By Kelly Youngblood
Champaign’s downtown area is experiencing a resurrection of sorts and two new women-owned businesses are joining the revival.
Golden Weather Goods, a home and lifestyle shop, and Fire Doll Studio, an artisan candlery, will open in coming weeks, joining other women-owned and co-owned businesses that opened during the pandemic.
Those included Suzu’s Bakery, Behemoth Durable Goods, Next Level Hair Parlor and The Recreation Club, a tattoo shop and art collective. And more are on the way: just last week, entrepreneur Jenny Shima announced that she and the team behind Hopscotch Bakery + Market will be opening a bookstore-wine bar combo in the former Hank’s Table space, named Lit Books and Bar.
Golden Weather Goods
Founder Erin McGill had a vision a few years ago about opening a storefront and knew this was the community for her to do it.
“We have such great support for not only local businesses but also small independent artists,” she said.
Over the past year, McGill has been honing in and developing her brand, which focuses on “everyday goods, warmly chosen”- things that are made slowly and carefully and usually made by a small team of people.
She’s spent the last six months collecting different items from vendors and artists that fit that mold including candles, textiles, ceramics and jewelry. Now she’s set to hold a soft opening on Saturday, July 24.
McGill says she’s interested in “things manufactured on a smaller scale in support of those who branched out and did their own thing.”
“Consumers are wanting a kinder narrative behind the things they buy, a better narrative,” says McGill. “They want to know that they’re supporting a local storefront and independent artists as well.”
McGill wants people to feel good about what they purchase, knowing that it’s going towards someone’s livelihood and supporting someone who has a dream.
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“That makes the products much more unique. Shopping small is impossible 100 percent of the time but my goal is to try to scoot the needle a little closer that way.”
The idea behind Golden Weather Goods was inspired by her aversion to Midwest winters. She says, like any good midwesterner, she longs for summertime, the warm weather and the sunshine.
McGill’s overall goal, which she developed in the fall of 2020, is to recreate that summertime vibe in her shop and cultivate that feeling in the products she carries- that feeling of warmer weather, fresher air, and longer days.
“I felt like bringing that sort of feeling into what I’m doing here in the shop and the type of goods that I curate and the people that make them,” McGill said. “It’s just such a great feeling and I think we were all looking for that last year. We were all looking for brighter days, better weather, a better outlook overall.”
Golden Weather Goods is located at 41 East University, across from Seven Saints in the old Illinois Traction building. A soft opening will be held on Saturday, July 24. For more information, visit its website goldenweathergoods.com or connect on Instagram.
Fire Doll Studio
Kayla Brown got into candle making in 2011 while in nursing school. She was looking for a creative outlet that fit into her study schedule and wanted to find a more naturally-made candle that didn’t trigger her asthma.
She did some research and figured out how to make a candle that was safe for asthmatics like her- and ended up falling in love with the candle-making process.
“It tickled my creative brain and also allowed me to work with my hands, which I love to do. I was hooked,” Brown says.
Ten years later, she still loves the art of candle making and is planning to open Fire Doll Studio, a small retail space and candle making studio, in mid-August in downtown Champaign.
Fire Doll Studio, located at 110 S. Neil Street, will offer a variety of handmade artisan candles and wax melts as well as locally made soaps and bath bombs. In addition, self-care and gift items will be available.
Brown is most excited to offer “Candle Happy Hours” (similar to paint and sip parties) and walk-in, make your own candle stations that will allow others to design their own scent, blend and pour their own candles.
“You can buy anything on Amazon these days, so I really wanted to focus on making an experience out of the shop,” she said.
Brown, who is also a locally-renowned musician and a licensed nurse, hadn’t really planned on opening a storefront. In fact, she operated out of her home until last fall, selling her candles first at local markets and then traveling to larger markets further away.
But, like so many others, the pandemic forced a life change. Right before the pandemic hit, Brown was working as a musician full-time and a nurse on an as needed basis.
Then she got laid off from her nursing position last summer and live music shows just weren’t happening.
“It turned my whole world upside down and I lost all of my regular work. I had one thing left to focus my energy on and I just decided to get with the times and move Fire Doll online,” Brown said.
So, she moved her at-home operation into a small studio in November of last year and started an Etsy page, offering curbside pick up for local orders.
The Etsy page seemed to be gaining steam, so she created a new website and started to offer monthly and seasonal candle subscription boxes. Things really started to take off from there.
She started getting visitors to her studio that were interested in her candles and she really enjoyed meeting and talking with people. When she lucked out on finding an affordable space to open up a retail shop, she knew she had to do it.
“I just felt like the universe was offering me this opportunity to take some control of my world for the first time in a long time and share something I really love with my community on a new level,” Brown said.
Brown, who is a lifelong Urbana resident, feels fortunate to have grown up in “such a wonderfully creative, musical, dynamic and culturally rich community.” She credits her current endeavors to “wonderful humans I’ve run into throughout my time in this community.”
“I’m just grateful to have grown up in a community that still continues to inspire me every day,” she says.