Getting Personal: Jessy Ruddell

Getting Personal: Jessy Ruddell

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 41-year-old Urbana resident Jessy Ruddell, the manager and new executive director of the I.D.E.A. Store in Lincoln Square Village in Urbana, chats with The News-Gazette's Paul Wood.

Where did you grow up and how did you get here?

I grew up in Peoria and came to Champaign-Urbana in 1992 to attend the University of Illinois.

What is the I.D.E.A. Store and how did you get involved? Did you volunteer first?

We're a thrift shop for art, craft and educational materials, including standard items like paints, fabric and school and office supplies, but also unconventional things. If you need 10 pounds of bottle caps to make a coffee table, we're your source. A big part of our mission is keeping reusable materials out of the landfill, and the volume of donations we get reflects how much that speaks to our community. I've always been kind of a magpie, collecting interesting objects that capture my imagination. I discovered the I.D.E.A. Store about five years ago. The first time I went there, I spent two hours and about 10 bucks. I started volunteering in 2015 as a way to spend more time in the store and destress, and when the management position came open in 2016, it felt like fate.

Over the last 10 years, you've held three management positions with Common Ground Food Co-op and played an important role in the store's two successful expansions. Why do you think you've been so successful?

I think teamwork and listening are absolutely the most important elements of successful management. Managers are almost completely dependent on other people to carry out the work that needs to be done, and the ones closest to the work usually have the best ideas about how it should be done. Most of the most innovative ideas I've implemented have come from other people; it's just my job to make them all work together as a whole. To give myself some credit, I'm pretty good at that job.

Have things ever gone wrong?

I also think failure is a huge part of success. That's a hard lesson to learn, but there is really nothing like screwing something up big time to work out problems and keep you humble.

The store just opened in its new location at Lincoln Square. How are you arranging the space?

We have two spaces separated by a hallway. The larger space is the main store, where the majority of our materials will be for sale, with a volunteer area and service counter in the back. We're largely volunteer-powered, so it's important to us to have a good space for volunteers to work and be visible. The smaller space will be where we have our big sales like the Jewelry Jackpot, and in 2019, we plan to open our education center in that space as well.

How did you get into knitting?

When I was 10, I bought a knitting kit at Ben Franklin and attempted to teach myself from the instructions. It was an abject failure. Just impossible green knots everywhere. I tried again when my kids were young — again from a book — and somehow it stuck. I have a lot of artistic interests, but knitting fits into my life in a way that other pursuits don't: It's portable, forgiving and comforting, and there's always something new to learn.

What's something almost nobody knows about you?

As a small child, my greatest fear was beards.

Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?

I never feel guilty about pleasure.

What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?

Because I like to have my hands busy, I've mostly listened to audiobooks in recent years. It's a great way to get the pleasure of reading while doing other things. Lately I've been listening to the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling).

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

Shetland. It's such a tiny, isolated place with a small population, and it has this incredibly rich agricultural and artistic culture surrounding wool and knitting that the islanders are actively working to maintain. And the landscape is so stark, but with this deep, soft palette of colors that you can see even in pictures.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

I had a rabbit named Omar who had free run of the house. If you bit into an apple, he'd come running at the sound and jump on your lap for a bite. He lived to be 11.

What would you order for your last meal?

Fresh linguine with Marcella sauce (look it up), garlicky sautéed zucchini, Blue Moon salad mix with a really sharp vinaigrette, red wine and Italian plum cake. Or maybe fried chicken and Champagne. Depends how long I want to draw it out.

Who are your favorite musicians and why?

I like music that can change or amplify how I'm feeling, and that brings something a little weird to the table. It's pretty seasonal for me: On a gray fall day, I'll turn up the gloom with Scott Walker, and one summer I listened to nothing but Missy Elliott. And I'm married to a musician, so obviously he's my No. 1.

What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?

In other people, exercising power without empathy. In myself? I don't think I'll answer that. There's enough self-loathing in the world. Other people can decide on my unlikable traits.

What's your best piece of advice?

Rest is just as important as work.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

I worked at Hardee's in Peoria when I was 15, for $3.90 an hour.

Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?

All my regrets are about staying quiet when I should have said something. I'm quiet by nature and generally think people talk too much, but sometimes the moment to speak comes and goes, and you can't get it back.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

At my best, I handle stress by getting lots of exercise, making sure I eat decently and doing my best to be the calm person in the room. Stress is contagious. At my worst, I hide in my house and avoid everything.

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