Historic River Charm: ‘Welcome to Alton’ | Small Business Revolution – Main Street: S3E1

(upbeat music) – So I just arrived in St. Louis, Missouri and we are about to
drive to Alton, Illinois, which is about a half an
hour away across the river, and they don’t know we’re coming and I cannot wait to go and surprise them. – [Radio DJ] Good Morning, Alton. You’re listen to 94.3, The Big Z, and today we find out
if we’re the winner of The Small Business Revolution
Main Street Season Three. Folks are already gathering down at The Old Bakery Beer Company
for the official announcement and as you probably already know, unless you’ve been under
a rock the last month there’s a $500,000
revitalization on the line. We’ve all been out there
voting for the last week, I know I have and today
we finally get to find out if it was enough to push us over the top. Good luck, Alton. – Good afternoon, Alton, Illinois! Cross your fingers, we’re
only minutes away from hearing the winning announcement and
I couldn’t be more happy. Let everybody hear you, let’s go Alton. – [Crowd] Let’s go Alton! – Hi, I’m Amanda Brinkman from Deluxe and The Small Business
Revolution, it is hard to believe we are here again after
another incredible year of small town nominations,
town visits, and voting. Now, without making you wait any longer, I am pleased to announce the winner of The Small Business Revolution
Main Street Season Three is Alton, Illinois! (crowd cheering) – [Crowd] Alton, Alton, Alton! – [Narrator] Small towns across the country are fighting for their survival with the odds stacked against them, but what happens if we join that fight? If we dedicate a little money, a lot of experience and thousands of hours of work into one small town, focusing on the businesses that are the heart of their main street. What started as an idea became a national movement, with over thirty thousand towns nominated for the $500,000
makeover, and more than a million votes cast for the winner. – [Mayor] Good evening Alton, Illinois. How is
everybody tonight?! (people chearing loudly) – [Narrator] Now, in our third season the team is taking on its
biggest challenge ever. The town is three times bigger than any we’ve helped before, and the hurdles Alton faces
will put to the test the very idea of main street America. So, Amanda Brinkman and her team of
Marketing Experts at Deluxe are going to work for the people of Alton, Illinois and they’re not alone… New season 3 co-host Ty Pennington will be
working with the team to rehabilitate the town’s buildings while a whole cast of Experts helps rehabilitate its businesses. Every episode we’ll be working with a new small business, to see if we can change the odds… if, together, we can start… a revolution. (upbeat music) – [Radio DJ] It’s the morning
show here on The Big Z, WBGZ Alton and I hope you’re
bundled up this morning. It’s a cold one, but if
you are downtown today, throw on the heavy coat
and get outside anyway, because you might just
run into Amanda Brinkman and her season three
cohost, Ty Pennington. – Well, we’re certainly making an entrance in this beautifully large white boat. – It’s the only way to enter a town. New season, new co-host. And this couldn’t be a better fit. Any show that’s out there
trying to change lives owes a big debt to Ty
for helping pave the way. And his background in
construction will be a perfect compliment to Deluxe’s financial
and marketing expertise. – I’ve been a part of
projects, we built a house in less than seven days, but
this is a huge challenge. We’re taking on literally
an entire community. Okay, so we’re looking at
the town of Alton, right now. – [Billy] Yep. – [Ty] And it’s literally
across the river from St. Louis. – [Billy] 18 miles. – On a clear day you
can see The Arch, right? – [Billy] Yes. – We’ve met a lot of
people that say they’re third or fourth generation Altonians. – I’m fourth. – You’re fourth? – Four generations, yeah. – And is that the term, Altonian? – Mm-hmm. (upbeat music) – It means the world, the
fact that you’re not only recognizing the six businesses, but you’re recognizing our city. – I think we’re a really best-kept secret and when tourism does
come here, they love it and they continue to come back. – [Jessica] It’s very
diverse, there’s something a little bit magical about
it and we love Alton. – The river. – It’s beautiful. – You stop – The bluffs. – Once in a great while,
just look at and almost run into somebody, but look out and wow, not a lot of people have that. It’s just a cool place. – Altons on the up and up,
there’s something about this town that I just can’t leave yet. There’s just something here
that’s going to happen, and low and behold a couple months later Small Business Revolution comes
and changes the game for us. – So, you’re fourth generation,
was the town thriving back when your grandfather
and grandmother… – Yes, it was. – So now, it’s not quite thriving. – Not the same. – [Ty] What do you think the
cause of most of that was? – The steel industry folded,
Box Board went overseas – There’s been many
boom-times in Alton if you go all the way back and this
was a huge lumber area and we came into The
Industrial Revolution. When manufacturing went
down or left the country we were particularly hard hit. We were about 46,000 people and today we’re approximately 28,000. So Alton struggled for many,
many, many years to make that transition from industrial
