Meet our Local Makers

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

Hodgson Mill & Hodgson Mill Mercantile

Owners: Bob & Cathy Goldstein

Mercantile Managers: Erin Goldstein & Carrie Goldstein

This month's Maker of the Month is a holiday staple... not just in households here in Effingham, but also, in those across the country. Known for their locally-made, quality food products, we are pleased to welcome our very own Hodgson Mill & Hodgson Mill Mercantile as this month's #MadeinEffingham Maker!

While Hodgson Mill, and the Mercantile, are busy year-round, the local and family-owned business really shines this time of year. Just take a look! In the interview below, Hodgson Mill's Mercantile Managers share their family's journey with us, along with a few stunning sneak peeks of their recently refreshed digs...

If you would like to learn more about Hodgson Mill, or shop some of their products, please visit or call 217-347-MILL (6455). The Mercantile is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed on Sundays


Where is Hodgson Mill Mercantile located?

Location: 1001 Ford Ave, in Effingham IL


The iconic red-roofed Mercantile. 

What does Hodgson Mill make?

We make whole grain, stone ground, gluten free, and non-GMO food products right here in Effingham, IL! In fact, you can find all of our products here, under one roof, at the Mercantile. It’s your one-stop shop for locally-made and small family-business-ran goods and gifts and baked goods, too.

Hodgson Mill Mercantile-5

Snag a freshly-baked treat to snack on while you browse and shop. 

How does your business affect people of Effingham?

Hodgson Mill is a major employer in the Effingham community, as well as a strong supporter of local makers. We are proud to support other local small businesses, and these days, we also offer a gathering place for the community at our Mercantile. 

Hodgson Mill Mercantile-New

The Mercantile's new space offers the community a spacious, yet cozy place to gather.

What can someone expect to experience at the Mercantile?

When people walk into our big, red-roofed Mercantile their first reaction is usually, “This is gorgeous!” After our renovations this fall, guests can now enter into the Mercantile and be greeted by the Mercantile retail store and our new bakery! We are so excited to now be offering fresh baked goods and locally roasted coffee on site! After grabbing a freshly baked treat and a hot mug of coffee, guests can gather and enjoy the ‘home-y’ atmosphere of our Great Hall, where a roaring fire and lots of seating await them. With onsite WIFI, we also welcome students and location independent workers who need a space to spread out or re-focus.

Hodgson Mill Mercantile-New

The Mercantile, shown above, is all decked out for the upcoming holiday season. 

Tell us about Hodgson Mill’s journey:

Hodgson Mill has a long and interesting history that dates back to the 1880’s. The still-standing Hodgson Water Mill in the Missouri Ozarks has been the site of a grain mill since the 1830’s and after allegedly burning down during the Civil War, Alva Hodgson built the beautiful building you can still visit today in 1882. The Hodgson Water Mill operated as a local grist mill until the 1960’s when a entrepreneurial couple officially started the business of Hodgson Mill, Inc. with stone-ground flours and mixes for grocery. In 1988, Siemer Milling Company of Teutopolis purchased Hodgson Mill and moved its headquarters to Central Illinois. in In the 2000’s, Hodgson Mill was purchased by its current owners: Bob Goldstein & Cathy Siemer Goldstein and is still proud to be a family-owned local business. The Mercantile officially opened its doors in Effingham, IL in 2014 and has since been the destination for both Effingham residents and travellers to find their favorite Hodgson Mill products all under one roof. What makes us different? Even in this modern age of new technology in milling, we still believe that milling whole grain flours the old-fashioned way, with giant, cool granite stones, is still the best way. We believe that good food is for everyone and that anyone and everyone can bake. 

Hodgson Mill Mercantile-New

Locally-made goods are stocked and waiting to be gifted... or turned into delicious holiday treats!

To follow along on Hodgson Mill's journey, or to contact the Mercantile, see below…


Phone: 217-347-6455

Instagram: @HodgsonMill


Twitter: @hodgsonmill 


Fresh Digs

Joanna Davies

Just in time for the holidays… we are thrilled to feature our newest Maker of the Month… locally owned retailer, Fresh Digs!

Each and every season, Joanna Davies - owner and operator of Fresh Digs, Inc. - carefully curates a selection of handcrafted, homegrown products such as jewelry, pottery, handmade soaps and other body products, fudge and jams, popcorn, furniture, paintings, watercolor prints, plants, photography, painted furniture, magnets, pillows, wooden items, crocheted items, felted décor, bunting, patches, candles and more. Special handmade products appear at various holidays, especially Christmas…

To learn more about Fresh Digs and the integral part it plays in the ‘shop local’ movement, continue reading our interview, below, with Joanna. If you would like to shop Fresh Digs, drop by the 210 N. Banker Street location in Effingham, Illinois or check out You can also contact the store by calling 217-350-0812. 

2floor shot

Farmhouse? Vintage? Global? The shop is stocked with a variety of products that are sure to fit your individual style.

Photo Credit: Blueghost Studio

For those who don’t know, can you explain how Fresh Digs came to fruition?

My journey is a slightly convoluted one.  My education and work background are primarily in nonprofit work, both here and abroad.  Upon moving back to Effingham eight years ago I was unable to find a job that matched my experience and expertise so I, along with a partner, started Fresh Digs to fill the contemporary home goods and gifts shopping gap we believed existed in this community.  

I took over full ownership of Fresh Digs over a year ago and have been busy making it a reflection of me ever since.  

Joanna Davies, a portrait by Blueghost Studio.  

Tell us a little about what Fresh Digs has to offer…

By curating a selection of locally handmade products from over 20 different makers, Fresh Digs offers an outlet for both people who make and shoppers who are looking for a more meaningful gift or home décor piece.

