Community / News / April 3, 2008

Downtown Galesburg gets a shot in the arm

The Galesburg downtown area, flagging for several years, and considered by many to be past its prime, is receiving a jolt of energy, in the form of “Budde’s” (pronounced Buddies), a food and music venue. Owned and operated by a husband and wife team, Mike and Diane Budde, it looks to tap the potential that lies in the lack of a real music and club destination, in Galesburg.

“Up until recently, there really hasn’t been much of a music scene around here,” said Chris Shikami, a music enthusiast and Knox freshman. “There is McGillicuddy’s over on Cherry Street, they have a jazz night, and they have local bands play there sometimes, but really, there isn’t much to be had for music around here. And anyway, the music there acts as background music more often than not. It’s not really a rocking atmosphere.”

McGillicuddy’s holds a jazz night on Thursday night to attract crowds and talent from around the city. The majority of its patrons, though, according to freshman Nathan Walker, a regular patron, is composed of older people. “You go in there, and it’s all middle-aged people. The music is pretty cool, I mean, I like jazz, but the crowd is older,” he said.

“Some of the bands at jazz night are students, but that’s mostly because there’s nowhere else for them to play,” said Shikami. “The campus doesn’t really give any space or time to student bands, either to practice or play, and having only one place to even perform is kind of hard. And clubs are nice to go to, either way.”

The opening of Budde’s is the first step in making the city more attractive for entertainment for the college, the citizens, and those who live in the surrounding area.

Mike Budde has been a professional musician for more than ten years. He has lived in southern and central Illinois most of his life, though his family moved to Atlanta, Ga. when he was a kid. “I thought that was good for me,” he said, “It gave me that big city experience, which helped a lot later on.”

In working in the music business, Budde has to travel a lot, be it for shows, or these days, to find acts.

“That’s why Galesburg is so great, its about 45 minutes from Peoria, the Quad Cities, Macomb, all great places to play. And we’re only about two and a half hours from Chicago, so that opens up a lot, too.”

Budde has many connections, both local and in Chicago, in music and entertainment circles, which makes for a nice base to expand from when finding talent to play. In addition to that, he has made a name for himself already, hosting an open mic night at R.J.’s, a bar on Grand Street. He held it every Thursday night and built a large following because it was such a “rocking time” as he put it, so when he opened up his own place, many people from around town were eager to find out if and when he would start it up.

“Thursday is one of our bigger nights; we get people doing all kinds of music. We even have a guy who raps, but he basically does the same thing every week. Still, its an awesome time.”

The stage is raised and backed by windows looking out to the street, so even people walking by can see what is going on, and stop in if they want.

Mike’s wife, Diane, is the other piece of their two-pronged attack on the nightlife of Galesburg. She previously worked with Miller Brewing Co. as a marketing agent, so she knows how to get people into an establishment.

“People like giveaways, and unique experiences. That’s what we are trying to do here. We want to keep it fresh, and keep people coming back.”

The atmosphere, combined with the myriad of menu items and drink selections, is a major drawing point for Budde’s. The pizza is the same recipe that was made by Audi’s Pizza, the former owner. The snack foods, including what is billed as the biggest nacho platter in town, is enough to keep anybody coming back, just for the variety.

“One plan we have is to work with the other bars and night spots around here to try to attract attention to us, and Main Street as a whole,” said Diane Budde. “If we all work together, as a group rather than as competitors, we can all benefit. If you watch Main Street on a weekend night, people barhop from one to the other. That’s why we like our location, right near Seminary Street, and just next door to Crappy’s. We are right in the middle. Hopefully, we can help make Main Street viable again.”

“Having a couple of Miller Girls anywhere will attract a lot of people too,” said Mike Budde. “I mean, guys will do anything, just because they are doing it.”

The Buddes care about the area as a whole too, not only because it will make their own business do better.

“We hope that people will see us, and what we are doing, and use it as motivation to make something of their own,” said Diane Budde. “I’m sure there are ideas and dreams out in town, we can’t be the only ones.”

The town, and Galesburg Regional Economic Development Association (GREDA), while not involved from the start of the project, gave the Buddes a big boost. It informed the Buddes of funds and grants, like a Façade Grant, which pays for a percentage of a business’s wanting to fix up their fronting and signage, to help with the financing. Cesar Suarez, director of GREDA, was very happy with what the Buddes were doing.

“This is what we want, people from town doing something to help the downtown area. We want to tap the entrepreneurial spirit of Galesburg, and use that to revitalize the city.” Suarez was eager to expound on what the Buddes were doing, saying it was the way Galesburg could make itself better.

“This is a piece of a bigger project to really make downtown better,” he said. “The bigger picture here is to make it a whole attraction. We hired Massi and Massi, a firm that specializes in finding what a city needs to do to set up corridors of opportunity, where complementary businesses can feed off each other, make each other better.”

Suarez’s excitement and confidence, both in the revitalization program, and in the Budde’s plan, was obvious, and he said he could not wait to really get the ball rolling, and make the Main Street area a viable place to shop and do business in again. The Buddes echoed this sentiment.

“We want to give a premium atmosphere and feeling,” said Mr. Budde. “The town wants it; you can tell with the Landmark Café, a Starbucks opening up, there is a new feeling coming to Main Street. We want to do our part to make Galesburg nice again.”

The go-getter drive, the American Spirit lives on at Budde’s, as a nice couple of people try to make their mark on a town starved for some new blood. One step is all it takes sometimes, and this is the first step in making downtown a place to attract new hope to the city.

Merritt Rohlfing

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