Mahomet: Something fun's brewing

Mahomet: Something fun's brewing

The business district here is short and sweet. You can walk it in a few minutes and see a lot of variety.

A few years ago, said Justin Taylor of J.T. Walker's, a popular eatery with its own brewery, the street mainly had antique stores. Then there was a phase where empty storefronts gave the street a look of poor dental hygiene.

Acting Mayor Sean Widener said "JT Walker's restaurant and brewery has been really important the last couple of years in creating reinvestment in the downtown."

"There's so much more to do on Main Street than there was a few years ago," said Theresa Berry of the Mahomet Area Chamber of Commerce.

Arts and craft stores have come back strong, with a paint-it-yourself place, a photo studio as well as a nationally known photographer who also does commercials, and the thriving A Quilting Bee.

Right next to the quilt shop is Victorian House, a glass arts store that has been there two decades through good and bad.

JT Walker's owner, Justin Taylor, opened his restaurant in 2008, and the brewery opened in 2013, after two years of work.

"I grew up in Mahomet and I wanted to add something to the area. People said they'd like a good restaurant here," Taylor said.

Any place that serves liquor also has to serve food, said Village Administrator Patrick J. Brown, and customers seem to like that.

"It has really helped develop the restaurants here," he said.

People notice the change.

"Main Street used to be thriving when there were lots of antique stores," Taylor said. "Then for a long time people didn't go down to Main Street. But Busey Bank was a draw. Now there's more of a mix of businesses, and a few more opening in the next couple of months."

At a another newer restaurant, the Main Street Wingery, owner Rich Minick said he sees diversity on the street.

"Just recently, an optometrist has opened, Paint Like Me! and a family resale store opened," Minick said.

He credits "the progressive nature of the city council."

"They're more receptive to business," he said. "Mahomet was dry (since World War II). When they finally changed the city ordinance in 2007, JT Walker's moved in and we followed a couple years after that. Restaurants like theirs and ours make Mahomet more of a destination."

Minick calls his place, next to a Taffies that once was in Champaign, a "bookend" to JT Walker's for bringing in business.

In fact, Primelight Studio just had its grand opening. Ron Sullivan said the photography business has had other locations, but he likes Mahomet because Main Street is affordable and approachable.

The studio does wedding, prom and senior year photos, but Sullivan said photo restoration is a growing part of the business.

On the same side of the street, Paint Like Me! has expanded from its origins in Decatur.

Decorative Artist Elizabeth McDermith has 20 years' art experience, and likes to go beyond paints alone — glitter paste, crackle mediums, bubble wrap, waxes, collage elements, even rust.

"I also keep a lot of the canvases at the parties on the small side — people seem to like that," she said.

She said all of her designs are original content, "meaning I design them so you can only get them at our parties. Many of the designs you see at other paint parties are copied off of some of the national franchises."

The store has weathered wood floors and a pole barn ceiling.

Also downtown is Jason Lindsey's photography and commercials business.

Lindsey's clients are international — Anheuser-Busch, National Geographic Books, Smithsonian Magazine and Conde Nast Traveler — but he sometimes works for a client shooting local scenery.

Jo Kaczmarski, the owner of Victorian House, which sells and teaches glass art, has watched the rebirth of Main Street.

It's OK with her if it doesn't get any bigger.

"I like downtown Mahomet because it's small," she said.

At Victorian House, "my husband and I like that it's friendly and safe."

She has been doing glass art for 35 years and has taken classes all over the country, and the place is jammed full of art.

There are thousands of used books upstairs, and she sells "a little bit" of furniture.

"The town likes our place, and we like the town," she said.

COMING NEXT MONTH: We take a stroll down Main Street in Bement.

Did you know?

Mahomet's growth is phenomenal, from less than 2,000 in 1980 to 8,000 now.

It's a river town, founded on the banks of the Sangamon.

First settled in 1832, it was originally called Middletown, halfway between Danville and Bloomington. It had to change its name because there already was a Middletown in Illinois.

Mahomet is the French spelling for Mohammed.

The village was dry from World War II to 2007.

It's not at all dry in the sense that it sits on the Mahomet Aquifer.


Sections (1):Living
Topics (2):Entrepreneurs, People