For the maker, Fresh Digs offers a brick and mortar location where they can showcase their work.   It links them to a physical location where they can send existing customers while also providing them a platform whereby they can access people who may have never encountered their work.   Many of my makers do business through social media and seasonal markets.  Having their work in a set location gives them yet another income stream by which to support their art.  

For instance, I oftentimes get customers who are travelling through Effingham and are looking for something to do to pass the time.   These types of shoppers tend look for a shopping experience that offers something a little different than the norm.  One such customer from Texas came in and was thrilled to see the handmade pottery, as she collects it and this particular piece would be a perfect reminder of her stop in Effingham.  I also get many shoppers who are visiting family in the Effingham area and they love finding the Vintage Effingham magnets and the Effingham map magnets made by two local makers.   


One of the best things about Fresh Digs is their ever-evolving inventory of styles and designs. 

How does your business support local makers?

There’s a learning and sharing component for the local makers.  Most of my makers create and sell as a side business, so I like to share with them everything I’ve learned through operating a retail business and by being in the shop and talking to customers every day.  In other words, I’m always trying to support them in their ideas and encourage designs or tweaks based on feedback from customers and my own personal experience.  I also use my social media platforms as well as my work with the Downtown Effingham Business Group to drive shoppers downtown and to specific products.  

I work hard to put all of this together.  I don’t simply sell locally made products, I curate an eye-catching assortment that will, all together, appeal to my type of customer.  It’s hard to turn makers away but the minute I deviate from the style and feel I have going on in the shop, the minute I devalue the work of everyone else already in it.  So I work hard to prevent the shop from being overwhelming all while changing the layout on an almost monthly basis.  


Local artisan, Rick Gould, with a product of his own design... a beautiful, locally-crafted dining set.

Why do you feel shopping local is so important? How does Fresh Digs fit into the ‘shop local’ movement?

It’s one beneficial thing for people to shop locally and support their local tax base, but it’s compounded when they buy a locally made product from a local shop.  

I point out to people that the benefit of shopping at a local retail business provides an economic ripple effect throughout the entire community.  I work with a local printer, graphic designer, accountant, trash hauler, cardboard recycler, insurance agent, and on and on and on.  These guys all pay local taxes and in turn support other local businesses as well as employ local people.  

I also frequently make donations to local school and civic fundraisers.  

Lastly - and this is one most people don’t think about – the environmental impact of shopping locally is huge.  I oftentimes want to document the excessive bubble wrap, plastic wrap and cardboard packaging used by my wholesale companies.  Sometimes I wonder how much of their budget goes into shipping. That’s not the case with my local makers.  They often show up with their items in a box that they then reuse.  The locally made items travel a matter of miles rather than halfway around the world.  


Ever wonder what ingredients are in your cleaning products? Shopping locally-made brands like Glow, by Lola can give you some peace of mind and support a small business.

What kind of experience can shoppers expect to have when they visit Fresh Digs?

I like to think that Fresh Digs offers the forward-thinking shopper a well-rounded experience. There’s new and vintage items as well as a furniture paint line in the shop.  I also offer custom furniture painting and upholstery.  

Shoppers can expect to see a curated selection of items for the home as well as gift and gift-giving items. At certain times of the year new clothing and accessory options are also available.  There’s a “Backroom” in Fresh Digs which is an ever-changing room full of vintage décor, furniture and clothing.  Buying “secondhand” or “used” tends to carry a negative connotation for many local people and I’m trying to change that and help them realize that old or used is not a bad thing.  For me the vintage room is for the creative decorator and not just the shopper on a budget. It sometimes requires “out-of-the-box” thinking by people willing to deviate from the trend, although vintage items are found in many magazines these days.

Down the hallway shoppers will find a saleroom with goods marked up to 75% off.  

There’s really something for everyone in Fresh Digs.  I love to hear customers tell me that Fresh Digs reminds them of a little shop they went to in Santa Fe or San Diego or Nashville or any other “cool” place in the world.  The items I carry don’t have to just be for people in big cities.  There are plenty of people locally who appreciate what I carry; the challenge is finding them and keeping them coming back.     


Looking for a fun and fresh gift? Stop by and check out this wall of items featuring inspiring quotes and cheeky humor.

Perhaps, most importantly, can you tell us what inspires you?

I love it when customers find the interesting and unique pieces in the shop as exciting as I do.  And I love it when shoppers find the perfect locally made gift.  I get to interact with my community, as well as travelers, every day and that puts me in a wonderful position to share with them everything Effingham, and its makers, have to offer.  

To follow along on Fresh Digs’ journey, or to contact the shop…




Instagram: @fresh_digs


John Boos Factory Showroom & Outlet 

Artisans and Woodworkers

Since 1887, John Boos & Co. has been an integral part of the Effingham community, which is why we're so please to welcome the John Boos Factory Showroom & Outlet as this October's Maker of the Month!

Check out our interview, below, to learn more about the company, its showroom and outlet... and to get a behind-the-scenes look at the skill and artistry that goes into the making of each product!

If you would like to shop the John Boos Factory Showroom & Outlet, please visit or call 217-347-7790 to learn more. The outlet is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Sundays.


A few finished butcher blocks, stamped with the 'Boos Blocks' logo and ready to find new homes!

Where are you located?

John Boos Factory Showroom & Outlet is located at: 1703 Avenue of Mid-America, Effingham, IL 62401 (Behind Steak N Shake, next to Starbucks... Look up to find the huge BOOS BLOCK® sign)!

  A peek at the new location of the John Boos Factory Showroom & Outlet. 

