Local Illinois Makers Shine

They create, craft and invent. They are the artisans … the makers … the do-ers … the inspiration for all things that are uniquely Illinois.

They are entrepreneurs ... artisans ... creators and each year, the Illinois Office of Tourism inducts a select few businesses into the Illinois Maker Program - an honor gifted to bold and unique artisans whose craft has impacted their community and the state with distinction. Handmade, homemade, and locally made - get to know the people and places that are Illinois Made in the Great Rivers & Routes region.

Aria Burnside, left, of Aria's Cookies & Confections

Aria's Cookies & Confections, East Alton

Aria Burnside is shaking things up as one of Illinois Made’s newest (and youngest) inductees.

Discovering her amazing baking talents at the age of 15, Aria’s new confectionary, located in East Alton’s Eastgate Plaza, specializes in delightful baked goods, cookies, cupcakes, and more.

Don’t let her age fool you- Aria’s mouthwatering recipes are packed full of heart and flavor and perfect as a way to treat yourself or guests at your next event. Those with a sweet tooth can stop by Aria’s bakery or, if you’re not into smelling fresh-baked cookies in person, you can custom order Aria’s Cookies & Confections LLC online.

Derik Reiser of Old Herald Brewery & Distillery

Old Herald Brewery & Distillery, Collinsville

Named after the historic 1879 Collinsville Herald newspaper that once occupied the location, Old Herald Brewery & Distillery opened in 2017 as a restaurant, event space, brewery, and distillery.

Old Herald’s distilled line of products, Ardent Spirits, has been awarded silver and bronze medals for their smooth rum and agave-based liquors and Old Herald Brewery has released over sixty signature beers including popular Printer’s Ink, Proofreader Pale Ale, and the RePorter.

Old Herald’s restaurant offers a variety of delicious sandwiches and dishes like Chicken Spiedini, Mussels Pasta Ardente, Grilled Pork Chops, fish tacos, and chicken & waffles and the menu changes often so there’s always something new to pair with a stiff drink from the venue! For dessert, have some ice-cream or gelato at Cold Herald and listen to a live show at Old Herald Square- there’s a bit of something for everyone to enjoy from this Collinsville-based Illinois Maker.

Farm-fresh and healthy produce is grown at Three Rivers Community Farm in Elsah.

Three Rivers Community Farm

Started by Amy Cloud, Jose Lara, and their two children Diego and Lydia, Three Rivers Community Farm of Elsah is dedicated to bringing farm-fresh and healthy produce to Illinois tables.

Growing on land leased from Principia College, Three Rivers has a focus on chemical-free organic farm practices and produces over 50 varieties of vegetables which fill the plates of locals and travelers alike through Community Supported Agriculture membership and regional farmer’s markets.

Three Rivers Community Farm also collaborates with area farmers to provide fresh flowers, organic cheese, flour, coffee, honey, eggs and more- all locally grown, roasted, and raised! Stop by Three River’s Farm Stand to check off your grocery list and support this home-grown Illinois Maker!

David Stine creates custom furniture from hardwood trees grown on the family farm.

David Stine Furniture, Dow

Whittling away on trees milled from 1,000 acres of wooded family farmland in Dow, renowned furniture craftsman David Stine is an Illinois Maker who uses traditional techniques to make art that is both beautiful and practical. Sustainably grown, harvested, and crafted, Stine’s American hardwood pieces bring natural character to both commercial and residential spaces. His handmade furniture graces the interiors of elegant eateries, cozy bedrooms, and lends a living warmth to otherwise artificial business suites.

David’s passion for woodworking was handed down to him from his father and grandfather who taught him how to build tables, cabinets, bookcases, and beds while he grew up on the family dairy farm. After achieving higher education and becoming a lawyer in Washington DC, Stine decided a life in law wasn’t calling to him like the tactile allure of working with his hands- he made a life change- a big one- and moved back to Illinois on 40 acres near the family farm where he set up shop with wife, Stephanie Abbajay, as his business partner in 2002.

Stine is still hard at work handcrafting for clients today and even offers tours of his workshop to the public. Come and see the tools, timber, and love for woodcraft in Stine’s lumber studio and maybe make a custom order after the tour!

