New Businesses Pop Up on First Street

In tough times, the Downtown St. Charles Partnership continues to promote local business.

Catching up with Jennifer Faivre, the executive director of the Downtown St. Charles Partnership, is quite a task.

It's not without good reason. Faivre's hands are full with making the downtown, including First Street, a better place. She said she knows the difficulties everyone has with a slowed economy.

Faivre said the downtown has shown positive signs. Several new businesses have popped up in recent months despite the tougher standards for business loans from banks and the slow recovery.

"It's absolutely affecting our community; like many other communities we're certainly not immune to what's going on (with) the national economy," Faivre said.

The effort to attract new business to the downtown is part of the initiative by the Partnership to develop a better mix of businesses. To promote existing businesses, the Partnership's "shop local" message might be making headway.

"We are encouraging people to shop local to support their local independent merchants," Faivre said. "We beat that drum pretty hard because shopping local means more dollars stay in the community and small businesses employee a lot of people."

An example of those local merchants is Rebecca Stobierski who started Rx Café, a healthy eating restaurant, in February. Unable to secure a loan for the restaurant, she started her venture with her own money. Her workers are mostly volunteers who cook for the experience.

Stobierski said she has to work hard to overcome the obstacles of the restaurant business.

"Not only was February the wrong month to open in, we didn't even have a sign," Stobierski said. "The fact that we are still here says a lot."

Now open for more than six months, the restaurant continues to fight against lingering economic hardship.

Another recent addition is Pizzeria Neo, which opened its First Street location about a month ago. Since opening, it has seen about 1,000 people a week come through its doors.

Tony Alfonso and his partner Don Gaetano own the pizzeria. This is Alfonso's first venture in the restaurant business and Gaetano's second.

"The feedback has been unbelievable," Alfonso said.


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