What do you make?

John Boos has a skilled team of talented craftsman and fabricators that make high quality butcher block gourmet products and stainless steel commercial products for residential and commercial kitchens alike.

The artisans and wood workers of John Boos craft and sculpt American hardwood raw materials into beautifully made, high quality butcher block gourmet products, also known as BOOS BLOCKS®. These products include cutting boards, butcher blocks, kitchen carts, prep tables, countertops and islands. The food prep surfaces are made in the U.S.A of natural & sustainable butcher block (Northern hard rock maple, American Cherry, and American Black Walnut) and are sought after by celebrity chefs, restaurants, and popular cooking networks.

John Boos also has a team of highly skilled stainless steel fabricators that make custom stainless steel fabrication projects for concessions for stadiums, airports, the medical industry, restaurants, culinary schools and supermarkets. The stainless steel products include compartment sinks, prep tables, underbar equipment, wall shelves, equipment stands, hand sinks, chef counters, and much more.

To learn more, check out the video “Boos Blocks - Wood Craftsmanship”  at 


  A behind-the-scenes look at John Boos & Co. employees creating their famous butcher block gourmet products.

How does your business affect people in Effingham?

Between the Corporate Headquarters and its two manufacturing facilities, (the metal fabrication plant and the wood manufacturing plant) John Boos provides jobs for 250 plus individuals and their families, in Effingham and its surrounding communities.

Boos supports members and businesses of our community by being actively involved in helping Catholic Charites, United Way, and many more non-for profit organizations. Boos also provides donation items for benefits and fundraisers for those in need.

Boos recycles their excess saw dust and distributes to local farmers for animal bedding and fertilizer. Every effort is made to be resourceful and practice sustainability.

Watch the video “Boos Blocks-Supporting Our Environment & Community” at the following link:

Boos provides American Made, natural butcher block food prep surfaces for families to prepare fresh, healthy meals. Wood serves as the perfect material to cut on when cooking for your family. All you need are the right tools and fresh ingredients to promote healthy eating for a happy lifestyle.

Boos is a member of the Effingham Chamber of Commerce and utilizes local vendors and suppliers in the Effingham area to support their business.


 John Boos & Co. employs over 250 individuals, overall!

Describe your journey… Who you are, your inspiration and what makes your ‘art’ different and/or unique?

It all began in 1887 with humble beginnings. Conrad Boos and his son, John, built a butcher block from locally harvested Sycamore trees in his blacksmith shop to absorb the shock of the blacksmith’s hammer against the anvil. Local butchers admired the innovation and wanted to use them in their meat markets. Adding a cut section of a tree to 3 wood legs led to John Boos and its legacy today. Boos has been in continuous business since 1887 and have survived the most challenging times such as the Great Depression, WWII and the Great Recession. John Boos & Co. has been a trusted company in the industry for over 130 years.


 John Boos & Co. has withstood the test of time.

When someone visits your business, what can they expect to see and/or do?

When you visit the Boos Factory Showroom & Outlet, you can read about this great story on the history wall and see one of the oldest butcher blocks from the late 1800’s on display. The John Boos Factory Showroom & Outlet is the place for cooking enthusiasts to find Boos Block kitchen equipment made in the U.S.A. You will find natural wood prep surfaces, stainless steel equipment and gift ideas for every occasion, at outlet prices. Boos Factory Outlet has a wedding registry and an engraver onsite. Have your cutting boards engraved with custom monogramming for a wedding gift or a logo for company gifts. Watch a video of how Boos makes their products and their manufacturing process while sipping refreshments from the coffee bar. The Factory Outlet receives different styles of new products daily, giving customers and endless variety of gourmet products and specialized gifts. 


Emma Lagerhausen


At the age of 17, Emma Lagerhausen is our youngest Effingham Maker, to date, to be featured as part of the #MadeinEffingham program. Emma is currently a Senior enrolled at Beecher City High School, but has been taking pottery lessons since fifth grade with local ceramicists, Tim and Pam Frey, at Frye Pottery in Shumway, Ill. These days, she often flies solo at the wheel, developing her own unique style and then, selling her pieces at the Effingham Farmer's Market and at Fresh Digs, in downtown Effingham.

Learn more about Emma, and her pottery, in the interview below as she talks about how she keeps the delicate balance between work, life, school and pottery.

If you would like to purchase some of Emma's work, please visit Fresh Digs at 210 N Banker St in Effingham, Ill. or attend the Effingham Farmer's Market, held every Saturday, from 8 a.m. to Noon, until October.

Emma holding an original piece.

Tell us a little about where you're located: 

Well, I'm a Senior at Beecher City High School, and I live in Shumway, Ill. That's where I take pottery lessons -- at Frye Pottery with Tim and Pam Frye. My pottery, however, is sold in Effingham. It's in Fresh Digs, downtown, and I sell it at the Farmer's Market, along with a variety of produce that I grow, as well.


One of Emma's pieces, a small bowl with light carvings and a neutral glaze.

Describe your journey:

I started going to pottery classes at Tim and Pam Frye's studio in fifth grade, with my cousin. They did a lot of workshops with the Girl Scouts, so that's how I got involved. I remember being really nervous, and it was a bit of a challenge, height-wise, to use the wheel... but I really loved it. Tim and Pam are a lot of fun to work with, as are the other students in their classes. Currently, I'm the youngest in my class, which meets every Tuesday evening. There's a variety of people in the class, too... an accountant, someone who retired from the construction business, some that just attend, seasonally... We're a close-knit group. I plan to continue taking classes, while I'm in school at SIU in Carbondale, but I'm actually studying crop sciences there. Art is more of a fun hobby for me... and a flexible way for me to earn money while I'm in school. I started selling my work in 2015 at the Artisan Depot, and I'm fortunate enough that I've been able to continue doing so while I'm in school. Now, I'm selling it at Fresh Digs and at my produce stand at the local farmer's market. 


