Supporting Local Gems: Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs in Downtown Jacksonville

Supporting Local Gems: Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs in Downtown Jacksonville Main Photo

21 Nov 2023


For the past 13 years, the Saturday following Thanksgiving has marked Small Business Saturday – a nationwide movement that encourages communities to celebrate and support small businesses. In Jacksonville, this day takes on a special significance as the community comes together to promote the unique charm of the small businesses and the returning vibrancy of the downtown district.

Jacksonville is a haven for small businesses that pack a punch of personality and charm. Walk down the streets, and you'll find a delightful assortment of mom-and-pop shops and restaurants that make the town feel like one big, welcoming family.

The resurgence of downtown Jacksonville

Downtown Jacksonville is a hub for small businesses offering a variety of shopping, dining and entertainment options. But it wasn’t always like that. In an article profiling Judy Tighe, the Executive Director of Jacksonville Main Street, as she celebrated two decades with the non-profit organization, she says, “When I first started, because of the condition of the square, vacancies, and a whole lot of other things, we were an example of ‘don’t do this.’”

When Jacksonville Main Street started, the downtown had over 25 percent vacancy. “Since 2012, it’s maintained somewhere around 5-6 percent,” said Tighe. “We won the Great American Main Street Award in 2012. It’s the highest award for any Main Street organization in the country.” Jacksonville is one of only two communities in the active Illinois Main Street communities to ever win the award. And the downtown area continues to grow.

A supportive, entrepreneur-friendly community

Amidst the resurgence of downtown Jacksonville, local entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunity to contribute to the city’s growth and add their unique touch to the community.

“Jacksonville is such a special place,” said Brynna Wilson Welsh, co-owner of Green Haven Co., an eco-friendly shop established in 2021, and Eunoia Mama Co., a clothing boutique that started online in April 2022 before opening a physical store in March 2023. Both businesses are located in Downtown Jacksonville, with Eunoia Mama Co. situated in The Plaza and Green Haven just down the street.

“The downtown business community has been great. We all came together and decided to have monthly meetings and discuss events that we wanted to hold for the stores,” said Welsh. “We all try to put our minds together and help each other figure out how we can improve our traffic.”

New to Downtown Jacksonville: The Plaza

The Plaza has become a key player in the resurgence of downtown Jacksonville. The Plaza, a retail and market space owned by the Rohn family, currently houses retail storefronts, The Vault Axe Throwing & VR Escape Room and Springfield Brewing Co.

When Welsh and Eunoia Mama Co. co-owner Aubrey Shade were ready to take the shop into a brick-and-mortar space, they knew The Plaza was the spot. “I viewed the building in September (of 2022) when it was in its early stages and I was all in,” said Welsh. “I knew being downtown was a great idea from already having Green Haven, and I didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity. I love the modern aesthetic of the building mixed in with some of the timeless pieces, like the chandeliers in the brewery.”

Shop Local all year long!

Though Small Business Saturday comes once a year, you can shop local all year round! Whether you’re grabbing a bite to eat at a family-owned restaurant, buying a holiday gift or simply stopping in to browse, you’re helping to support Jacksonville’s small businesses and build a vibrant, unique community.

So, next time you're in Jacksonville, explore the tapestry of small businesses that make this town uniquely its own. You'll not only find great products and services but a warm, friendly spirit that's uniquely Jacksonville. To learn more about owning a business in Jacksonville, visit our website. Happy shopping!