- Matt Sanctis Staff Writer
Two new businesses in downtown Urbana include a specialty bakery and an antique store that focuses on hard-to-find furniture, fresh flowers and other items.
Oxner’s General Store recently opened at 15 Monument Square by Michael Manoloff and his wife Mary.
And Tina Knotts, a former director of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, opened Let’s Eat Cake, a specialty bakery nearby at 117 Scioto St. The bakery also shares space with other local businesses for a separate business called Room 117 at that site, which provides space for catering and special events.
Both Oxner’s General Store and Let’s Eat Cake hosted grand opening celebrations earlier this month
Manoloff said the store presented him an opportunity to turn a hobby into a full-time business.
A former government and history teacher at Springfield City School District, Manoloff also spent years tracking down unusual items and antiques as a vendor. Jewelry at the store is new but most other items available at the store’s two floors are vintage or antiques, he said.
“The whole time, I never lost my desire for antiques,” he said of his time as an educator.
Despite the competition from other antique stores downtown, he said he’s been welcomed in the short time his store has been open.
“Everyone wants each other to succeed and that’s very cool,” Manoloff said.
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Knotts served as director of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce for several years before taking a similar position in Union County. But she chose to open Let’s Eat Cake in downtown Urbana because of the connections she still has in Champaign County. The business started in her home about four years ago but grew to the point where she needed additional space.
Along with running the bakery, she continues to work for the Union County chamber as well.
“It is a balancing act, I’m not going to fib,” Knotts said. “But I love the baking. I spend my weekends in Urbana and Monday through Friday I’m coordinating and promoting events for Union County.”
The bakery focuses on special orders and cakes for weddings, baby showers and similar events. It’s closed for retail most of the week, but typically opens on Saturdays to allow customers to place and pick up orders. The bakery also hosts Cupcake Staurdays each weekend where customers can buy cupcakes, cookies and other items from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Knotts’ business also shares space at Room 117 at that address with the Buckeye Pig Rig, a catering company and food truck, and Cafe Paradiso, a downtown Urbana restaurant. Along with providing room for Knotts to bake, the space can also be rented for events like wedding showers and rehearsal dinners.
“We all recognized that small event space is hard to find for 25 to 35 people, so we took the cafe and converted it to private dining space,” she said.
That allows the restaurant and catering service to use the space while Knotts can provide baked goods.
“We’re kind of waiting for a response from the public to see what the demand is and then we can add hours or staff,” Knotts said.