A collection of Emma's work.

Describe your product:

As I progressed on the wheel at the Frye's studio, I have mostly worked on my own projects, so they're usually 100 percent original. Tim will occasionally do a demo for us on a project that he's doing with Pam, and sometimes, we'll try to replicate that, but mostly, I'm working on my own pieces now. I make a lot of bowls -- that's just what I gravitate to -- but I make other things as well... trays, yarn bowls, spoon rests, etc. Sometimes I add carvings, but I usually keep it pretty simple. I just let the piece happen.

IMG_20180828_193031 copy

Emma proudly holding an original piece in its early stages.  

How is your product made?

So, first, I weigh out the clay (which is handmade by Tim and Pam). Usually, I can eyeball it, but it's about one pound per every two inches of thickness. Once I've weighed out the clay, I shape it into a ball and start centering it on the wheel until the wheel isn't wobbling anymore. I then, start to pull the clay apart, opening it up in the center. I check the bottom to make sure it isn't too thin or too thick, and then, I start to lift the clay. I lift the clay about three times before I take a wire and cut it off the wheel. Then, I write my name on the pottery piece and set it on a shelf to dry.The next class, I'll trim the excess off the bottom of the piece and make any carvings I want on my work. Tim and Pam will fire the pottery in a gas kiln after it's set out to dry for a week, or until they have enough pieces to fill the kiln.  Then, I pick my glaze (also made by Tim and Pam). Some glazes make carvings pop more than others, so I try to keep that in mind, but I do have favorites like a bronze-y black color and a Nargon Green. I like white, too. Of course, the color depends on where it's at in the kiln... If it's in a hotter section, the piece usually turns out more white. If it's in a cooler section, it's usually more black. I make about three or four pieces on the wheel every week. Tim puts on some mellow music and we start spinning... it's very therapeutic.

Emma, working at the wheel in Tim and Pam Frye's studio... 

Do you have any inspirations?

I don't think so... I just kind of go with the flow. 

Why do you believe it’s important to support our local makers?

Beyond supporting local economy? I guess just to encourage people to go out and experiment with their passions. To raise awareness that local makers -- farmers, artisans and more -- are out here, searching for opportunities.


A tray,  perfect for keeping jewelry organized and safe.

What advice would you offer people your age who are interested in pursuing a craft?

Expand your horizons; find your niche in life beyond a job. Instead of going home to watch Netflix, find something that fulfills you... And just ask to get involved in your community. You never know how your life could change.


Nik Alwerdt

Alwerdts Gardens/ Alwerdt Artworks and Sculpture Park

A botanical treasure house and outdoor gallery, Alwerdts Gardens and Alwerdt Artworks and Sculpture Park are one of Effingham’s hidden gems. Located just one mile south off of Interstate 70, Exit 82, the business and park cover several acres of land with their display gardens and half-mile sculpture walk. The grounds are truly a labor of love, courtesy of this month’s #MadeinEffingham maker, Nik Alwerdt. 

Check out our interview with Effingham Maker, Nik Alwerdt, as he describes the journey that led him to bring his artistic talents to our community.

If you would like to visit Alwerdts Gardens or Alwerdt Artworks and Sculpture Park, check out You can also like their page on Facebook or follow them on Instagram (both at @alwerdtsgardens) to stay up-to-date on their latest arrivals and artwork.


A small portion of what Alwerdts Gardens grounds and display gardens have to offer. 

Where are you located?

3238 East 800th Avenue, about one mile South of Interstate 70, Exit 82 in Altamont, Illinois, in Effingham County.

Describe your business and/ or product(s):

As far as Alwerdts Gardens goes, we offer over 1,200 varieties of plants, spread throughout our grounds and greenhouses. We grow just about everything but trees and shrubs. We’re one of the largest suppliers of unique plant material and can handle almost any gardening or landscaping need. One of the unique things we’re known for is our hanging baskets that are custom-made on-site. In fact, we typically sell out of those by Mother’s Day each year. Apart from actual plants, you can find quality ceramics and other supplies and items you don’t usually find in big box stores inside our sales shop…

When it comes to landscaping products and services, well, we do a lot of water features, and we use a lot of natural stone. You can see that around the grounds and display gardens. I try to utilize nature and not manipulate it too much. That carries over to Alwerdts Artworks and Sculpture Park, as well. When it comes to art, I try to enhance what I see. After all, you can’t be more perfect than nature. I take objects – things that are familiar to people – like the wheel, and I create a piece around that. I’ve worked with all medias – bronze casting, fiberglass, wood, stone – my favorite is stone, though.


"Dylan was inspired by his namesake, Bob Dylan, and his song, 'Like a Rolling Stone.'"

Describe your journey:

I graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1974 with a BFA in Sculpture and Painting. Shortly thereafter, I opened my own sculpture studio in Tempe, Arizona. I did that for about four years, then, moved to downtown Chicago where I made sculptures and large size paintings, mainly for commercial use. About 35 years ago, I made the move back home, to Altamont, to help my brother with the family business of raising pheasants; we had about 12,000 birds, so it took up a lot of my time. During that period, however, I managed to find time to experiment with dry flower arrangements, herbs, perennials and more. It was kind of my creative outlet, and that, of course, led to what is now Alwerdts Gardens, a Destination Garden Center, established in 1988.

IMG_6675A water feature in the display gardens.

