It's Your Business

Tara Austin with one of her balloon bouquets.

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A local entrepreneur will be at Champaign’s Market Place Mall temporarily offering a colorful gift option for Valentine’s Day — balloon bouquets.

Luxe Balloons & Backdrops by T. Nickole will be taking over the former Teavana store at the mall Feb. 11-14 to sell helium balloon bouquets to go.

This home-based business operated by Tara Austin turned a year old recently and also provides other balloon products such as arches, garlands and number bouquets.

Austin, who also works in quality management for Health Alliance Medical Plans, started this business as a sideline when she went in search of balloon decor for a baby shower and couldn’t find what she was looking for, she said.

Getting an upgrade

The village of Rantoul’s Forum Fitness Center will undergo an $850,000 upgrade, to be financed in part with a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Village Recreation Director Luke Humphrey said the project will include a 3,000-square-foot addition, replacement of lockers, renovation of steam rooms and expansion of the cardio room into racquetball court 1 by removing the wall in between and making this one large room.

Also included will be the installation of windows in the weight room and cardio room and HVAC equipment to serve the locker rooms and restrooms.

This project is still in the design phase, but construction is expected to begin soon, with an estimated completion set for January 2022, according to Humphrey.

The Forum should continue to operate as usual during the construction, though parts of the building may be closed to the public at certain times and entrances and exits may be adjusted.

The Forum building was originally deeded to the village in 1993 from the Air Force, and while it underwent some remodeling at that time, this is going to be its first major upgrade, Humphrey said.

“We’ve done a lot of things we’ve needed to do to operate, but as far as major construction, this is the first,” he said.

The Forum has about 1,000 members, and the building is also used for other indoor recreation activities, he said.

Firm expanding

Champaign accounting firm Martin Hood has secured a new office in Peoria Heights, and is expanding services to a larger base throughout central Illinois.

The firm posted the news about the expansion Wednesday, saying it’s in the process of setting up the new location Peoria Heights and hopes to have it in operation early next month.

Winning cheeses

Congratulations are in order for Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband, the owners of Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, Champaign.

Two of their cheeses, Fleur de la Prairie and Pelota Roja, have been named winners of 2021 Good Food awards, making them among the top cheeses nationally from 13 producers, according to the Good Food Foundation.

Fleur de la Prairie is a described by the foundation as “a soft ripened bloomy rind cheese with dried herbs and flowers from the farm’s herb garden.”

The Pelota Roja is described as “raw goat milk cheese made in the style of Majorero, a Canary Islands hard goat-milk cheese.”

The Pelota Roja was developed in collaboration with Chicago chef Rick Bayless, and the wheels are aged two-to-four months with a rind bathed in guajillo chili-olive oil rub, according to the foundation.

Jarrell said it was exciting to win, not just for Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery but to highlight Illinois.

In the 11 years the awards have been given, there have been just 16 winners from Illinois, according to the foundation.

Each year, about 2,000 entries from across the nation compete for the awards.

Share news about your business: Deb Pressey can be reached at 393-8258 or

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