By Kelly Youngblood
Art Mart has been offering locals a unique place to shop and eat for the last 38 years at Lincoln Square in Urbana.
Starting this weekend, the eatery and specialty store will serve its customers from a brand new location in Champaign.
After closing the doors at Lincoln Square last Thursday, Art Mart will reopen this weekend at 1705 S. Prospect Ave., which is the old Carter’s Interiors building.
Cathy Stickels, who manages the Art Mart toy store, said she’s thrilled about the move.
“This is a beautiful space; it is a great location. It’s like a dream come true,” she said.
Brian McKay, the manager of Art Mart and Cathy’s brother, said he’s also excited about the new location.
“We’ve always wanted to own our own building,” McKay said.
Along with the new space, Art Mart will also offer expanded hours. The café opens at 6:30 a.m. Monday-Saturday and 7 a.m. on Sunday. (The other departments throughout the store will probably open around 9 a.m.) Art Mart will close at 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Customers will still enjoy the classic components Art Mart is known for: a café, deli, bakery, specialty groceries, wine, housewares, clothes, gifts, personal care, and toys.
“If you’ve been a loyal customer you’re going to come here and you’re going find our same croissants; you’re going to find the same cookies we are famous for,” Stickels said.
“All of those same classic things from Lincoln Square you’re going to see here, it’s just now we have room to do our thing,” she added.
But some new twists have been added. Wine by the glass will be available to purchase as well as draft beer. Customers can sit down and relax or walk around and shop.
Starting Monday, Feb. 15, a story time will also be held in the toy store every Monday at 10:30 a.m. for parents with children through age 5. Stickels said she hopes to have local “celebrity” guest readers at times and incorporate music as well.
Another change is the increased square footage. With more space to work with, McKay said they now have the ability to host some small events.
Art Mart is a family-owned business that began on campus in the late 1950’s as an art gallery for University of Illinois students.
Linda Ballard, along with her sister Carol Ann Hurt, took over a few years after the original founders opened. They started to focus on housewares.
Eventually, they moved to Lincoln Square and added Art Mart Foods in 1981 and Art Mart Toys in 1995.
Ballard’s daughter, Courtney McKay, and her husband, Brian, took over managing the store more than 10 years ago.
McKay said Art Mart used to be the destination for college students needing to outfit their dorm room or apartment but when big box stores moved to the area, they’ve had to change over the years.
“We’ve become much more focused on specialty food but our roots really are in the housewares and gifts,” he said.
They also added wine to the merchandise a few years ago and McKay said that’s gone over great.
“We’re fluid,” he said. “The program has worked for us very well for 60 years.”