People actually know us best for our landscaping and our gardens, but the funny thing is, I was self-taught, learning from the ‘school of hard knocks’ (the best, most expensive school there is). Thankfully, everyone in the industry is really helpful, and my eye for color, texture and design has been a really great asset… I think that helped give us a unique edge with landscaping, because we had a different, more artistic approach than most. Nowadays, though, I’m doing more art. In fact, while Alwerdts Gardens was developing, I continued to make art and sculptures. I’m just really getting back to my creative passion, these days, and I have a little more time to be here, be retired and enjoy that.

When someone visits your business and/or sculpture park, what kind of experience can they expect to have?

We’re a place to learn. We focus on educating the customer – you don’t get that from places like Wal-Mart. The main attraction, however, is our display gardens. We’ve got over five acres of perennial beds, trees and shrubs, vine arbors, shade gardens, rock gardens, ornamental grasses and a water garden. Sometimes it takes visitors a good half-day if they want to go through everything.


One of the nine to ten greenhouses at Alwerdts Gardens. 

The sculpture garden adds another layer of interest to the whole enterprise. We have a lot of sculptures in the gardens already, but this is a separate thing. I thought it would be nice to have a place to display more of my sculptures, as well as sculptures from other local artists, as well. It’s about a half mile walk if you take the path all the way around the pond to view the sculptures (there’s more than 30). You’ll see sculptures of all different types, too. There are kinetic wind sculptures by an artist from Texas, a twig sculpture by local artist, Todd Kingery, and several of my own pieces, as well. There’s diversity there; it’s an ongoing project I hope to continue adding to.


All sculptures are for both display and sale.

How do you feel your business affects our community?

We bring in people interested in art and sculpture to visit Alwerdt Artworks Sculpture Park, and the gardens bring in thousands each year, off the interstate, for shopping purposes. In the more than 30 years we’ve been here, we’ve become the place people go to for unusual and quality products.

IMG_6667An array of succulents are available for viewing and/or purchasing in one of the many greenhouses on-site.

Why do you believe it’s important to support our local makers?

Well, we are all a product of our surroundings. We need to encourage local culture and support it, i.e. shop at home. People will be surprised at how much local talent is around. I’m always totally amazed. We need to support what’s happening at the ground level. It allows us to educate one another, exchange ideas. For example, a lot of people don’t know about the International Sculpture Conference, so I try to spread the word about opportunities like this one that I’m involved in so that other local artists can also get involved.  

*If you’re interested in attending this year’s conference, check out

IMG_6717This piece is one of three in a display that stands at the edge of the pond

Who are some of your favorite artists, or inspirations, and why?

If I had to say who initially inspired my artwork, I’d say Salvador Dali. I’ve also done extensive studying of symbolism. I try to look for those images that, universally, people respond to. My philosophy is Zen. I’m primarily guided by intuition and my observations from nature.




Colby Patterson, Aric Cornell & Chad Eirhart

Effing Brew Company

Effing Brew Company is owned and operated by some of Effingham’s newest local makers, and we’re excited to welcome them to our #MadeinEffingham program. The brewery and restaurant, which opened earlier this year, prides itself in serving its community with delicious food, outstanding beer, excellent catering services, and delightful events.

The three owners and makers -- Colby Patterson, Aric Cornell and Chad Eirhart – have worked long and hard to transform Effing Brew Co. from a casual conversation into a go-to gathering spot for the Effingham community. In the interview, below, Colby shares the Effing Brew Company story…

If you would like to learn more about Effing Brew Company, and stay up-to-date on what’s happening at the brewery and restaurant, check out You can also follow them on Instagram at @effingbrewcompany or on Facebook at “Effing Brew Company.”

All Photo Credit goes to Tytia Habing Photography.


Pictured, from left: Aric Cornell, Colby Patterson and Chad Eirhart 

Describe your journey… Who you are? What was your inspiration? 

The Effing Brew Company story started in 2009 when Aric Cornell and his cousin, Chad Eirhart, became interested in homebrewing. They had fallen in love with craft beer and decided to start making beer for themselves, as a hobby, at first. Their ‘hobby’ eventually turned into participating in homebrewing competitions, like the Big Muddy Monster Brew Festival. They placed nine times in a three-year period and even won first place, overall, one year. Needless to say, they realized they had created a pretty good product.


And that was just the beginning…

In 2014, Aric and I (Colby Patterson) attended the wedding of a mutual friend. He was congratulating me on the success of Scrubby’s Pub – which had just opened. That conversation eventually led to talk of us opening up a brewery in Effingham. By the next day, though, the idea had totally slipped my mind. So one could imagine my surprise when Aric showed up at Scrubby’s a few days later to discuss the conversation. Aric had hoped to brew in Scrubby’s after hours and turn the bar into a small brew pub, but I just wasn’t sure it could be done legally at the bar, so I turned him down… As soon as he left, the hairs on my body started standing up. I called him two minutes later and said, “This needs to happen, and we’re the right people to do this. If you’re with me, then I’m here with you, and I’ll do what I can to turn Effing Brew Company into a reality.”

From March 2014 to March 2018, we worked on turning this dream into a reality. No one around the area had done anything like this, so we were kind of learning along the way. It was not an easy road for any of us, but we were determined. I spent six to eight months creating our business plan from a blank canvas, and we worked hard to find the right investors for Effing Brew. From there, it was just going to banks and getting rejected. There was a lot of trial and error… Eventually, Washington Savings Bank came through, and we’re doing pretty good with what we’ve got. I couldn’t be more proud of myself, Aric and Chad.