manufacturing-based to something else and we’re
starting to see that particularly in the last four or five years
we’ve found our way again. – [Amanda] The end goal of
this first trip to Alton is to choose the six small
businesses that we’ll be working closely with
over the next few months. But to make an informed
decision we really need to have a solid understanding of the town, so we’re meeting civic
leaders, Jason, Sara, and Brett on the docks, for our first
official tour of Alton. – [Ty] How you guys doing? – Good – Great. – Hey, Ty, how are you? – Welcome to town! – So glad to be here, hi! (jazzy music) – [Ty] So show us the town! – This is State Street right here – State Street. – and that’s Third. – Okay. – We really should be packed
on the sidewalks like it was back in the day because
we have such a great antique district, we
have awesome restaurants. – We have the River Road,
we have beautiful scenery, we have history on top of history, it’s a haunted community, so they say. – Yeah, been on TV for that. – Miles Davis was definitely
born here and we own that. – So this looks historic. – Oh this is great, Lincoln Lofts. – So this is actually, Lincoln and Douglas had their famous debates here. – Right here? – Historical debates. – This is the building? – Abraham Lincoln and
Stephen Douglas were running for State Senate and they both arrived by steamboat here to
argue the slavery issue. Civil War history is huge here in Alton and people don’t expect that. The first anti-slavery society
was formed here in Alton. You are actually right on the line of free-state versus slave-state. Missouri is straight west and they had slave pens
over there, auctions. – [Brett] So the battle
lines were here as well, this place really boiled
up with a lot of tension during the time of The Civil War. – [Ty] What a great building. – [Brett] And behind it is
an underground railroad stop. – There were organized routes in the city proper here, there were five. To escape they had to
come across the river, but you have to be
daring enough to do that. – Just to see a light shining
from that top coppola, that was a signal to come over here and they have a place
actually that goes out under the streets where
they could stay safe. – [Sara] Yeah, the tunnels
are still down there, intact. – [Ty] Really? – History defines this
region and will be a big part of how we sell this town to the world. But we also need to get a feel
for what Alton is like today. Give us a sense for the
layout of the downtown area ’cause it feels like there’s
a couple of downtowns throughout Alton, right? – Alton’s really made up of
a number of different towns that began separately in the early 1800’s and then all joined together so Alton became Upper Alton
and there was a North Alton. – Alton was a city that didn’t
grow through urban planning, it grew through annexation
so Alton is a combination of six different communities
that over 200 years, we’ve all kind of grown together
under one flag of Alton. So when you say Upper Alton,
Upper Alton used to be it’s own city, so they have
their own business district. (upbeat music) – [Amanda] This is the
entertainment district, so to speak. – [Ty] This is. – [Sara] About 15 bars and restaurants within walking distance of each other. – Bars do turn into a lot of
entertainment, don’t they? – They really do and it can
be qualified as a district. – [Ty] Yes. – [Amanda] When you have that many. – It’s really been over the last few years that so much has started to
pop up and new businesses are coming to town and
relocating down to downtown because they start to feel that
this is where the energy is and this is where the action is. – [Amanda] Alright, so
now we’re on Broadway, this is more historic
downtown and Broadway is little bit more like the
services and arts district. – [Sara] Yes. – [Amanda] Right? What are some of the concerns
in this area of town? – I would say one of our big things that we want to keep front of mind is that it’s really awesome to get
new businesses coming in, that’s important for growth,
but we want to make sure to retain the businesses
that are already here. – Is this the problem, that
you see this everywhere, that there are empty spaces for rent? – Yes, definitely the vacancy rate, that is one of our main goals. – Alton’s population back
during The Industrial Revolution heydays was twice what it is now. So many of our business are
maybe one or two bad weekends away from shutting their doors
and we’ve got to figure out a way to keep that business retention and grow it stronger and
keep these businesses here. (upbeat music) – This used to more of a square, right? – Right, this area had
more than just this block, it went around the whole
block we had the old Cameo Theater that was here
like a one room theater and now this is the most persevered
spot on the entire block. – So I would say Upper Alton
is definitely another one of those districts that is on it’s
way and the business owners up there are willing to
invest to turn it around. – When we moved up here
it was just a barbershop and this loan place next door, now you see all the
buildings up here are filled. – Hey, there! – Hi! – How you doing? I’m good, how are you? – I’m great! – Everybody we’ve talked
to says this is the place to get fish and snoot, which
is something I’ve never had. – If you like pork rinds, you like snoot. – Okay, well I’m from the
