RANTOUL — Two downtown Rantoul businesses will be moving.

Jill’s Creative Expressions is moving out of its building at 101 E. Sangamon Ave. to 1502 W. Church St., Champaign. Owner John Moomaw will operate the business out of a building he constructed at his home.

Meanwhile, Anywhere Anytime Journeys, which has been leasing space from Janet Brotherton at Lindsey Lane Bridal, 200 block of East Sangamon Avenue, will move into the Jill’s building.

John Moomaw

John Moomaw his moved his Jill’s Creative Expressions business to his home in Champaign. 

Moomaw, who bought the Jill’s business from founder Jill Alred in 2013, said the primary reason for the move was his concern about his health a year ago.

“Then, my kids are young enough at the age I kind of felt I really needed to be around the house,” he said, adding that having two properties didn’t make too much sense.

“It just seemed like the smart thing to do,” Moomaw said.

He said he had seen a downward trend in business, even before the onset of the coronavirus — to the point where he had not employed anyone other than himself since the beginning of the year.

“I think ... people just don’t have the disposable income” like they used to, Moomaw said. “A lot of the groups ... you could see them slowly getting less and less things.”

Jill’s sells items such as trophies, plaques, signs and banners.

Holding a youth league tournament? Jill’s could supply the trophies. For high school award winners, Jill’s would supply the plaques. Having a company picnic or a welcome-home event, the business supplies banners and signs.

The company has also made many items for the University of Illinois, but that, too, has diminished due to NCAA restrictions.

Moomaw will run the business from a 40-foot by 24-foot garage he built himself.

A native of Arcola, Moomaw came to Rantoul in 1991 to work as a DJ at the Hitchin’ Post, operated by Alred’s father. He later began working for Alred — a job he held for 11 years before buying the business.

“It’s been good,” he said. “In those 18 years I’ve (seen) so many things leave the downtown. It’s just wild, even in the time I’ve been here, let alone someone who is a lifer here.

“I really do think the movement toward the interstate is probably a good idea. The depot used to be the center of town. Now it’s the interstate.”

Travel agency needed more elbow room

Brad Martin, founder and CEO of Anywhere Anytime Journeys, said his business will rent the former Jill’s store for a year and then buy it.

“We’ve grown, and we needed to find a bigger space,” Martin said. “The other thing is people have been saying they didn’t know there was a travel agency because we weren’t in a store front. We felt it was time to check into other options.”

Martin said he had been looking for a new location for about a year and a half.

When he heard about Moomaw moving, they began talking.

“We’re excited because we have a lot more space,” Martin said. “We’ll be on a storefront. I look at this with the COVID-19, it’s a time for change.”

Anywhere Anytime took over rental of the property on Friday. With the travel agency being closed due to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, it was a good time to move, he said.

A June 15 opening has been targeted.

“It gives us time to get it all set up,” said Martin.

In the meantime, he has been working at home and helping people with their travel needs. Most of that is helping people reschedule. Most of his clients who had booked for this time decided to reschedule for next year.

“We’re busy in the fact I’m working with the vendors so the clients won’t be losing any money,” he said. “Hopefully by (next year), there will be a vaccine out there.”

He has some clients who are still planning to travel to Europe in July.

“We’re playing it safe for them,” he said. “My biggest thing with my clients is I want to make sure they’re safe and they’re getting the best value.”

Martin said the number of people traveling started to decline the second week of February.

He said he began watching countries’ borders being closed. In one case, he knew before it was announced that the Dominican Republic would be closing its borders. He had two clients there and couldn’t get hold of them because they had turned their cell phones off. So he phoned their hotel and asked the personnel to let his clients know they needed to head home or they would be trapped in the Dominican.

Another group had planned to vacation in Hawaii for three weeks. Martin told them to head home early because a quarantine was going to go into effect.

Martin said he believes his job will be more difficult in the future. But he also believes more people will use travel professionals just because of what’s happened in recent times.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com