The Effing Brew Co. doors officially opened on March 6. We just recently were able to start brewing in our brew house, which was a big victory for us! Until we could get the state to approve our brewer’s license, though, we had been contracting beer through 4204 Main Street Brewing Co. in Belleville, IL. The guys at Main Street have been a great help. Aric was able to intern there to learn more about the brewing process, and that kind of showed those guys how much we care about the industry. Everyone’s willing to help each other out in this industry, and that’s part of what we love about it.


What do you make? How is it made? Can you describe the process?

Well, we’ve been producing several of our own unique crafts: a Belgium Golden called, Teutonic Knight, a Belgium Dubbel called Mellow Monk, an English Style Brown Ale called Bowski Almond Brown, a Stout called Beyond the Darkness, a Coffee Stout called Ever Vigilant, a Red Rye Ale called Don’t Red on Me and a Red Rye IPA called Tyrant’s Blood. 

The whole process takes around 13 to 14 days, though some crafts take up to 21 days to brew. It’s quite the operation! We start with the milling, crushing the grains and wheat, first. Then, we add scorching hot water to everything that’s been milled. What that does, essentially, is help extract the sugars. A huge spoon turns the hot water, combining the water with the sugars to create wort. That then goes into the brew kettle where it is boiled. 

Once the concoction reaches its boiling point, then we start adding flavors, hops, etc., which can be done while brewing and after fermentation. When the brewing of the wort is done, we bring it through a chiller. That makes it ‘almost beer’, in layman’s terms, and it is put into the fermenter where we add the yeast. That’s when the alcohol is produced. When that process is complete, we begin the process of flavoring (again), adding things like pear extract, dry hops, etc. It sits with the flavoring for a week, sometimes two weeks before it integrates with the beer. 

After that, it goes into the Brite Tank, which is like a huge keg. That charges the beer with CO2 so that it’s carbonated. Now, it’s beer that we can put into kegs, get it cold and serve it up. 

At Effing Brew Company, we’ve got five fermenters and one Brite Tank, all of which are on display at our location.


How does your business affect people in Effingham?

I think it affects Effingham in a way because we’re bringing something new to town. We’re changing the culture completely. Now that we have a destination brewing company in Effingham, all sorts of people come from all over to visit. Still, we’re here in Effingham for a reason. We know where we’re from, and we’re going to do our best to always be there for the community first.


Why do you believe it’s important to support our local makers?

Because you know who they are.

Please, just be patient as businesses like ours get off the ground. For example, this is the first time any of us three have ever run a restaurant! And we’ve got a lot of new things coming out… a new menu, new beers, a new lunch special…

People in this industry work hard. That’s just how the industry goes; we’re in it together.


What’s on the horizon for Effing Brew Company?

Well, we’ve actually just released a Strawberry Blonde Ale called Pearhead (which does not taste like strawberries) and a Copper Ale called Railsplitter Penny. We may also do some contracting with 4204 Mainstreet Brewing Company to make and can our recipes at their facility so that we can put this into the market in Effingham. The goal is to have our product on shelves at Lion’s Liquors in the near future. Other than that, we’re just really excited to see what the future holds.



Wes and Wanda Pitcher

Tuscan Hills Winery

Established in July 2011, by Wes and Wanda Pitcher, Tuscan Hills Winery is a beautiful winery with an old world Tuscan feel. Set on ten acres of original farmstead, just off Historic Hills Drive, the winery features indoor seating for over 100 people and a spacious outside porch that overlooks its small vineyard. The winery is a unique extension of who Wes and Wanda are, not only as individuals, but as a couple. The vision Wanda and Wes have for the winery, is one of family and friendship. They enjoy creating a welcoming atmosphere for all who walk through the front door.

Read our interview with Tuscan Hills Winery, below, to learn more about what makes Tuscan Hills Winery one of our most unique Effingham Makers.

If you would like to visit or plan an event at Tuscan Hills Winery, check out You can also follow the winery on Instagram at @tuscanhillswineryeffingham and on Facebook at to stay up-to-date on the winery’s latest news and events. 


 Where are you located?

2200 Historic Hills Drive in Effingham, Illinois.

 Describe your journey… Who you are, your inspiration and what makes you different and/or unique?

When the winery was first built seven years ago, we expected that people would come in and taste wine, talk about wine, ask for wine/food pairing recommendations and buy wine to drink at home. Although all of those things still happen, the community had more plans for us. Since officially opening on July 1st, 2011, the winery has become home to numerous weddings, baby showers, bridal showers, reunions, graduation parties, and weekly musical performances. We also host our own murder mystery dinner theatres, dueling pianos events and trivia nights.

22289975_10155870988954586_847638162772345988_o What do you make?

We are especially focused on creating well-balanced wines of the highest quality. We pride ourselves in providing excellent products and the people who work here are knowledgeable hosts who are passionate about the winery.

How is the wine made?

In this region of Illinois, we don’t have the proper climate to grow quality grapes, so we do what many wineries do and buy our grapes off the market. They come from Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Arkansas and California. We leave the grape growing to the professionals, so we don’t have to be farmers, too. As a result, we bottle and cellar here at Tuscan Hills Winery, which you can see us do in February and July. This July, we will be bottling over six thousand gallons of wine.

Describe the process…

The management team at Tuscan Hills Winery is very involved with the process of creating the wines. You won’t find our wines anywhere else – they’re our recipes. We’ve created Pretty in Pink, Tuscan Night and Touch of Midas to name a select few. In fact, part of the fun in creating and running a winery is in making our own blends! We get the opportunity to change them every year or to keep them the same. It’s a constantly evolving process. Some years, we tailor the recipes depending on the feedback we receive from our customers. If one year we hear that a wine isn’t dry enough, we’ll modify the recipe to accommodate our customers' tastes. When we opened, we had 16 different wines. Currently, we have ten so that we can focus on perfecting the ones that have been most well received by our customers.