south so I know pork rinds, yeah so cracklings, basically? – Yeah, you know a crackling? (laughing) – We’re so proud to
have Lovette’s, this is what I would say now, is one of the more flourishing black businesses
that people know about. – Has it grown over the years? – Yes, as far as this
individual place, but not – Not the entire community. – No, not black businesses. – Gotcha, do you feel like this area gets as much attention as other
parts of town, or not? – Not at all. Because we’re not in the
entertainment district, we’re not on the main
Broadway strip there, we’re in the lower income part. These are predominately black areas. – So I think that’s something
we want to make sure we are addressing throughout
this entire process and you guys know the town better than us but we want to make sure
we have all the voices at the table because we
want everything we do here to be representative of
the entire community. – Alton isn’t just downtown,
it’s a relatively big place. – I don’t think we take full
advantage of the community, as a whole and I don’t
think we take full advantage of the diversity that we
have here in this community. – We tend to self-segregate, that’s a natural phenomenon in the world. And I think the thing
I like about Alton is, in the divided age we
could show the nation there are towns where it works. – With Alton winning, this
gives us an opportunity to say, hey we’re part of Alton, too. – In our first two seasons we
established that all of the businesses we feature must
fall within a one and a half mile radius from the center of town but that’s not going to cut it in Alton. We’d be leaving too many people out. Main Street is more than
a place, it’s a idea. And if we’re going to
stay true to that idea, we’re going to have to grow the pie. – I believe as we showcase
more businesses here and as we go from area
to area, I believe that it’s going to really just
open some peoples eyes and say wow, I can actually go there. – The only downside of
growing the pie was that over 200 small business
applications suddenly poured in from every corner of Alton,
it was incredibly difficult but we managed to narrow
that down to 12 finalists and we’ve asked each of those
business owners to come in and pitch us on why they should
be featured in season three. Good morning! Hey! Well first of all, I just
want to congratulate you for you guys to make it
through to the final 12 is a really big deal and so I
want you to just take a moment and just feel that sense of pride. So if you are not selected it
doesn’t have any reflection on your potential as a
business owner or potential as a business maybe it’ll be
that you’re already doing too great of a job with your
marketing or your branding. (laughs) So, everyone’s like, no, that’s not going to be the problem. Alight, so just be honest with us, we’ll be honest with
you and good luck, okay. The way it shook out we
ended up with finalists from all over Alton, we got the
most submissions from Broadway. It’s a long street and Alton’s
largest business district. So half of our finalists hail from there. – Shalon White at Shalon’s
Salon been open since 2015. One of the things that
I want to do this year is help women that’s going
back to work do their hair and makeup to get them
prepared for a job interview. I’m unique because I give back. – Alexandra Mattea. – Lou Mattea. – Lucianna’s Pastries. We’re a European Style Bakery. – It’s kind of comfort food with panache, is the way I like to describe it. Been married twenty years
and she’s been saying, we need to do our own thing,
we need to do our own thing and it was time to step out
in faith and do her own thing. – Chad Nelson – Felicia Breen and we’ve had Mississippi Mud Pottery since 2006. Being in business for 12
years surprises even us. We went to art school, we did not get the business background, we got married and bought the business in the same month and we’ve made it this far
but we’ve never had stability. – Jay Stanley. – Alexander St. Cin of Lighthouse Sound. I wanted to start a business
and then when my dad passed away, I wanted to
do something for my future and that kind of thing
and we’re in this together and I don’t care who gets the recognition, I just want the studio to be successful. – Abby Ontis, Wish and Wear Dress Rentals. People are growing bigger at a younger age and I don’t want those
girls to feel stigmatized because there’s nothing
available for them. So this was me on my prom
and it sits in my shop and it’s just a reminder
of the way that I felt when I got to wear that dress you know, I want every girl to be
able to feel that way and it’s making me get emotional but, I just want everybody to
feel beautiful for a day. – We’re the McMurrays – And we’ve owned Bluff
City Outdoors since 2003. So it’s a fishing store and
she was a customer there, charming smile is what
caught my attention. (laughs) – I can see why. – We’ve been married 10 years now. – Now that is customer service. – Exactly. – We’ve got three businesses
representing Third Street, home to many of the town’s
bars and restaurants. – Mary Vankirk. – Katie Vankirk. – Lisa Morrison. – [All Together] From
Morrison’s Irish Pub. – We set down and we
thought what is it we would really want to do and
it was work as a family and our love was this part of our culture and we went to Ireland and we thought God, if we could just bring a
little piece of that back to the states with us,
