CARLINVILLE, Ill. -- Tucked into a former post office building on the Carlinville downtown square sits a business that sells only products made, grown or processed in Illinois.
Market on the Square -- open less than a year -- is the brainchild of husband and wife Nathan Payne and Aimee Arseneaux-Payne, who got tired to traveling to farmers markets to sell the produce they grow on their 2-acre Carlinville farm.
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"We wanted to sell our food in Carlinville, and we also were looking for products we could sell year-round. We got to know quite a few vendors at farmers markets," said Nathan Payne, 28.
"This is the first Illinois-only store that I'm aware of," said Larry Aldag, marketing representative with the Illinois Department of Agriculture who works closely with Illinois businesses. "It's been my dream for a long time to see stores like this one around the state."
In a back room of the store, refrigerated cases hold the Paynes' naturally grown green onions, Bibb lettuce, turnips and other vegetables, plus milk, cheese and eggs from Illinois farms.
The main room of the light-filled store holds goods from more than 90 Illinois producers. About 60 percent of the inventory is food; the rest is soaps, lotions, jewelry, pottery, textiles, fused glass, candles and other handmade items.
"We tend to lean toward small companies and avoid distributors. We did have to use distributors for Goose Island and Big Muddy. That was the only way we could get them," Payne said. The store carries beer and soda from Chicago-based Goose Island Beer Co. and beer from Big Muddy Brewing in Murphysboro.
Asked to point out a few of his personal favorites, Payne mentioned Greene Fields popcorn, made in Greenfield.
"The American Harvest Blend is white, red and black popcorn. It's excellent," he said.
He also noted potato chips from Rockford-based Mrs. Fisher's, dry soup mixes from Frontier Soups in Waukegan, Chicago-based Mullen's applesauce, Crestwood's Anisi honey wafers and Springfield-based Onofrio's marinara sauces.
"This is the only spaghetti sauce we use," Payne said about the Sicilian-style red sauces created by Joe and Linda Jannazzo, owners of the Track Shack restaurant in Springfield.
Because Carlinville is located on Route 66, tourists exploring the road often wander into Market on the Square. But Payne said most of his customers are locals.
"People come in every day who say they just discovered us."