19884483_1835474489812285_1634936346756014381_nWhen someone visits your business, what can they expect to see and/or do?

All of the wines are tastefully crafted and bottled in the wine cellar and wine tastings are available daily. As everyone’s sensitivities to the smells and tastes of wines are different, our staff is trained on wine tastings to help guests compare the subtle differences in our wines until they find a desirable favorite. Besides our selection of wines, we also offer our signature sangrias, specialty seasonal and craft beers, and a broad range of spirits for every palate. You are welcome to bring your own food or we have a cooler of specialty meats and cheeses and a menu of Italian breads and pizzas.

How does your business affect people in Effingham?

Tuscan Hills Winery is a family and pet friendly winery with a relaxing, intimate environment and an old world Tuscan feel. From live music, to big parties, to simply enjoying a beautiful day outside on the covered porch, Tuscan Hills Winery is a great destination for those who gather. We hope you have an enjoyable time when you 'Come as our guest, leave as our friend.'

983A1391-1What’s on the horizon for Tuscan Hills Winery?

We’re releasing a new wine for the upcoming holiday season called, ‘Effing Naughty’, a semi-sweet rosé that will be available this fall. There are also plans to bring in a new small batch line of wines made from exceptional grapes. Otherwise, we hope to continue doing what we love to do – being here for the most important moments in life, big or small. With the addition of the Stellar Cellar, Tuscan Hills Winery has adapted to the desires of the community, and we will continue to expand as Effingham’s only local winery.



Niall and Kristie Campbell

firefly grill

Local restaurateurs, Niall and Kristie Campbell, have created a unique oasis for the Effingham community in their farm & table restaurant, firefly grill. The award-winning, eco-friendly roadhouse rests on the shores of Lake Kristie, nestled between their gardens and sheltered by the wooded grounds of their beloved community.

In the interview, below, the Campbell’s describe how the firefly dream became a true “Made in Effingham” success story.

If you would like to learn more about firefly grill, check out You can also follow firefly on Instagram at @firefly_grill and on Facebook at


Photo Credit: firefly grill

How do you feel your business affects our community?

Effingham is where our heart is. We love our community. We seek to impact it in remarkable ways, because we are so grateful for the amazing ways it impacts us; we succeed together. People propose, wed, celebrate anniversaries and their lives with us. They become part of the firefly story. This effect is transcendent... we live for it. 

We go to extraordinary lengths to care for our customers. We strive to exceed their expectations on every visit. We value strong relationships and emotional connections by being honest, open and willing to help in any way we can.


When someone visits firefly grill, what can they expect to see and/or do?

The kitchen is the heart of the Campbell house, which is why firefly created an expedition kitchen, so customers can see all of the love and hard work that goes into our dishes. Our vision is a sustainable one—the frame of the building is recycled steel, and all of the barn wood is reclaimed, as is much of our furniture. Our pond irrigates our farm, which greatly reduces our carbon footprint. We compost any trash that comes with packaging food, constantly upgrade our energy efficiency and never use herbicides in our gardens.IMG_5500

Inside, you'll see boars heads - representing the Campbell family crest-hanging above the bar. Draped throughout firefly are curtains made with Campbell of Argyll tartan. Photos in the main dining area are from our (Kristie and Niall’s) wedding. The pictures hung outside the restrooms are of our daughter, Camden Carolyn Campbell--the best decision we ever made.

At the heart of it all is the food, of course. It’s made from the best stuff on earth! At firefly, we are so passionate about our ingredients that we grow many of them ourselves. The remainder are hand-selected locally or sourced from artisan farmers, foragers and fisherman who care for them as deeply as we do. Our philosophy is simple: source the best ingredients possible and stay out of their way.


Describe your journey, who you both are, your inspirations and what makes firefly unique.

 Kristie: I was born here in Effingham, Illinois and moved to Maine when I was only two years old. I returned to Effingham frequently with my family to visit my grandparents, Lowell and Lucille (Nina) Samuel. During the summers, my brother and I would catch fireflies in their backyard. In the evenings, our grandmother would put the fireflies in mason jars and sing us to sleep on her screened-in porch. These are some of my earliest and most cherished memories; firefly is fondly named in their honor.


Photo Credit: firefly grill  

I never had a background in the restaurant business. Just boiling an egg was truly a stretch for me. Working as a bayside equity trader, I was slinging stocks for Fidelity Investments in Boston. Even though I could handle billion-dollar trades with hundreds of orders, I was unable to master anything more complicated than pressing the start button on the kitchen microwave. Needless to say, I ate out a lot, which, in turn, made me an expert customer.

When the tragic events of September 11th occurred, my world, like so many others, was turned upside down. I lost friends and colleagues that day, along with my sense of career. In the wake of that tragedy, I made the decision to take a leave of absence. I went to visit friends, who happened to be restaurateurs, on a tiny island off the coast of Puerto Rico, called Vieques. The island was so small, there wasn’t even a traffic light… but there was a very cute and charismatic chef. I fell in love, shocked everyone by quitting my job and moved to Puerto Rico, which began my induction into the restaurant business.

Niall, the very cute chef, also grew up in Maine on a small dairy farm. No stranger to hard work, Niall was a natural in the kitchen. His ambitious nature led him out of the house at the young age of 16, washing dishes to pay the bills and, one day, to travel the world.

“Money was tight when I was growing up,” says Niall. “I grew up on a farm before moving out on my own at 16. I was home alone a lot as a kid and experimented with what little we had in the kitchen; that’s where I caught the bug. But when I got the dishwasher job, I got fed and got a paycheck. It was a necessity.”

