LEXINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — A city not named Bloomington or Normal in McLean County has continued to grow its downtown in the midst of a pandemic and the months following.
Lexington, located 20 minutes northeast of Bloomington-Normal along Interstate 55, has welcomed 12 new businesses to the city since 2020. Five new businesses have opened up shop in 2022 alone. One is slated to open this fall.
Mayor Spencer Johansen said during the pandemic, the city council and staff worked at recruiting new businesses into town.
“Our practice was during COVID, a lot of communities were laying back waiting to see what’s going to happen, we just kept pursuing new businesses and negotiating with them,” Johansen said.
Johansen said the city is hoping to reinvent what it means to be a small town. Adding, they’re balancing the small-town charm with big city amenities.
“If they see some of the amenities that we have that a lot of smaller towns don’t have, that’s very attractive to them. Then the next challenge is finding housing,” Johansen said.
In fact, the city has become such a hot spot, that there are no houses for sale or apartments for rent within the city of 2,100 people.
One of the newest businesses in town, Analytical Brewing, opened up in June of this year. Co-owner Nate Poehlman said they want to cement themselves as good community partners.
“We had a city that was interested in us and what we were doing. They believed in us,” Poehlman said.
Analytical Brewing offers 10 beers on tap, all made within their building located at 510 West Main Street. Poehlman said he and his two other co-owners along with their wives started brewing beers at home as a hobby and over time it brewed into a passion.
“The beer was pretty well received and we brewed a lot of different kinds of beer and got a lot of good feedback, made some tweaks and kept brewing good beer and one night we made the decision to open up a brewery,”Poehlman said.
Other businesses along Main Street have been main stays since 2004. Kemp’s Upper Tap opened back in 2004 but grew so popular it relocated in 2015.
Owner Jon Kemp grew up in Lexington, went to Chicago for a few years then came back to take over as owner of the bar he worked at it in high school. 19 years later, he didn’t think the bar would grow as it did.
“We like to do almost an us vs them of Lexington vs the big corporate. Everybody comes to town for individual businesses, not the big corporate-owned entities,” Kemp said.
Kemp said it’s great to see new businesses come to town. He adds when one business thrives, so do the others.
“People will come into town not for just one shop or two shops, or just to come to our place. Everybody is really benefiting as more people come to town,” Kemp said.
Johansen said more businesses are expected to open in the coming months and years.
“Anything can happen, I mean somebody could come in tomorrow and want to open a business up and we’d be very open to it,” Johansen said.
The mayor adds, Lexington will continue its ‘steady’ growth and are looking to keep the allure and charm of a small-town.