The Spark Shop coming this fall as retail incubator

‘This is our best way to help a small business’


ROCHELLE – The Rochelle Chamber of Commerce, Rochelle Retail Advisory Board and the City of Rochelle announced plans last week for The Spark Shop. 

The collaboration is planned to be a retail incubator for local small business owners and will be housed in the historic filling station building downtown. The Spark Shop is for businesses that are currently home-based but are looking to someday have their own brick and mortar location. About 10-12 vendors will be in the space at a time selling merchandise on a quarterly basis. 

“We want to make sure we're the ones fostering that growth,” Rochelle Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tricia Herrera said. “We know that Rochelle downtown and as a business community is great. You just want to help other people know that too. The biggest question I get at the chamber from small businesses is 'How do I start?' Where do I start and what do I do?’ We just want to make that’s a little more accessible to everybody."

Small business owners will also be meeting with an advisor with the Small Business Development Center from Wabaunsee and Kishwaukee Community Colleges to further help them graduate into the region.

Herrera said the advisor can help business owners with business plans and what they want to do. It will be available to those that are in all phases of planning. 

“Maybe they've already thought of a business plan and what they want to do,” Herrera said. “Maybe they have absolutely no idea where to start. He's going to show them where to start and how to find funding. He has access to grants and stuff that can really help these types of businesses."

The idea of The Spark Shop is to take a following from a vendor there and turn it into a brick and mortar location for downtown shopping. The city, chamber and retail advisory board want all the downtown storefronts filled with gift stores and things to attract people to the downtown. 

Rochelle City Councilwoman Kate Shaw-Dickey said the idea started almost two years ago as a true business incubator where businesses can come in and have a governing board oversee them and steer them in the right direction. After touring other towns’ incubators, something on a smaller scale was necessary for Rochelle. 

“We kind of morphed that into this cooperative to be able to work with several at one time as opposed to one at a time,” Shaw-Dickey said. “It lends something to the downtown as well. Help small businesses in Rochelle and still be kind of an attraction for people who are coming in."

The Spark Shop plans to open sometime this fall. Around 25 people have already reached out about getting their products into the space, Herrera said. She hopes to get a couple of “staple” vendors to get people in the door where they’ll see other offerings. Products could include candles, signs, tumbler cups, clothing, sweet treats and more. 

Herrera believes Rochelle has “a great amount” of businesses that would be good for The Spark Shop. A lot of those would include the vendors that participate in craft markets that are held at Kennay Farms Distilling and The Cypress House.

“We always hear Rochelle needs more retail,” Herrera said. “I think that's where this was, 'Here's a way to do that.' All the way back 5-6 years ago, it was more retail and Rochelle needs to address more quality of life issues. This is it. We want people to be able to run downtown Rochelle and pick up a birthday gift on a Saturday and not have to drive.” 

The Spark Shop could also allow vendors to network and maybe team up to start a storefront if they can’t do it on their own, Shaw-Dickey said. Some smaller vendors in town already sell products at larger businesses. 

The pandemic and a lack of resources available to be put towards the project had it in a holding pattern before recent months. 

“We're just excited to get this going,” Herrera said. “The city, the chamber and the Retail Advisory Board love small business and this is our best way to help a small business."