IMG_5586 When we met, Niall was in Puerto Rico helping our mutual friends, Rick and Honor, open their new restaurant, the Blue Macaw. Together, we embraced this challenging yet wonderful experience of getting a restaurant off the ground.

We stayed in Puerto Rico for a few years before deciding to get married and return to the mainland. Niall had taken a job at Bradley Ogden’s Lark Creek Inn outside of San Francisco. On our way to California, we stopped in Effingham to get my things out of storage. We casually discussed how Effingham could benefit from a restaurant like the one we wanted to create someday.


Photo Credit: firefly grill 

Enter fate…

We had just moved everything we owned in the world to San Francisco, planning to live there indefinitely. After five months of life in California, we received an email from an Effingham developer, Jack Schultz, who had heard through the grapevine that I was marrying a chef and that, someday, we hoped to open a restaurant. That “someday” turned out to be “today.”

Fortunately, Jack loved our ideas, and Niall loved the land. Niall was actually the one who insisted on having an on-site garden if we were going to open a restaurant in Effingham.

With the help of our incredible community; Jack and his team at Agracel; some radical investors; a visionary at Newton State Bank; and an incredible architect, Cass Calder Smith, our dream, “firefly,” was born.

What makes us unique though? It's simple - Our food, Our Farm, Our Scene.




Tytia Habing

Tytia Habing Photography


Local photographer, Tytia Habing, finds inspiration in Effingham’s rustic, yet vibrant landscape. Whether she’s shooting in the woods near her rural home, capturing life on her family’s Watson farm or documenting the revival of historic areas in town, Tytia’s photography consistently captures the moment. Her photos are raw, wild and breathtaking… and best of all, they’re taken in our own backyards.

In the interview, below, Tytia describes life as a photographer in Effingham County.

If you would like to learn more about Tytia, and her work, check out for her fine art and for her client work. You can also follow her on Instagram at @tytiahabing or on Facebook at “Tytia Habing Photography.”


Where are you located? Do you have a studio?

I do have a small studio nestled in the woods. It’s actually my grandma’s old summer kitchen that I’ve converted it into my studio. I use it as my office and I shoot personal projects there. Unfortunately, I don’t take clients at this studio since it’s not really set up for that. One day, I may renovate a large, old house I own in town into my studio, but for now I shoot on location, primarily in Central Illinois. Commercially, though, I have shot in other locations out of state. Eventually I’d like to begin taking family sessions in Chicago as well.

Describe your product:

“Boutique photography for the artistic soul…” I do both portraiture and fine art photography. I try to bring some element of personality into both areas of my work, and I think they mesh well together. With portraiture, I try to capture people in their own environments, which is why I like to shoot on location. I don’t do a lot of posing, but more of a combination of casually posed, lifestyle and even documentary for my client sessions.


Describe your journey:

I grew up locally, in Watson, but moved away for most of my adult life (side note: Tytia lived in the Cayman Islands for several years, and her work shows strong references to that experience). I have degrees in both horticulture and landscape architecture. Photography, for me, was more something I did for enjoyment... I didn’t start doing it intentionally until I moved back to Effingham, a few years ago, to be closer to my family.

When someone has you take their photos, what kind of experience can they expect to have?

It’s very relaxed and laidback. My clients often tell me it’s their best experience with photography. I don’t make anyone be still and smile or sit up straight… kids don’t go for that. I try and get to know the kids a bit before starting. I ask them about school or what their favorite thing to do is or have them show me their favorite toy or their room. That way they’re relaxed and not scared of me. Typically, the best photos are taken at the end of the session since everyone is completely relaxed by that point. My regular session is an hour, but I have other options as well, both shorter and longer.


How do you feel your business affects our community?

I think I offer a unique service for the area and it gives residents another option for their photography needs. My style of photography is a little different than most, in that my aesthetic is very nature centric. I try and incorporate the Midwest landscape and flora in as much as I can, but in the end, my focus is always the client themselves. They’re the star of the show. I want to get a true representation of who they really are, and what their relationships with their families are like. I’m sure it sounds very cheesy, but I want to capture their soul, the essence of who they and their family are. Every other year, I take photos for the Fear Nothing Derby Day, a local charity event. Not only do I document the day, I also do portraits for guests. The guests can then choose to purchase prints and then the proceeds go back to the charity. I also donate fine art prints and mentoring sessions to aspiring photographers to several charities.

Why do you believe it’s important to support our local makers?

Because local people add to our community… It’s like the circle of life. When people come in and shop local, local business owners and artisans are able to give back to the community, whether that be in the form of unique services and products or giving back in a charitable way.


Who are some of your favorite artists, and why?

Sally Mann, she’s one of the first photographers who photographed her kids in nature and captured how they are in their own environment. Also, Emmett Gowin. His work shows his family and the way they lived in the country. Locally, I think the farming community definitely influences my work. My parents are farmers, and we’re out there, on the farm, as much as possible. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by nature on a daily basis.

Any last thoughts?

Sometimes, I think artists aren’t supported as much as they should be because people believe art isn’t a necessity. Art, in one form or another has been around since the dawn of mankind, so maybe it’s not a physical necessity, but I definitely think it’s an emotional and mental necessity. Art communicates things that are beyond words, like love, faith, and trust, which are essential to all deep human relationships. Obviously, I know that we first have to pay our bills and support our families in a practical manner, so I don’t believe you should go buy art if you need to pay your electric bill! What I’m saying is, if you are able, please support all of us artists out there. We all work very hard to add beauty to the world and stimulate a person’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs and ideas through the senses.