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.

From a fourth-generation bakery, farm-to-table restaurants, woodworking artisans, craft brewers and more, businesses throughout the Great Rivers and Routes region are responsible for a new wave of interest in locally crafted products.

Yvonne Campbell of My Just Desserts in Alton

My Just Desserts, Alton

When you walk in to My Just Desserts in downtown Alton for lunch, be sure to order dessert first. That's because the pies and cobblers disappear fast! Yvonne Campbell, owner of My Just Desserts, and an Illinois Maker, has also perfected her TollHouse Cookie recipe and now sells them cookies at local grocery stores.

My Just Desserts is the perfect stop for lunch or a sweet treat when exploring downtown Alton.

Delight your senses at Water Sweets Soap Co. in Edwardsville

Water Sweets Soap Co., Edwardsville

Say hello to fresh scents and chemical-free products at Water Sweets Soap Company, an Illinois Maker. From bath bombs to shower bombs, soaps, lotion bars and sugar scrubs, all products are created locally using all natural products including olive, coconut, avocado oils and more.

Walking in to the store is more like a trip to a spa than a retail experience. Aromas from the products drift around the retail space creating a sensory delight. The products themselves are often packaged in whimsical designs. Alex Sutterfield and his mother Lisa, came up with the idea for Water Sweets Soap Company in 2015 and they began creating the chemical free products.

Enjoy homemade Eastern European delights from the Kruta Bakery

Kruta Bakery

Signature creme horns, Stollens, danishes, donuts and more are part of the delightful goodies found at Kruta Bakery in Collinsville on a daily basis.

Four generations of the Kruta family have perfected the baked treats from recipes created by Fred Kruta when he immigrated from Eastern Europe 100 years ago. Each product is made from scratch from the highest quality ingredients available.

Kruta Bakery has become the go-to place for sweet treats!

Two Grafton businesses are also among the coveted ranks of local makers: Grafton Winery and Brewhaus and Buena Vista Art. Both were honored by the Illinois Office of Tourism with the Illinois Maker designation which showcases the depths and diversities of Illinois.

Greg Brummett, Buena Vista Art in Grafton, an Illinois Maker.

Buena Vista Art

Buena Vista Art was developed by Greg and Janey Brummett featuring the handmade jewelry Greg Brummett crafts in their downtown Grafton storefront.

In addition to his passion for jewelry, Greg Brummett also crafts highly sought after steampunk industrial art. Brummett’s Industrial Art lamps are created using antique and vintage items which originated in factories and warehouses. The lamps have a distinctive and artistic flair and receive whimsical names from Brummett to give them even more character.

“We were so thrilled to be named to the Illinois Made program,” Janey Brummett said. “This is quite an honor and really shows how important small, local artisans are to the state.”

Grafton Winery and Brewhaus

Grafton Winery & Brewhaus

Since 2008, Mike and Lori Nikonovich have been producing some of the tastiest wine in the Meeting of the Great Rivers region. 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 ranging from sweeter fruit wines, semi-sweet whites and reds and dry whites and reds.

All of their 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. The first season of grapes have been harvested and are in production for new wines.

“We are truly honored to be part of the Illinois Made program,” said Mike Nikonovich, co-owner of Grafton Winery and Brewhaus. “Illinois Made highlights the best of the best throughout the state and gives us another way to reach potential travelers and customers.”

More Illinois Makers: the creators of Taylor's Mexican Chili Parlor

Taylor's Mexican Chili Parlor

There’s a secret at Taylor’s Mexican Chili Parlor in Carlinville, also designated as an Illinois Maker.

And it’s buried in the signature flavors of beans, meat and that little hint of heat that infuses every spoonful, every bowl of chili. True chili connoisseurs know that Taylor’s, an Illinois chili producer, has the right stuff.

The 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 means the flavors spread across the taste buds for a distinctive chili taste.

For 114 years the Carlinville-based chili company has served up its secret recipe chili and people from all over the U.S. are drawn to the downtown chili parlor simply to spoon up the savory and satisfying bowls of meat and beans. Sometimes customers add onions. Sometimes it’s 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.

“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.”

2 Alton Makers: Mississippi Mud Pottery & Old Bakery Beer Company

Mississippi Mud Pottery and Old Bakery Beer Company in Alton were members of the inaugural class of Illinois Makers when the program debuted in 2016.

Chad Nelson and Felicia Breen of Mississippi Mud Pottery have created artistic, useable pottery for over 10 years in their shop just blocks from the Mississippi River in downtown Alton.

Watch them in action here!

James Rogalsky and Lauren Pattan of Old Bakery Beer Co. have developed innovative and substantial craft beers in their two-year-old organic brewery and restaurant located in Alton’s historic Colonial Bakery building.

Illinois Made

All of the businesses are one-of-a-kind in the region and part of a growing trend of regional craftsmanship which is taking root throughout Illinois. And the businesses have been honored with the Illinois Made designation.

“We’re really excited about this program, because it not only promotes us, but promotes the region as well,” Breen said. “We work very hard and we enjoy that we get the recognition, and we enjoy that we can bring more interest and spotlight to our area.”

Launched in the summer of 2016, Illinois Made is an ongoing program that highlights the depth and diversity of Illinois’ makers’ communities to encourage people to extend their travel beyond a day trip by exploring local businesses and nearby attractions.

“We want to point out these fantastic makers,” Cory Jobe, Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism said. “But we want to make sure the visitor can interact with the maker and be able to purchase a product they can take back home and share with their friends and family, and inspire another set of travelers to come to Illinois.”