wouldn’t that be cool. And that began our adventure. – Janet Keefer. – Vickie Delaney. – Of River Bend Yoga. – Is the dream that this would be a full-time opportunity
for you both to work in? – It is a dream. – It is a dream, I had always thought that maybe when I retired we
would have this built up but I will do it whether
I own a studio or not because it’s that big of a part of my life and I’m sure Janet feels the same way. – Dr. David Bemis. – And I’m Christine Bemis. – Alton Chiropractic
Neurology opened since 1998. I’m a fourth generation chiropractor. I’ve been in chiropractic for 30 years and I’ve owned by own
business for 20 years. – Who’s been to a chiropractor? You’ve been, you’ve been, okay, good! So you may be our guinea pig then. – Yes. (laughs) – Upper Alton has seen some
hard times, but the community is on the rise and we found
two great finalists there. – Alicia Jeffreys, Sham Pooches
Grooming opened in 2015. I like to build trust
with all of my clients, but I don’t mean you, I mean your dog. I want all of my dogs to trust me because I’m doing
personal stuff with them. I’m shaving places that you
don’t usually touch on dogs. If they don’t trust you, it’s
not going to work very well. – Brad Chavours. – Merry Lovett, Lovett’s Snoots, Fish, Chicken
& More established 2014. A lot of the items that
are considered soul food, that’s the food that the slaves had. – And the thing is, people
that make soul food, they make it with love. If you don’t have any love in
your food, it’s not soul food. It’s just food. – And last, but not least, Central. It’s mostly a residential area, but there are a handful of
fantastic small businesses tucked into the neighborhood and one of them in
particular caught our eye. – Benjamin Golley, Today’s
Beauty Supply opened since 2000. It is a black hair care product business, big-box stores, a lot
of time they don’t carry a large selection of
African American products. I service a community that
has a higher level of poverty and one thing I know about that is that even if you’re in poverty,
you don’t want to feel like it and you don’t want to look like it. – All 12 of these businesses
have stories worth telling, but we have to cut the field by half. One of the biggest factors we’ll weigh is how badly does this
business need our help. So we need to get a better understanding of the challenges each of them faces. – Every year was going up and
up and up and 2009 we went from our best year ever to our
worst year ever back-to-back. – In the last two years
I had another business that opened up that’s
a direct competition. – Pricing is really a scary thing for us because this is our only
job, our only income, we don’t want to price ourselves out. – We’d like to pay her,
from what she used to make to what she makes now, she
doesn’t even make a quarter, I mean one year she made $9,000. – I talked to someone yesterday who said, my husband said no, don’t
go to a chiropractor and that’s kind of what we face. – My bookkeeping is
horrible, my budgeting, I try to do a budget every
week and it goes out the window because I end up buying more products. – [Amanda] So you’re answering the phone, taking the takeout, cooking the foods, serving people who come in to dine and literally doing every
aspect of running the business. – Yes, and you forgot delivery, too. – What? – Yeah. – You know, on our
weekends, we couldn’t ask for more business we couldn’t
handle more business. Through the week it’s slow. – Weekdays especially. – Our thing is yoga and
technology is not really way up there, I know how to use
Facebook and that’s about it. – [Damon] So how much
of the unique aspect of your business is you guys? – I’d say a large portion. I mean, we’re the youngest studio owners that I know of, in anywhere. – So guys, at the end of this
we’re going to choose six businesses that you know,
we’re really going to invest the time and money into so the
simple question is, why you? – You know, when I get tired, I just think about my grandfather’s dream. He told us how he picked cotton as a kid for 18 hours a day what is 14 to me? You know, I can push
through this, you know. – Being a small business
owner with a second job for income is challenging,
but something inside me won’t let me give up that
dream, even when it gets hard. – I’d like to see it get
a little bit bigger from a family perspective for when
we turn it over to our kids. – We are a community place,
it means a lot to more than just us but the other thing
that I can tell you is that – Two months prior to you guys
actually showing up in Alton, we had a meeting just us three and we were basically deciding
we were going to shut doors, that we couldn’t make it another summer so then you guys came in
and we went you know what? This might be fuel for the fire, we might be able to figure something out. – We just don’t know that we can rescue the way we have in the past. – I’m in a part of the community
that don’t get a whole lot of positive attention, but
there’s some great people that’s in that part of the city and
maybe with some positive light other people in this city can see that and not be afraid of it. – My little girls, they
have seen me like this. They have seen me think about quitting and they’ve told me to work
harder and push through and I have and I feel
like that being recognized is more than any upgrade that
I could ask you guys to do. – [Julie] I hate to ask
