Economic Growth

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Entrepreneurial Spotlight: Chef’s Shoppe Gourmet Kitchen Store

The Chef’s Shoppe in Edwardsville has been helping families prepare meals and set tables for more than two decades. Owners Scott and Nancy Schneider say their calling is to help with the ever-important task of helping families and friends reconnect and bond at the dinner table.

Their goal is simple: to make cooking enjoyable and entertaining by providing a local, friendly source for gourmet tools and trinkets including cookware, bakeware, cookie jars, cutlery, grilling and kitchen linens. This independent business strives to be more than just a place to buy kitchen gadgets. Staff here is ready and willing to provide unparalleled customer service, answer questions and problem-solve with customers.

And they do it well, as time can attest: the store, at 2320 Troy Road, in Schnuck’s Plaza, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

“Mostly we are thankful for our customers who continue to support us by choosing to spend their hard-earned money with us,” Nancy said. “While celebrating our 20th anniversary, we are looking forward to the next 20 years.”

The husband-and-wife team bought the shop in 2006, with Nancy overseeing the day-to-day operations and Scott working behind the scenes on bookkeeping.

Business boomed those first few years, and in July 2009, the Schneiders expanded by moving to their current, larger location. They made their foray into mouth-watering homemade fudge that same year.

The store’s creamy fudge is handcrafted with real butter, vanilla and cream by staff “fudgekeepers.” Varieties include chewy praline, gooey cluster, peanut butter fudge, dark chocolate caramel sea salt (one of the most requested), mint chocolate swirl and orange cream.

If you’re not sure which flavor to try, worry not: The Chef’s Shoppe isn’t stingy with samples.

And there’s more tasty, homemade treats where that came from. About five years ago, the Chef’s Shoppe took on another new component that has proven to be a mainstay – gourmet popcorn. In 2012, the business grew by adding an adjacent 2,500 square feet and launching 70 flavors of popcorn. Scott had recently retired from his full-time job at AT&T, so he officially became the store’s chief popcorn maker – or “popologist,” as they call it.

The crew pops, flavors and packages hundreds of gallons of the fluffy, tasty treat every week. Flavors range from classics like original and Chicago Mix (the store’s most popular flavor), to candy-coated varieties, to kettle corn and even dill pickle. There are free tastings so you can easily find what you’re looking for. Plus, there’s an online popcorn store, giving folks no excuse to skip snack time. There are eight serving sizes, ranging from a mini (3 cups) to party size (275 cups).

The store happily works with area schools, brides-to-be and expectant mothers in coordinating popcorn flavors to match team colors, wedding party swatches and more for special events.

Today, the store is as popular as ever, with about 30 regular employees (and 40 during the peak holiday season). It offers newer features such as bulk candy dispensers, saltwater taffy, hand-painted chocolates and dozens of fizzy glass-bottle sodas. If sweet isn’t your thing, there are several brands of easy-make dip and cheeseball mixes on hand as well. The store truly has snacks and treats sure to please every palate.

Need a little warm-up? Coffee and tea lovers will have a field day poring over the business’s wide selection of fresh flavored and unflavored coffees, as well as bag and loose-leaf teas. The store offers a plethora of related supplies, such as tea kettles, infuser mugs and tea thermometers.

The Chef’s Shoppe believes in giving back to its customers, too. The shop has a rewards program that gives members a coupon, which never expires, equal to 10 percent of their total spent after every six purchases. The credit can be spent right away, or customers may accrue coupons.

“We are blessed to be a part of the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon area, where customer loyalty and supporting local business is ingrained into the community,” Nancy said. “We understand that customer loyalty isn’t something you are given but something you earn, and we are thankful to our associates for their eagerness to serve our customers. Our hard-working team members delight in sharing their talents and supporting one another; their enthusiasm is contagious.

Other services offered here include knife-sharpening and gift-wrapping. As part of their efforts to give back to the community, Chef’s Shoppe donates to hundreds of events and organizations each year. It also offers complimentary knife-sharpening for first responders.

