In 1920 the U.S. Constitution granted women the right to vote. Women have shattered glass ceilings in the 101 years since then and that’s especially true in the Great Rivers & Routes region of southwest Illinois.
Women have taken the reins and become successful small business owners and they have some great stories to share. Pull up a chair, maybe grab some pie, because class is in session. Welcome to Women in Business 101!
231 E. Delmar, Alton
Alton’s Trezel Brown has always been an entrepreneur. In fact, her wildly popular vegan restaurant, CC’s Vegan Spot, is the fourth business she has created from the ground up.
“I”ve always been determined and knew I could do this,” Brown says of her restaurant. “It never crossed my mind that this couldn’t be done.” But she acknowledges that being a woman business owner, and a woman of color, had it’s own road blocks to her dreams of opening a restaurant.
“It was hard to get people to invest – because I am a woman,” Brown notes. “It wasn’t something people believed in. I had to do everything from scratch, but I stuck it out.”
Brown opened her restaurant originally as CC’s Icees Galore which featured frozen icees as an alternative to dairy treats, in 2019. She added her family famous broccoli cheddar soup, chilli and nachos to the menu to provide diversity. Within six weeks, she switched her focus to highlighting vegan sandwiches and entrees.
“I love cooking and when I became vegan I realized I could help others develop a healthy lifestyle by providing them with healthy food choices,” Brown notes. “Veganism changed me a lot and as African-Americans, we have to be more health conscious.”
What Brown has created is a vegan dining hot spots that attracts people from throughout the central portion of Illinois and the St. Louis area. She creates tasty vegan sandwiches and entrees that have people coming back for more.
“I have had guests drive two hours to eat at the restaurant,” Brown points out. “I make three of my own burgers. One out of eggplant, one from beets and another from black bean. You can’t tell they aren’t hamburgers.” Brown also isn’t afraid to fry some of her foods to provide the taste people crave. But it’s still a healthy choice for people, she says.
CC’s Vegan Spot is Alton’s first fully-vegan restaurant. Among the dishes she has created is the popular “Ish Bites” which is tofu-based, seasoned and fried to resemble fish bites.
Brown remembers it took two years to get CC’s off the ground and when the pandemic hit she was on the verge of expanding her small restaurant into a 2,500-swuare-foot family dining experience. Those plans came to a screeching halt and Brown has struggled to keep her business afloat.
“I’ve been fighting to stay open because of the people who believed in me. I have really just been fighting to stay alive,” Brown says.
31 E. Broadway
Yvonne Campbell knew she wanted to own her own business by the time she was 40. That dream became reality when she bought Alton’s famed My Just Desserts in 2018.
“I worked at the restaurant when I was 15 and knew (owner) Ann Badasch. I left for a while and came back to work there. Ann took me aside and asked what I wanted. I told her by the time I was 40 I wanted to own my own business. She told me, ‘You can buy My Just Desserts when I retire.’ ”
Campbell is a trail blazing woman in business who has learned how to make lemonade from lemons during the on-going COVID pandemic.
“Covid(-19) has opened up doors for me. McAlister’s Deli called me one day and asked if I could provide cookies for the deli. Then Schnuck’s emailed me saying they were opening their deli and bakery area to small businesses.”
She took this chance and sold 33,000 cookies to 17 different McAlister’s locations and is now in five Schnucks locations: Edwardsville, Alton, Godfrey, Ladue, and Florissant.
Campbell notes the business opportunity both with Schnucks and McAlister’s “opened up my vision to what I wanted my business to become in the next couple of years.” Campbell wants to spread her brand, and with that passion that she has for baking.
She attributes her business getting off the ground to a lot of people saying ‘yes’ when she thought they would say ‘no’.
Campbell continues to expand her business in the same way she uses her creativity to grow her baking.
“The biggest thing going right now is cheesecake. I enjoy making them because it is fun to make a new flavor.”
Campbell advises other women entrepreneurs to “never give up. We go into different businesses every day, so why think you can’t have that for yourself or your family.”
Other Notable Women Business Owners
Rebecca Pattan, owner of Poputopia, is serving up delicious and homemade popcorn creations in her location in the Alton Square Mall.
Linda McCormick, the owner of the Cookie Factory Bakery in the Alton Square Mall, serves delicious cookies and more.
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.
Danell Fogle’s The Briar Rose is a store that people can get lost in, in a large location she sells thrift and consignment clothing and more for people in Litchfield.
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 Litchfield.
Lisa Ybarra brings tasty Mexican food to Edwardsville, and while her journey to having a great business wasn’t easy, you can still find good food there at Chavas Mexican Restaurant
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.