for weddings and event planning; Mark Bell, First Ascent Climbing & Fitness; Sara and Matt Ruder, Gone in 60 Escape Games and Gone Axe Throwing; Hannah Ramlo, Soulside Healing Arts; Raphael Rodolfi, Videogenique; Drew Hillman, Rambler; Cliff and Jodie Vieira, Crafted DIY Bar and Studio; Meliss K, WAXology in the wHAIRhouse; Tony Stucker, Pop-A-Shot; Lisa Stovall, Bella Grove; Jeremy Plue, Meltdown Creative Works; and Tim Beck, Freedom Ink (one of the first pioneers in the Warehouse District).
A host of names come to mind in the food and beverage industry as well: Kavan Shay, Blue Duck Barbeque Tavern; Cody Scogin, Ardor Bread & Provisions; Arturo and Carla Vargas, Casa de Arte; Katie Rodolfi, Sous Chef; Chris Ober, Black Band Distillery; Jon Hopkins and Oak Lemmerman, The Neon Bison and Macho Taco; Li and Antonio Leon, Catrina’s Express; and Travis Mohlenbrink of the Warehouse on State, Thyme Kitchen & Craft Beer, and Sugar Wood-Fired Bistro (one of the first restaurants to open in the Warehouse District).
Although by no means a comprehensive list, I think you get the idea that innovation and entrepreneurship are alive and vibrant in downtown Peoria. The DDC applauds all of those striking out on new ventures despite recent challenges and hardships. We wish you much success in the years to come. PM