For more information, go to www.chefsshoppe.com or call (618) 659-9840.Nurturing Economic GrowthEdwardsville/Glen Carbon officials know it takes a delicate balance of several key elements to build a vibrant local economy that not only sustains current needs, but lays the foundation for future growth and prosperity.

Contributing factors include the area’s convenient location with close proximity to the major metro amenities of St. Louis. Easy access to major interstate highways goes hand in hand with that. Also key are strong intergovernmental partnerships that aim to be mutually beneficial. And there’s much to be said for also being home to an award-winning university as well as offering an enviable quality of life.

Simply put, Edwardsville/Glen Carbon is the total package.

a positive connection

Connecting government and economic agencies to one another and to citizens is crucial to attracting – and retaining – businesses. The Edwardsville/Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce is the local authority on that. The agency acts as a liaison between businesses and various groups. It also advocates for issues that are important to businesses.

Recently, strong local partnerships between business and government facilitated the acquisition of multiple corporate and national warehouse tenants, according to Cathy Hamilton, commercial real estate broker for the BARBERMurphy Group. For example, Amazon opened two fulfillment centers in the Gateway and Lakeview commerce centers. The project created thousands of jobs and spans a combined 1.4 million square feet of renovated space. Another major coup was the relocation of the Prairie Farms national headquarters to Edwardsville Professional Park along Interstate 55. The Prairie Farms move brought new construction in the form of a 30,000-square-foot building, plus 80 jobs.

“These projects strengthen the local market by diversifying the businesses and jobs that the community attracts, and by proving Edwardsville/Glen Carbon can support and attract high-quality national businesses,” Hamilton said.

Retail hot spot

Edwardsville/Glen Carbon is becoming well known for retail, too. In-progress developments include Edwardsville Town Center, Ironworks, Whispering Heights, and TownePlace Suites by Marriott.

These developments bring more options for local shoppers and provide convenient access
to national retailers. The Edwardsville/Glen Carbon market fosters an entrepreneurial spirit and a balance of national retail tenants and unique locally owned and operated retailers, Hamilton said.

Top-notch quality of life

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon market is its continued focus on improving and expanding the quality of life amenities offered in the community, Hamilton said. There are recreational and leisure activities designed to suit all ages. The wide variety of amenities include being home to colleges and a university, many parks and bicycle trails, a variety of restaurants and shops and a number of festivals and special events. One of the more popular annual events is TheBANK of Edwardsville Rotary Criterium – a series of high-speed bicycle races, children’s races and live bands – in downtown Edwardsville.

Growth in Glen Carbon

The village of Glen Carbon is growing rapidly. In recent years a new Sam’s Club, Jimmy John’s and Texas Roadhouse opened, and Walmart expanded its footprint. A major business draw is the community’s proximity to Interstate 270 via two entrance points at Illinois Route 157 and Illinois Route 159. Interstates 55 and 70 are also just minutes away. Plus, many folks take advantage of the more than 130 miles of scenic, paved Class One Madison County Transit bicycle trails.

Additions in Edwardsville

Edwardsville also strives to make sure that businesses feel welcome, and part of that means offering incentives. With several tax increment financing districts in the city, many businesses are able to improve façades. And the TIF district on North Main Street has fostered many reconstruction projects, including new water lines, sidewalks and lighting, making the area lively and welcoming. A number of national businesses are making Edwardsville home because of the city’s atmosphere.

SIUE supports small businesses

Another community resource is the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Small Business Development Center (SBDC), operating two SBDC offices and the International Trade Center. They provide services and information to Southwestern Illinois entrepreneurs, business owners, small business service providers and the university community. The SBDC offers counseling, research and advocacy for new ventures and existing small businesses.

Connecting individuals and groups by offering expertise and relationship-building opportunities is what truly establishes a sense of community and sets the Edwardsville/Glen Carbon area apart from the rest.