The Spark Shop holds grand opening ceremony

Retail incubator has a wide variety of local vendors

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ROCHELLE – A ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony were held Saturday morning at The Spark Shop, Rochelle’s new retail incubator for local small business owners. 

The Spark Shop is housed in the historic filling station building downtown. It’s 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. The idea was put together by the Rochelle Chamber of Commerce, Rochelle Retail Advisory Board and the City of Rochelle. 

“We love a good collaboration at the chamber,” Chamber Executive Director Tricia Herrera said. “This project certainly is that. The idea came about three years ago. It was pre-COVID-19. The Retail Advisory Board had an idea since we always get asked what Rochelle needs more of. Retail is always the first thing that people tell us. So, they came with this idea.”

The inside of the filling station building is filled with products from a wide variety of vendors ranging from cookies and candies to candles to signs to jewelry to Christmas items. Herrera said most of the vendors have a “very strong” social media following and she believes that will draw people to the storefront. 

The hours of The Spark Shop are currently Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Herrera said those hours could be expanded in the future. 

“We want to start small and don't want to bite off more than we can chew at the beginning,” Herrera said. “We're very excited to give these vendors a storefront and a way to display their things every day.”

Vendors at The Spark Shop will also have access to programs at Kishwaukee and Waubonsee Community College that are aimed at helping small businesses. 

Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows spoke at the event and called The Spark Shop “a great opportunity” for entrepreneurs in the community. 

“We hope that this is a stepping stone to bringing the vendors to the next level and be able to participate in storefronts hopefully downtown,” Bearrows said. “I'm thankful for all the vendors coming in here. It looks awesome. You've done a great job.”

Herrera said her hope is that The Spark Shop outgrows the space quickly and that businesses later land in their own storefronts downtown. 

“It's been a great project and a collaboration of a lot of different people,” Herrera said. “But the biggest thing is that all those entities, their focus is the same thing, to grow small businesses. To have a lot of retail downtown and to give small business vendors the opportunity to have a storefront. When maybe they don't know how to start their process, maybe they're nervous about that process or start small and get your legs under you before you run. We're very excited."