October 28, 2021 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Talk of the Town with Mayor Ray Cunningham

Recently, Homer lost its grocery store and the Main Street Belly Deli. Mayor Ray Cunningham discusses how Homer is hoping to attract businesses and why supporting local businesses is important.

What does it mean for a community to lose their grocery store?
For a small town to lose their grocery store is an impact mostly on those who cannot travel for food. Homer held on to our grocery store longer than most towns because of the hard work of the Patel family. Changing business patterns have disrupted a number small businesses in rural Central Illinois, grocery stores being one. Homer once had three grocery stores and four gas stations but this is not the case today. Most people do major shopping in the larger superstores in Champaign-Urbana or Danville.

What does it mean to the community for the Belly Deli to close? 
I think the impact of the closing of the Belly Deli is significant because it was a destination draw for Homer. Destination restaurants, specialty food and entertainment venues are a draw for people outside Homer to come to the town. We need more businesses like this in town. While it is a loss it also may be an opportunity.

Why should businesses owners consider Homer?
Homer sits between Champaign-Urbana and Danville on Route 49 and the traffic Homer experiences is significant. Any business owner must give a commitment that is above and beyond what a regular day job requires. It is more than full time and it requires a partnership with local merchants, government, distributors and keeping aware of business trends. I believe there are opportunities that Homer offers that would be a good fit for small businesses.

What is the village willing to do to encourage business development? Members of the village board and I are actively working for development.
The purchase of the adjacent 13 acres to the village for development was one action. The use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for business development is a priority. We have inquiries about business opportunities and have worked with contractors and business owners to assist them on projects within the TIF district. If you have a project and would like to discuss it with the village please call the mayor, Ray Cunningham at 896-2521.

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