Local Women Make a Mark in Southwest Illinois

Celebrate the women business owners of the region during National Women's Month.

Hard work. Determination. Women business owners in the region all have those skills in common. And more ...

"Women won the right to vote 100 years ago but there is a lot left that needs to happen,” says Lisa Ybarra, owner of Chava's Mexican Grill in Edwardsville. Ybarra left the corporate world seven years ago to open her own business in Edwardsville. That journey has been fulfilling and, in some ways, more difficult than she imagined.

Lisa Ybarra of Chava's Mexican Grill serves up a signature margarita at her Edwardsville restaurant.

“I was ready to do something else with my life,” Ybarra muses while sitting in her brightly decorated downtown Edwardsville restaurant. The aromas of grilled meat and vegetables lingers in the air and the sound of sizzling fajitas served to customers adds to the atmosphere as Ybarra adds, “Owning my own restaurant has been harder in some ways than I had thought. There is an assumption about a woman’s inability to run a business by herself. So you have to be smarter and realize there is the potential for prejudice against women.”

Ybarra has solidified her place in the Edwardsville business community and works to mentor other women who are interested in starting their own business. Hearing from other women who have made it in the world of small business ownership is meaningful, she notes.

“I always ask, ‘how can I help other women’,” she says. “And I tell people women just need to keep their foot on the gas and they will be fine. This is a good time to be a business owner and a good time to be a woman business owner. There is nothing we can’t do. We just have to push the envelope a little bit.”

Cathy Gross of Bluff City Grill in Alton

Alton restaurant owner Cathy Gross has dreamed of owning her own business since she was 16. Her dream came true 6 ½ years ago when she opened Bluff City Grill.

“I always thought I would own a small bar but Bluff City Grill turned out to be much larger than that,” she says. When she opened the restaurant, it was housed in a smaller building that she leased. An opportunity came up to purchase the former Eagle Lodge on Broadway Street in Alton and Gross jumped at the opportunity. That decision opened up a wider world for the business and Gross.

“I’ve learned a lot from other women in business like Karen Baker Brncic (Alton Marina) and others,” Gross notes. “I think to be successful, as a woman in business, you have to lead by example. People have so much more respect for you if you work with them.”

Morrison's Irish Pub, located in the heart of Alton's entertainment district, is owned by Mary and Lisa Morrison along with their daughter Katie. The three women established the pub five years ago as they followed their dream of owning a business.

The Briar Rose, a consignment store in downtown Litchfield, IL is a woman owned small business.

For Danell Fogle, owner of Briar Rose in downtown Litchfield, being the owner of a business seem like a natural step. She had worked for a small electrical business owned by a husband and wife team. It was there she learned the ropes and prepared to become a business owner herself. Fogle bought Briar Rose, a consignment shop that also features local crafters and producers, six years ago. Over that time, she has gone on to purchase a 14,---square-foot historic building in the city to house her business. She has also expanded the number of consigners in the shop to over 3,000.

“If a woman wants to own her own business I would encourage them to do it,” Fogle says. “If someone has a dream, to do it, I would tell them to go ahead.”

Litchfield is home to several woman owned businesses including the historic Jubelt’s Bakery and Café, located on Route 66; Phyllbena’s, a vendor/consignment shop; and MyFormals and Leona and Friends, a wedding and formal dress shop located alongside a trendy clothing boutique.

Women in Business

Here is a list of more women business owners in Great Rivers & Routes:

Rebecca Pattan, owner of Poputopia, is serving up delicious and homemade popcorn creations in her location in the Alton Square Mall.

Kim Baalman-Eberlin offers up a variety of sweet frozen treats and plenty of flavors at The Whole Scoop in Grafton.

Jennifer Gibson has wine, beer, and much more like décor, tea, and gift bags available at her bar, Uncorked Spirit, in Jerseyville.

Linda Saathoff has a well curated and a vast selection of women’s clothing that she sells out of her shop in Hillsboro, called The Dressing Room.

Jenna Holtschulte, the owner of Blackboard Mercantile, offers an eclectic assortment of pillows, house décor and functional home essentials in her store in Hillsboro.

Cathy Gross opened up Bluff City Grill seven and a half years ago, since then she has been keeping the people of Alton stuffed with her tasty food.

Morrison’s Irish Pub House
owned by Mary, Lisa, and Katie Morrison has been serving drinks,
laughs, smiles, and food at their bar in Alton where a good time is
always free and on the menu.

Jeanmarie Jublet’s family has been the owners and operators of Jubelt’s Bakery & Restaurant since 1922. They offer plenty of fresh bakery treats along with fresh
tasty food and drinks to keep anyone satisfied, go check them out in

Karen Wiesemeyer is the owner of both The Other Place on the Hill and Weezy’s Route 66 Café. At the Hill she serves up indulgent Italian favorites and keeps it
classic American at Weezy’s. Odds are she has something you will like go
check out her places in Hamel.

Megan Pashea serves up delicious dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner at her restaurant 1818 Chophouse in Edwardsville.

Karen Luster has channeled the Route 66 vibe at the aptly named Route 66 Creamery in Hamel. Enjoy a refreshing ice cream treat or make it a meal with a juicy steakburger and fries.