BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — While many cities across the country have seen businesses unable to survive the pandemic, Downtown Bloomington had a successful 2020.
Within the last year, 12 new businesses have opened their doors in downtown Bloomington despite the ongoing pandemic.
John Solberg owner of the Brass Pig Smoke & Alehouse said they have had to adapt amid different mitigations and up their cleaning protocols, not even a full year into being open.
“We opened Memorial Day Weekend last year,” Solberg said. “It’s been interesting.”
The Brass Pig at the corner of Main and Mulberry Streets is one of 12 new businesses to welcome new customers through their doors in downtown Bloomington within the last year. Solberg said he’s worked in the industry of food service for 15 years and said Bloomington was the best fit.
“We looked at a lot of different locations and what attracted us to downtown is the success that other restaurants have had,” Solberg said. “I think Bloomington has been viewed as bar strip for quite a while, but with the success of places like Nightshop, Reality Bites, Epiphany Farms and Mystic Kitchen; places like that is what attracted us down here and build on what they’ve already built.”
The Brass Pig offers traditional smokehouse meats including brisket, ribs, pulled pork, and turkey. Solberg said what sets them apart is the spin they put on Po’Boys and Italian Beef sandwiches. He said this sets him apart from other places and despite a pandemic, is confident in the business.
“It’s nerve-wracking, but I know that we put out a good product; we got great staff in there, so as long as we do that, I think the diners will continue to come back,” Solberg said.
Just down the street, on Monroe Steet, MainStay Barber Parlor opened its doors in December of last year. Owner Marco Quiroz said after living and working in his hometown of St. Louis, he wanted to come back to Bloomington.
“Downtown Bloomington, I’ve always loved the comradery,” Quiroz said. “The comradery is number one down here; the support of other businesses, the support of the residents.”
So far, with relaxed mitigations, Quiroz says business has picked up and also said his atmosphere within the shop sets MainStay Barber Parlor apart from other hair salons. Quiroz works on appointments rather than traditional hours and is flexible with appointments.
“Barbering is about people, it’s about community. It’s about an experience,” Quiroz said.
Quiroz said the barbershop has been requiring masks and said all the tools are being sanitized frequently.
“We follow protocols pretty strictly so everything is as safe as it can be and I feel a lot of people trust that it’s as safe as it can be,” Quiroz said.
More than $260-million of development started or continued in Bloomington in 2020. Deputy City Manager Billy Tyus said all kinds of businesses are calling Bloomington; specifically downtown, home.
“There is a new re-energized energy and spirit there and the merchants found a way to make it happen,” Tyus said.
Tyus said credit goes to Bloomington’s Economic and Community Development Department for finding ways for new businesses to open up in an uncertain time.
Patrick Hoban CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council said the area’s low cost of living and bigger investments from companies like Ferrero and Rivian attract smaller businesses to open their doors as well.
“It’s great to see investment back into the downtown Bloomington because downtown Bloomington and uptown Normal, that’s really the heart and soul of the communities and those are the older buildings, so it’s great to see investment back into those,” Hoban said.
Find a full list of the 12 new businesses in downtown Bloomington as well as the city’s other accomplishments here.