Smile Politely

Yellow and Company: Bringing big-time talent to small-town Mahomet

Storefront of Yellow and Company in Mahomet
Yellow and Company on Facebook

Last summer, a neighbor of ours joined us on our patio for a cocktail and to take part in one of our favorite summer night activities: watching concerts and music videos with a projector and a big screen while kicking back in our zero-gravity chairs. The neighbor recommended a music artist she liked that was featured on America’s Got Talent, and we pulled him up on YouTube. His voice was deep and mellow, and it was obvious that he had the talent to be on national TV. Within two weeks, he was playing at a gift shop in our little town of Mahomet.

Since Covid, Mahomet has had a severe lack of live entertainment. Outside of the Mahomet Music Festival, there are no other venues in town that regularly feature live entertainment, until Yellow and Company came along, and with some space to spare, decided they’d like to use it to fill that void.

Owners, husband and wife Mike McDermith and Elizabeth Van Houtan, started as an entertainment business back in 2012. Van Houtan, who’s a faux painter and decorative artist, would go to people’s homes to teach them how to paint. Initially, they were doing about 200 parties a year and even held an event at City Center during Moms Weekend that was very successful. Eventually, they decided to open a brick-and-mortar store in downtown Mahomet (where Rad Lad Games is now), but while Van Houtan was putting on her painting parties, a lot of people would walk in looking for merchandise. So she started selling gifts and knick-knacks in the front of the store and had painting parties in the back. As their retail business became more successful, it was obvious they needed more space. Plans to build a coffee and wine bar in Mahomet were put on hold when COVID hit, so they decided to move to the space they occupy now, in a strip mall on Main Street, just east of downtown Mahomet.

In their current location, they had space for a full-size boutique, and a separate space adjacent space for their paint-and-sip parties, but even as COVID restrictions were lifted, the popularity of the painting parties waned. They thought “What else could we do with this space?”

“I knew that places like Grovestone have had comedy. Their place isn’t any bigger than ours. If they could do it, then we could do it”, said McDermith.

Elizabeth Van Houtan and Mike McDermith of Yellow and Company
Elizabeth Van Houtan and Mike McDermith

McDermith then went to work, adding a sound system, mics, stage chairs, and a six by ten foot stage. They worked with the Village of Mahomet to get a license for bring your own booze. Through a talent agent contact he had, McDermith booked a few comedians, and the response from the community was great. I asked him if there were other ways he found talent to book.

“I don’t want to tell all my secrets,” laughed McDermith, “but the very first big comedian we had, I just found him online. I said [to myself], ‘I really like this guy’. His name was Adam Grabowski, so I reached out to him.”

This gig worked out because McDermith booked him on a Wednesday night (before Thanksgiving), and Grabowski, who was coming home to Chicago for the holiday, agreed to come to Mahomet for two shows. While they didn’t pack the venue because of the holiday, everyone agreed they were successful. By now, McDermith had caught the bug and wanted to find other national acts to play here.

“We spend a lot of time curating to make sure we book the right people here,” said McDermith. “I’m not going to have a comedian if he or she doesn’t make me laugh, and I’m usually a hard person to make laugh,” claimed McDermith. “Our focus has been on talent, ideally national talent.”

The first nationally known musician who played there was Dave Fenley, from season eight of America’s Got Talent. Fenley has toured and recorded with country music talents like Dwight Yoakam, Miranda Lambert, and Dierks Bentley. I attended this event, and I was as impressed as Fenley was that night with the sound and ambiance of the venue. The intimacy of the performance area is something that both audiences and artists appreciate, and since Yellow and Company had just received their liquor license, there was no more beer can opening sounds during the show. They were definitely on to something.

In the short time they have been hosting comedians and musicians, I asked which show has stood out.
Lee (DeWyze),” said Van Houtan. “He literally made people cry.”

“Definitely Lee DeWyze [from season nine of American Idol]. I was originally trying to book Crystal Bowersox, second runner up to DeWyze, and their agent said that Crystal was getting ready to tour, so would I be open to Lee,” stated McDermith. “It’s a bit of building relationships with the agents [booking acts], and having a rapport with them. If I really want an artist, I always just ask. I’ve had many people turn me down, but we’re still here plugging along. So after we had [DeWyze] and [Fenley], now we’ve had some big acts, and we’re building a reputation. Now I’m to the point where I’m actually getting referrals from people [who’ve played here], especially on the comedian side.”

While all of the painting parties, comedians, musicians, puzzle competitions, trivia nights, and their Not So Newlywed game nights take up much of their time, they have another big endeavor that they announced on a Facebook livestream recently.

With their lease up in May of 2024, McDermith and Van Houtan decided to build their next location, giving their boutique and performance area a little more room. They are about to break ground for their new place soon, located just east of Salon 105 on Route 150 in Mahomet. “Why that location,” I asked.

“There’s getting to be this new kind of retail district out there. One shop has already moved out there and then we’re moving out there,” stated Van Houtan. “Several more are about to announce opening storefronts there as well.”

“Our space size and floor seating will increase by 50%,” added McDermith. “We’ll also have a bigger stage so we’ll be able to fit bands with three or four people on it. We have two garage doors, leading out to a patio and outdoor seating, with speakers out there as well. We also plan to have a bigger bar, an ice machine as well as a dedicated green room for the artists. We’ll also have a bit more room in the boutique space for more products as well.”

Don’t wait for the new place to open. Yellow and Company have many unique and interesting gifts in their boutique, and their live event schedule is getting filled up quickly. Quite a few shows have sold out over the past year, so check out their Yellow and Company Events Facebook page for what’s happening and more details.

Yellow and Company
604 E Main
Event dates vary; schedule and tickets here

Music Editor

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