Folks who hated not having a local Hallmark store open for Valentine's Day can take heart.
Kirlin's Hallmark plans to open Friday — and possibly as early as Wednesday — in the former Dena's Hallmark location at Marketview Shopping Center in Champaign.
Kirlin's also plans to open a store March 8 in Danville's Towne Centre, also in a former Dena's Hallmark space.
"We're really excited to be back in both markets," said marketing director Laura Sievert, who said Kirlin's plans to reinstitute the keepsake ornament club at the new stores.
Becky Fisher will manage the Champaign store, while Lisa Pfeiffer will be the manager in Danville.
Hours for the Champaign store will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Hours for the Danville store were not available last week.
Both will be Hallmark Gold Crown stores, and both will carry Life Is Good apparel and accessories, Sievert said.
As reported previously, they'll also carry Willow Tree figurines, WoodWick Candle and Yankee Candle products and the Precious Moments, Tervis Tumbler and DaVinci Beads lines.
Grand openings for both stores are expected to be held the weekend of April 12-14, Sievert said. There will be giveaways, refreshments and in-store specials that weekend.
Quincy-based Kirlin's Hallmark operates 92 stores in 10 states.
Pizza in downtown Urbana
Pizza M, a restaurant featuring specialty pizzas created by Matt Kitzmiller, is expected to be the anchor tenant for the new "cafeteria & company" food collective at 208 W. Main St. in downtown Urbana.
Kitzmiller said he may have a soft opening for the restaurant by June, but won't have a grand opening until the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival in August.
Kitzmiller has been offering Pizza M pizzas on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at two locations: for dine-in at Buvons in the Corkscrew Wine Emporium, 203 N. Vine St., U, and for carryout at Mirabelle Fine Pastries, 124 W. Main St., U.
But when he opens in the new location, he hopes to operate five to seven days a week and offer a more extended menu — including "soups, salads, desserts and pastas, and maybe a brunch on Sundays."
Kitzmiller said his most popular gourmet pizzas probably include a goat cheese veggie pizza and a classic pizza margarita.
But a new entry — a bacon-and-eggs pizza with onions, peppers, cheese and parsley — has also stirred up interest.
Kitzmiller said he plans to be open for lunch as well as in the evening hours, and there may be cafe options in the morning.
"We might be open as early as 7 a.m. for coffee, and as late as midnight for pizza and drinks," he said.
Right now, all his specialty and traditional-topping pizzas have thin crusts, but Kitzmiller said at the new restaurant, he may offer a focaccia crust as well.
Pizza M will be in one of two adjacent buildings recently acquired by Matt Cho.
Cho said he's looking for another food operator to take about 1,000 square feet in the rear of the "cafeteria & company" building.
As for the single-story building to the east at 206 W. Main St., U, Cho said he hopes to interest creative entrepreneurs in that space — tentatively called "popup lab."
He said two potential tenants have expressed strong interest. One is involved in software development, and the other in product development.
Cho said he hopes to attract artisans, such as a jewelry maker and a photographer, there as well.
Empanada truck debuts
Be on the lookout for a new food truck in town this week.
Juan Olarte is debuting The Empanadas House, featuring empanadas with 20 varieties of fillings — though the truck will likely offer only six varieties on any single day.
Empanadas are stuffed pastries that may have meats, cheese, vegetables or dessert fillings inside.
Olarte, originally from Argentina, said the truck is expected to be on the University of Illinois campus on Monday — likely on Mathews Avenue in Urbana.
"We'll update our locations on Facebook," he said. "We plan to participate in the Champaign pilot program for food trucks."
Olarte said the filling options include beef, chicken and pork. There's an Indian-style empanada and several American-style ones, such as barbecue.
The Empanadas House will also have several dessert empanadas.
"One specialty people really love is dulce de leche," he said, referring to a sweetened milk mixture.
For more information, check the food truck's website, http://www.theempanadashouse.com .
Olarte and he has two restaurants in the northern Argentine city of Tucuman. He also manages Crepe Delicious in the Illini Union Food Court.
Olarte said he came to Champaign-Urbana so his wife could do postdoctoral work at the University of Illinois. She's now a research scientist there, he said.
A place for parties
Big Grove Tavern in downtown Champaign has opened up space for private parties to the east of its main dining room, General Manager Michael Johnson said.
The space can accommodate groups of up to 100. Later this week, the tables in that area will be replaced with butcher-block tables that match those in the main dining room, he said.
Also, Big Grove Tavern, at 1 E. Main St., C, plans to start offering Saturday and Sunday brunch in mid-March, Johnson said. Hours for the brunch will be 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The brunch menu will include items from Big Grove's lunch menu, as well as several "breakfasty" items that will change week to week, said chef Jessica Gorin.
Those items will include two fresh-baked house pastries, as well as several breakfast specials, she said.
As with the rest of Big Grove's menu, the brunch items will be made from scratch and will reflect the seasonal availability of local ingredients.
Contact Don Dodson at 351-5227 or 800-252-3346; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.