Two of Champaign’s hometown favorites have come together to take the small business community by storm. Dandelion and Exile on Main have moved in together, and have recreated the old train station on Chestnut into a unique shopping experience for the downtown community.
While both businesses have been born and raised in downtown Champaign, the owners Sara Hudson of Dandelion and Jeff Brandt of Exile on Main became good friends through the small business community. The ending of Exile’s ten-year lease sparked the move from the old location. The Chestnut location was available, but a little too big for his store. Luckily, Dandelion had been searching for a larger space. These two factors brought these two forces together and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
With Dandelion being a vintage, used, and new clothing store and Exile on Main carrying new and used music and video games, I had to wonder how customers were reacting to this move. Even with such different products, Sara said that both of their customers love the new location change and the combination of these two businesses.
“I used to have couples that would walk up to Dandelion and the guy would say, ‘OK, see ya honey! I’m going to go the Exile.’ And the women would start shopping and the women always take longer shopping than the men. So, the guy would go to Exile, buy a bunch of stuff, then come back to Dandelion and then go ‘Oh, you have men’s clothes.’” Now, with the combination of Exile and Dandelion, couples no longer have to split up on their days out shopping together.
Brandt added on by saying, “We have had a lot of customers talk about how their two favorite places downtown are now at one location.”
These two business owners couldn’t be happier with their new space and are definitely making the most out of the location. Before they both had pretty straight, narrow spaces with one door in the front of the store. At this new location there is a wonderful breeze throughout the entire space. With more windows and a ton of natural light, the atmosphere in the store is cheerful and bright. And to top it all off, they have added a little artistic touch to the ceiling with a large mural done by Langston Allston. While still holding on to that historical memory of the old train station, the combination of these two businesses at this space has created a genuinely unique atmosphere and energy that stands out among the crowd.
Not only has the location move improved the environment and space of both stores, but also the partnership has been extremely beneficial to both owners. Even though they are still operating as separate businesses, they are working together as a team to achieve maximum success.
Brandt stated that, “Partnering up with her, there are times that I can leave for a little while and go do things, and that was never the case when I ran my place and not really when she was running hers either. It’s nice to have a business partner that I can trust.”
Now that they are all moved into their new location, all of the extra space is going to be used to it’s greatest potential. Not only will the Exile-Dandelion combination be the place to do your weekend shopping, but also with an added stage within the store, there will be all kinds of entertainment and shows taking place at this location.
With their multi-purpose stage they have already hosted a comedy show for the first CU Comedy Fest and bands, such as, Mae & The Dark days, Feral States, The Superior State, and Acker for the Pygmalion Festival. Halloween weekend the Exile-Dandelion duo and the Conservatory of Central Illinois hosted a Halloween Party for Champaign locals to enjoy. Exile and Dandelion are hoping to have a variety of events, such as these, weekly to offer to the public once they are completely settled and comfortable at their new location.
These two business owners have big expectations for their success at this new location. Along with being blessed to have their current, incredibly supportive neighbors at the old train station, they are looking forward to their new corner of town becoming a hot spot for foot traffic in Champaign. With the anticipated arrival of Maize and Black Dog headed their way and increased awareness of their new alliance, Chestnut Street is going to be a prime location in downtown Champaign.
Photos courtesy of Sam Logan.