There’s a tale of two businesses in Thomson, Illinois.
The village of nearly 500 residents is still waiting for the Thomson Correctional Center to open. But that’s not stopping a nearby family business from expanding to help the local economy.
There’s quite a crowd at the Heirloom Cafe on Friday morning.
“We love Thomson, Illinois,” exclaimed owner Bill Heid.
And there’s quite a contrast at the Thomson Correctional Center.
“I don’t know who to believe, to tell you the truth,” said Village President Duke Hebeler.
The $140 million project continues to sit vacant.
“We got all our hopes up so many times in the last 10, 12 years,” Hebeler said. “And it seems like an axe cuts the legs off.”
That makes this grand opening even more special.
Heirloom Cafe is part of Solutions from Science. It’s a family business that employs about 50 and continues to grow without the prison.
“You can have the attitude, we’re going to wait for somebody,” Heid said. “Or, we’re going to try to figure out a way to bring the world here. That’s one of our main goals.”
The predicament over the prison isn’t stopping this green tech company from expanding. While Thomson waits, this is an endorsement for the local economy.
That’s exactly what they’re doing in the kitchen. This cafe came together over just six weeks. Workers are preparing and serving a variety of treats and coffees. There’s fresh flavors and new opportunities.
“To finally have it done and ready to go is a lot of relief off our shoulders,” said manager Michelle Sikkema. “All right, it’s ready. We’re done.”
But they’re still waiting at the prison. That’s where there’s solitude, silence and no inmates.
“You hear all this stuff,” Hebeler said. “I just wish they would work together as a team to get it open.”
It’s a contrast of frustration outside the gray prison walls and confidence at the Heirloom Cafe.
“We got it here,” Hebeler said. “Let’s open it. That’s my personal feeling.”
The cafe is located in the Solutions from Science building along Route 84 in Thomson. It’s open 7 to 7, Monday through Saturday, and from Noon until 4 on Sunday.
“Is there a way to make a business work in a little, small town like Thomson?” Heid asked. “We think that there is.”
They plan to be serving up success along with the snacks at the Heirloom Cafe.