Grafton Winery and Brewhaus

Grafton Winery & Brewhaus, Grafton

Since 2008, Mike and Lori Nikonovich have been producing a variety of delicious wine in the Great Rivers & Routes at Grafton Winery & Brewhaus. In 2009 they added the Grafton Brewhaus creating their own take on craft beer. Over the years the Nikonovich’s have developed more than 20 different wines. The winery offers sweet fruit wines like popular blackberry or peach, semi-sweet whites and reds, and dry whites and reds.

All of Grafton Winery’s wines have won numerous awards nationwide ranging from the New York Fingerlakes International Wine Competition to the Illinois State Fair. The Nikonovich’s expanded their operations in 2015 by planting their own vineyard and opening a second winery location: Grafton Winery the Vineyards. Both locations offer full restaurant menus, an extensive bar, and selections from the Illinois Maker’s vineyards and brewery.

Taylor's Mexican Chili Parlor serves up delicious Illinois Made chili.

Taylor's Mexican Chili Parlor, Carlinville

There’s a secret at Taylor’s Mexican Chili Parlor in Carlinville- it’s buried in their signature flavors of beans, meat and the little hint of heat that infuses every spoonful of every bowl of chili. True chili connoisseurs know that Taylor’s, an Illinois Made chili producer, has the right stuff.

Taylor’s chili is served ‘parlor’ style which means the meat and beans are prepared separately so the flavors stay rich and distinctive. No binders or fillers are used in the process which creates a flavor you can’t find anywhere else.

For 114 years the Carlinville-based chili company has served up its secret recipe chili and people from across America are drawn to the downtown chili parlor to spoon up the satisfying bowls of savory meat and beans. Sometimes customers add onions- sometimes cheese- there is even a dash of apple cider vinegar handy on each table to help cut the heat.

Taylor’s Mexican Chili is produced and packaged in Carlinville using USDA Choice Sirloin beef, beans and spices. Everything about the chili is authentic and holds true to the original 1904 recipe. The production facility has modernized since it first started running in the 1930’s, but the special split-packaging remains the same. During the production process, the meat is simmered in small batches and then packed in a special container, separate from the bean container- when added together reviewers say the chili holds its own kind of magic- grab a bowl from this Illinois Maker to see for yourself!

“Our chili is really a taste of home,” Cary Whitlock, part of the two-man team of brothers who now own and operate the historic chili company, said. “We have a huge following with virtually no marketing strategy. We have people call from all over the country to buy our chili and then they give you their whole story about how and when they first tasted it.”

The Chocolate Affair, Highland

In the business of making life sweeter for over 25 years, The Chocolate Affair of Highland was inducted as an Illinois Maker in 2020. The enchanting chocolaterie offers chocolates, seasonal candies, and specialty treats fresh made by hand in house. The Chocolate Affair’s offerings include truffles, turtles, sea salt caramels, butter almond toffee, novelties like chocolate dipped Oreos, Twinkies, and marshmallows, and holiday favorites including Valentine’s Day strawberries, Easter rabbits, and more.

Besides the wonders on display in the bake case, The Chocolate Affair also indulges visitors with homemade ice-cream, can fulfill custom orders, sells loose-leaf tea, and is a great stop to shop for locally-made gift items. The gourmet confectionary delivers to Highland locals and also provides nationwide shipping so you can spoil your taste buds with a sugary Illinois treat wherever you choose!

Mississippi Mud Pottery owners Chad Nelson and Felicia Breen showcase their artistic talents with specialized pottery.

Mississippi Mud Pottery, Alton

Founded by Ken and Brenda Barnett in 1983 and passed on to Chad Nelson and Felicia Breen in 2006, Mississippi Mud Pottery specializes in handmade, wheel-thrown pottery. The shop and studio, located on central East Broadway, Alton, offers gorgeous, unique stoneware mugs, plates, serving-ware, soap dispensers, lamps, holiday ornaments, and more.

Every piece is made carefully by Chad, Felicia, and their small local team. Watch them work the throwing wheel in the studio through the shop's viewing window. Order custom pieces for your home or loved ones or buy pre-made pieces from the gallery floor. All of Mississippi Mud's pottery is made to be dishwasher, oven, microwave, and food safe. Pick from over nine distinct glaze patterns including the earthy Riverstone, rainbow Artsy Fartsy, Fish, Turtle, and Rainforest- Chad and Felicia can make full sets or singular pieces guaranteed to hold up to everyday use.