this, but is there a Plan B? – No. – [Cameron] So this has to work? – This has to work, yeah. – [Ty] So while the Deluxe
Team is busy with the hard job of picking the six finalists,
I get to go to the local radio station and chat with everybody
to let them know that we’re in town and this is going to be awesome. – Visiting this afternoon
with Ty Pennington and talking about The Small
Business Revolution Main Street and learning about this whole process, Ty, and getting you involved with the show. What attracted you to work with The Small Business Revolution? – Nobody wants Main Street
to ever be forgotten and I think what’s great about
this show is it shines light on how important it is just
to get off the main highways and get back on the small
streets and the small towns and realize just how cool
America not only was, but can be again. – [Radio DJ] And in that spirit
we hope to see all of you tomorrow night for the official Small Business Revolution Kickoff where we find out which businesses will be chosen to represent the
town in season three. – I don’t know how we’re
going to only pick six out of these 12, these
are amazing businesses. – Yeah, we’d love to help all 12, but there were clearly some
that could draw tourists to the community, that
give back to the locals, so I think that might
be a deciding factor. – I absolutely love Benjamin
and Today’s Beauty Supply. – [Julie] Well he just had
that competitor move in and so I think we can help
strengthen his business. – [Amanda] Should we talk
about Bluff City Outdoors? – We could help him sort
of rebrand this area as a place to trophy fish,
and he talked about it, it’s like you don’t
have to go to the coast. – [Amanda] Right. Alright, Sham Pooches, what do you think? Everyone loves dogs. – [Cameron] Everyone loves dogs. – [Damon] Everyone loves dogs. – And this could be one of
those businesses where we could really help her
take it to the next level. – Pricing for me was a problem, her business will grow just
by getting the pricing right. – [Amanda] Okay, Mississippi Mud Pottery. – [Cameron] Yeah, they
have an inventory issue. I think they could sell a lot
more if they had the space. They could do a lot more
if they had somebody else other than just the two of them. – They’re hand-creating
each of these items and I don’t think that we can solve that for them from a production aspect. That’s something that they need to address themselves, I feel. – [Amanda] So since we’re
kind of in a retail vibe, should we talk about Wish and Wear? – [Damon] Sure. – [Julie] I just don’t know
how much more we can help her. Maybe it’s just helping her
with her social media strategy. – [Amanda] We need to find a good mix of businesses, service, retail, restaurants. A town needs it all in order to thrive. We’re also looking at how
badly the businesses need help. Can we really move the needle? There’s no right answer
here, they’re all deserving. – Morrison’s Irish Pub, I
just thought their story, how close they are to closing their doors. – Two challenges they have,
firstly the size of their establishment but also the ebbs
and flows just during a week you know, so Thursday, Friday,
Saturday, and Sunday is very busy but, Monday through
Wednesday is kind of dead quiet. – Lighthouse Sounds, I just
think it would be really great to have one of the
businesses represent that younger millennial generation that is really interested in
starting their own business. – Lucianna’s Pastries, from
what we heard, if it’s that good and people are coming from
that far away she could do, as you said, more commercial
and ship things out further. Maybe that’s part of
the advice we give them. – Yeah, there were two in here
for me that were kind of in a really good spot, Shalon’s
Salon and Alton Chiropractic. – [Cameron] Yeah, I agree. – [Amanda] She is
magnetic, like I want her to want to be my friend. – So River Bend Yoga, to
see younger generation and older generation working
together to grow a business for the health of the community,
I thought that was terrific. – I worry that there’s
not going to be ever enough clientele to make it full time. – [Damon] So Lovette’s. – [Julie] It’s almost daunting,
in terms of not only the marketing but the physical
changes that would need to happen – But everyone on the street
said you gotta go to Lovette’s and a lot of people talked
about how important this restaurant is to Upper Alton and it’s going to be so hard to pick. – Let’s do all 12. – Let’s just do all 12, let’s
make it a 14 episode season. (slow music) It’s raining, it’s cold
and there are still more than a thousand people
out here from every corner of Alton, and they’ve all come
to root for their neighbors. We do this because we love
small businesses but it sure is gratifying to know that
everyone else does, too. – This is the beginning of a revolution and the evolution of Alton. So without any further
ado, can I get a big, loud, raucous applause for Ty
Pennington and Amanda Brinkman. (crowd cheers) – Hello, Alton, yeah! How you guys feeling tonight, pretty good? (crowd cheers) So would you guys like to know
who the six businesses are? – I feel like they’re saying, yes, now you want me to say
other things, first? No, I’m just telling them. – You should probably tell them. – Alright, the first business
I’m going to announce is a great business called…

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