Over 50 Small Local Businesses Welcome You to Highland Emporium
BY TARA L. CALE
Three and a half years ago Carol Eckhoff was living a very active life. More active than many of us can imagine – she officiated high school field hockey, which literally kept her running.
But things suddenly changed when she was diagnosed with acute inflammatory arthritis and completely lost her ability to walk. In just a matter of two months she went from active and athletic to using a wheelchair to get around.
Those who have never experienced chronic pain (thank your lucky stars) or similar afflictions cannot even imagine the trauma such a diagnosis can have. Carol’s health, and spirit, deteriorated drastically, in just a matter of weeks.
Trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy, Carol continued her membership in her local BNI (Business Network International) group, where she did exactly what BNI intended – networked with other businesses. One of those local businesses produced CBD products. Carol was hopeful and optimistic when told that CBD products could possibly help her. Carol has a Bachelor of Science degree in PE/Health and a Master of Science degree in PE/Exercise Physiology and researched the benefits of Hemp Oil CBD. It all made sense to her so she was ready to try it.
“The CBD products produced fast results for me,” Carol explained. “In just six months, not only did my medication dependency decrease, but I was walking again!”
Carol knew that she had to share this information and product, and help as many people as she could. She decided to open a CBD store, selling the products manufactured by the same local company that had helped her, which is located near Gillespie, IL. Their products are sold under the name of Dark Soil, KWL Science (pronounced “cool”) and Purple Valley.
“It’s the same company making all of these products,” Carol explained, “But they have different names for their individual products, for effective marketing reasons.”
Their CBD products include salves, tinctures, gummies and more – for both humans and pets.
Even if you have no interest in CBD products, KEEP READING! Not only to absorb the information about this life-changing industry, but also… this story is NOT just about CBD products. It’s so much more. CBD and Carol’s experience with it was just the beginning of something much bigger!
“My original business concept was very simple. I wanted to open a CBD store.” Carol said. “After experiencing the benefits of hemp oil CBD in the management of my acute inflammatory arthritis, I wanted to share that experience with others.”
“I only needed 250 square feet to operate a store and could not find a decent building in a nice location,” Carol shared. “I thought surely I could not be the only person looking for a small retail space.”
After reaching out to multiple Chamber of Commerce groups and city business development managers, as well as visiting farmers’ markets and craft shows, Carol discovered there were numerous micro/small businesses and startups facing the same or similar challenge.
“I changed my business plan to be able to provide rental space, in a brick-and-mortar store, for other local micro small business owners to offer year-round space to display and sell their products,” she explained.
“I researched demographic information, visited several locations and communities, and found a great location on the square in Highland. The space was virtually move-in ready and the doors to Highland Emporium opened on July 5, 2022,” she said.
Highland Emporium embodies the old time “emporium” experience from days long past.
“Highland Emporium is like the original variety store,” she explained. “Many of you remember Ben Franklin. That later evolved into larger variety and chain stores, until the small, locally owned businesses were forced out of business by big boxes and chain stores. We are thrilled to bring the ‘emporium’ back to downtown Highland.”
Highland Emporium offers a plethora of merchandise – with over 90% of it local. Products vary from locally sourced meats (including beef, pork, beefalo and lamb) and other food items (soup mixes, teas, barbecue and other sauces, salsa, popcorn, ice cream, etc) to hand-crafted artisan items like jewelry, wood carvings, paintings and much more!
“We have a large variety of products from multiple award-winning local artisans,” she added.
Highland Emporium is virtually a “one stop for everything shop.” Whether you are looking for home decor, a gift for any occasion, something to cook for dinner, a sweet treat… Highland Emporium has over 50 individual vendors under one roof for your convenience. Products sell quickly, but are restocked quickly too, and always changing, so you never know what you will find – but trust me, you will find something you can’t live without. There is literally something for everyone, for every reason. They have numerous products tailored for animal lovers too – you know I can’t leave that out… pet bandanas, t-shirts with quirky animal sayings, etc. But nothing I tell you can prepare you for the unique shopping experience you will have at Highland Emporium – you really must experience it for yourself.
Undoubtedly there are challenges for entrepreneurs when building a business and Carol admits she struggled with self-doubt.
“It is scary starting something new. You constantly ask yourself, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Will people come to shop at the store?’ Having a great business plan and a support team is critical,” she said. “I have shaped my business around the fact that people buy the experience and not just the product or service. We don’t ‘sell’ in my store. We make connections and offer solutions.”
That is specifically important when it comes to purchasing CBD products. In addition to Carol’s degrees in physical education, health and exercise physiology, she also has a background in pharmaceutical sales. Most places where you buy CBD products may be able to tell you a little bit about them, but Carol can tell you what it is and why it works, and how to use it so it is the most effective for you. She can also advise you on other routines and habits – like the importance of movement and balance – to get the most benefits out of your CBD. She is always researching, and there is always new information and data about the benefits of CBD.
Carol is very knowledgeable about the CBD industry. In fact, I could fill multiple pages with the information she shared with me. But that main thing you probably need to know is
- Just like the immune system and digestive system, all mammals, including human beings have a biological system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS affects every aspect of our human experience, from memory and pain relief to stress management, reproduction and sleep. Therefore, biologics (pharmaceuticals) are not as well received by your body, and can in fact, harm you.
- Hemp Oil CBD will not, and cannot, get you high. But it can make you feel better, relieve pain and anxiety, relax muscles, and even heal.
- The CBD products at Highland Emporium are produced from locally grown hemp, at a local distillery that uses a medical grade processing system.
If you would like to know more about how CBD products can help you feel better, sleep better, think better and more… Carol will be happy to fill in the details.
Carol and her staff are happy to tell you the story of every small business selling their products at Highland Emporium. And once you know their stories, you will want to support them.
Highland Emporium also gives back to the community as often as possible. Several of the vendors in the store donate part of their proceeds to local organizations such as the Highland Fire Department, The Metro East Humane Society of Highland, among others. Carol is a sponsor for the Grant Fort division of Wreaths Across America which sells wreaths to be placed on the grave sites of our fallen military men and women.
“We make it a point to talk to everyone that walks through our doors,” Carol said. “We are not just trying to sell you something. We are providing a service to all the small businesses within these walls, and all the customers that shop here. We are building relationships with both sellers and buyers. If you leave here without a laugh or a smile, we have failed.
Carol said it best though when she said, “It’s not all about sales. It’s about growing the community, serving the community and supporting local businesses.”
Highland Emporium is located at 917 Main Street, on Highland’s downtown square. They are open Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, and Sat from 9am-4pm. Hours will be expanded for event activities on the square. For more information call 618-651-4061, visit highlandemporiumil.com. Follow them on Facebook to stay updated on new products, classes, special events and more.