Mississippi Mud was one of the first businesses to be recognized by the Illinois Office of Tourism's Illinois Made Program in 2016. The studio has made many community businesses' stoneware including the mugs used by The Post Commons and Maeva's coffee houses and welcomes orders from public organizations of all kinds for their quality pottery.

Yvonne Campbell left her mark on the iconic My Just Desserts before her untimely death in 2022.

My Just Desserts, Alton

When you walk into My Just Desserts in downtown Alton for lunch, be sure to order dessert first- that's because the pies and cobblers disappear fast! The old-school chalkboard menu changes daily and features some of the best chicken salad and sandwiches in town, fresh gourmet salads, wholesome soups, and an extensive dessert selection made from family recipes. My Just Desserts is located in the famous 1830’s Ryder Building and was founded in 1989, taking over the historic venue from the Klug Flower Shop.

In 2013, Yvonne Campbell became the head baker at the restaurant and by 2018 Campbell fulfilled the dream of becoming My Just Desserts’ owner. Campbell perfected the restaurant’s delicious recipes and started selling the shop’s popular TollHouse brownies to grocery stores throughout the region. A creative and soulful entrepreneur, Yvonne Campbell served up joy to empty bellies to locals and travelers alike until her tragic death in 2022. My Just Desserts is continuing Campbell’s legacy through the dedication of her children and staff. Come for lunch and stay for dessert at the Alton staple that will have you reminiscing of cozy afternoons, fresh-baked cookies, and Grandma’s kitchen!

Old Bakery Beer co-founders Lauren Pattan and James Rogalsky created one of the first modern craft breweries in the region.

Old Bakery Beer Co., Alton

The Old Bakery Beer Company is a brewery and eatery located in downtown Alton that opened in 2015 under co-founders Lauren Patten and James Rogalsky. In addition to their line of up of all-organic beers, OBB's restaurant and tasting room features a menu of seasonally-rotating sandwiches, salads, soups, vegetarian and vegan options, and specials designed to pair with OBB brews and highlight the many varieties of produce and artisan goods available in Southern Illinois & Eastern Missouri.

OBB's locally made beer is certified organic and the business uses sustainable practices, reduces waste, and recycles. Old Bakery Beer Company uses local produce, meat, and goods to support and represent the region and also hosts many fundraisers for the community, organizes free events, and regularly donates portions of proceeds from the business to charitable organizations.

The restaurant and brewery occupies the historic 1800's Colonial Bakery building and tours can be scheduled for groups to view the brewing process. Old Bakery Beer Company was one of the first Illinois Makers to be selected by the Illinois Made program in 2016 (alongside Mississippi Mud Pottery).

Water Sweets Soaps offers organic skincare products that are crafted locally.

Water Sweets Soap Company, Edwardsville

Family owned and operated, Water Sweets Soap Company makes treats for your skin! Alex Sutterfield and his mother, Lisa, began the company in 2015 with the intention of making chemical-free bath and body products with natural ingredients. Walking into Water Sweets’ downtown Edwardsville shop is an experience of its own; a mix of enticing scents greets you at the door and shelves of bath bombs, soap bars, lotions, and sugar scrubs await in whimsical packages ready to be gifted or indulged in at home.

Water Sweet’s skincare products are all made in-house in Highland IL. Each step in the production process- mixing, packaging, shipping, and more- takes place at Water Sweets’ Highland facility where the company motto is ‘Bathe Clean’. Where other companies use oils like ‘soy oil’ (essentially vegetable oil), Water Sweets uses richer oils like olive, coconut, or avocado and they don’t add preservatives or artificial chemicals so that you get a fresh, natural experience with each use.

Pick up mouth watering treats at Kruta Bakery in Collinsville.

Kruta’s Bakery in Collinsville has been a family tradition for over a century. After emigrating from Russia, Kruta’s was founded by Frank Kruta Sr. in 1919. Frank, his wife, Anastatia, and his four sons operated the bakery in East St. Louis for 55 years and moved to Collinsville in 1945 to expand the business. The bakery still uses Frank Kruta’s old-world, Eastern European recipes to make delicious Stollens, danishes, nut rolls, Kruta’s signature crème horns, and more- all fresh-made in house by the Kruta family.

After practice through four generations of Krutas, each baked good, cake, and loaf of bread is made with heart and skill. Kruta’s Stollens, coffee cakes, pastries, and pies are holiday and year-round staples for many families across southwest Illinois and the bakery’s rooted heritage and history distinguish Kruta’s as a unique Illinois Maker.