BY MICHELLE OWNBEY
Two new businesses are preparing to open and a third is adding an additional location in a newly constructed strip center on the west side of Springfield. Long-time local business Primo Designs is expanding, having recently signed a lease for a second location in the newly built West Iles Business Center, which also includes space for Little Minds Learning Center and two additional tenants. An adjacent stand-alone building will be Papo’s Café. Ben Call, a broker with The Real Estate Group, is the developer for the new center.
Primo Designs is leasing a 1600 sq. ft. space at 3278 W. Iles for a retail store but will continue to operate their current location at 2417 North Grand Avenue East in Springfield.
“Production will remain at our North Grand location,” said Len Naumovich, who has owned and operated the business since 1985. “We have 15,000 sq. ft. that we’re utilizing now, but we’re increasing our production. We also want to have a presence on the west side; we’ll have extended hours and weekend hours to make it easier for people to do business with us.”
Primo Designs offers custom screen printing, embroidery and promotional items for all types of apparel and accessories. They currently employ 29 people, but Naumovich said he anticipates adding another three or four staff once the new location is fully operational.
“We’re a unique company from the standpoint of who we hire,” said Naumovich. “We have a couple of clients from Sparc that work here and several other employees with disabilities. We’ve been able to take some disadvantaged people and give them an opportunity; they just seize it and run.”
Naumovich explained that the company also partners with Springfield School District 186 through a program called Inc. 186 that trains young people with disabilities for the workforce. “It’s a nice partnership, it’s worked out well for us.”
The goal is to have the new location open by the end of January, although Naumovich said that would largely depend on how quickly the owner can complete the build out.
“It will primarily be a retail showroom, but we’ll also have a small conference room that we can use for presentations to clients. We’ll make it available to our customers too, if they want to have a packet pick up for their event. We work with a lot of 5K and 10K races, that sort of thing,” explained Naumovich.
While the new location at Iles will only be a fraction of the size of their existing space, Naumovich said it will provide an opportunity for people to “see and touch and try on” their products. He stated that many of their orders are placed online, but the products are generally sold to local customers, rather than a typical online retailer that is shipping products nationwide. “Having this second location is really a service to our customers to help facilitate local pick up and delivery.”
The anchor tenant for the West Iles Business Center will be Little Minds Learning Center, a daycare franchise that was founded 10 years ago by Stacy and Todd Barnhardt, who were seeking quality childcare options for their own children. Their website describes the facilities as “part childcare, part child development, and part preschool” and says they are certified for children between the ages of six weeks to six years old. The website lists seven operating locations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, and Nebraska and another 19 as coming soon, including many in the Chicago suburbs and central Illinois area.
The two Springfield locations listed are 3250 W. Iles and 3150 Roland Avenue. “We delivered the space to them already,” said developer Ben Call about the West Iles location. “They have to go through their licensing process with DCFS, and my understanding is that takes about six weeks. They should be the first one in the center to open, probably at the end of January.”
The second local Little Minds location on Roland Avenue is a former law office building that was occupied by Hodge Dwyer & Driver before their merger with HeplerBroom early last year. The nearly 7000 sq. ft. building, located in the Park South business park just off Stevenson Drive, was on the market for a little over a year before being sold in August.
Papo’s Café is the third business in the West Iles center currently under construction and is expected to open the first part of 2018. The owner is Call’s brother-in-law, Will Hoecker, who also owns nearby Brickhouse Pub & Grill, along with Cousin Eddie’s, and Delaneys. Unlike his other establishments, Papo’s Café will focus on breakfast and lunch. It will also be his only location with a drive-thru.
According to Call, the West Iles Business Center is nearly full. “We’re negotiating a lease for the end cap space which would also be a restaurant user,” he said. “That would leave just a 1900 sq. ft. interior space available.”