BLOOMINGTON — The new Von Champs Boutique in downtown Bloomington is being compared to The Garlic Press, a longtime popular shopping destination in uptown Normal.
"I'll take that as a compliment," said Von Champs owner Carmen Champion. "I love The Garlic Press."
The boutique, located in the former Bill's Key & Lock shop at 402 N. Main St., opened July 18.
"This has been about a three-year brainchild," said Champion. "I wanted to find and create a space that people could be downtown and easily pop into and get a gift or a card and leave. I also wanted to create a space that was open later at night."
The store, whose name means "from the fields," features jewelry, paintings, ceramics, metal works, homemade soaps, candles, handmade lamps, and other products made by 13 mostly local artisans.
There is a variety of gift items; purses; Galena Canning Company sauces, glazes and rubs; pillows, scarves, women's apparel and yoga accessories.
"I like to have everything blended in so it just looks like home. Everything is for sale," she said.
The boutique's hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Champion said it was important that her store stay open until 8 on weeknights.
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"One of the things that separates downtown Bloomington from Normal is we kick all of the shoppers out at 6 (p.m.) because nearly all of the shops close at 6," said Champion.
"Most people work until 6 and when people go downtown to eat at night there are no shops open for them to wander into. There's Red Raccoon. Bobzbay is open sometimes. There's just not a lot of spaces like that."
"We as business owners just have to work together to create that warmth (downtown)," she said. "Being open is how we do that. I would like to help facilitate that environment. These big box stores are closing because people shopping there don't feel like they're personal or special. "
Champion is no stranger to downtown Bloomington.
She opened Main Street Yoga, at 418 N. Main St., in January 2015. It's located a half block away from her new store,
"I love downtowns," said Champion "When I was 20 I was in downtown Champaign before what it is now. There were like five bars. There wasn't anything down there. Downtown Champaign is now completely different. People started investing their money in it. It was the business owners that made that shift. They just decided they were going to be their own change.
"I know this is going to sound really cliche, but the Mahatma Gandhi's 'be the the change you wish to see' has been running through my head a lot on this project."
Champion added: "If I did something that I could literally put my money where my mouth is ... maybe I can contribute to the change downtown."