Golden Weather Goods carries slowly made home and lifestyle goods from nearly 100 independent makers and brands from around the Midwest and beyond. In this month’s Meet Your Merchant feature, we sat down with owner and Champaign native Erin McGill to learn more about how she dreamed up this new downtown shop.
Can you tell me about yourself ?
I am a Champaign native. I grew up here, went to Chicago for college, and I eventually moved back here in 2010 – I think. I have a degree in social work – something I don’t use now – and I have a lot of experience in retail. This is my first go at retail ownership.
My husband’s family is from around here. My family is from around here. For a while I thought I was going to live in Chicago forever, but there’s something about this place that just pulls you back. It’s a great place to start a family.
What sort of retail experience did you have before?
Oh my. Yeah, when I lived in Chicago, one of my first jobs was on Michigan Avenue. I entered into the cut-throat world of clothing sales. I was making decent commission for about three or four months and then I was demoted because I was making the lowest commission rates ever. What I learned from that experience is that I didn’t believe in the product. The suits and sweaters have been duplicated thousands of times. I moved out of commission and sales and moved into merchandising.
After that, I worked in various small shops in Oak Park and Forest Park and some of the suburbs. I got to experience what “big kid” retail is like on Michigan Avenue during Christmas Time… the tears, the crowds. (laughs)
Was that experience something that led you to start your own business?
Absolutely not! I thought I would never touch retail again because I was so terrible at meeting my sales quota and I didn’t believe in the product. It was a job for me at the time.
My interest in owning a shop didn’t get sparked until I moved back to Champaign. I was using my degree at the time and not really finding my space professionally. I took stock in what I liked and enjoyed, like design and high-quality products, things that last, not throw-away pieces. From there, I drummed up the idea that I would own a storefront someday and years later I went for it.
When did you make that decision to go for it?
The beginning of 2019. I set a goal that I would start a business in one year. I did not know what was coming. (laughs) So, I waited for another year and I got the LLC, did a ton of research, and started looking for spaces.
So here you are now. You opened your doors last August . Tell me more about Golden Weather Goods and what you try to do here.
We specialize on slowly made goods. What that means is goods made from independent artists or brands. A lot of times they are made by hand, or small production. We focus on home goods and, what we call, lifestyle goods. This is anything in your home that gives you a sense of warmth, comfort, and meaning, or something that you can give to someone that will last a long time.
What can you tell me about these independent artists or brands that you carry?
A lot of them I found on Instagram or independent design blogs or websites – anything that specialized in artisan-made goods. I started a list of vendors. I was super intimidated to reach out to them because I didn’t even have a store yet. The first vendor I approached was Terra Candles out of St. Louis and she jumped at the chance to be a part of my store. And then, one after the other, they started signing up! It was easier than I expected. Since then, I think I’ve only had one maker ghost me. (laughs)
Many of these makers don’t have physical storefronts but have an online store or Etsy. Almost all of them are women, often with families, so this was side hustle for them. And that’s one thing I like about this gig: I get to help them turn their side hustle into more of a career. So whenever someone shops here at Golden Weather Goods, you are supporting me and my dream, but also all the female artists and makers that we carry.
Why did you choose Champaign and Downtown?
Champaign-Urbana is a very supportive community for local artists and small businesses. I remember when Small Business Saturday came around during the pandemic in 2020 and I saw such a huge positive response and I thought that now was the time, I had to do this.
Downtown has evolved a lot for as long as I can remember it. Downtown was my first choice and is a perfect place for what we are trying to do with the business. There are businesses that have been successful downtown for many years like Furniture Lounge, Ten Thousand Villages, and Circles Boutique. I was so excited to be a part of this business community!
I stumbled upon this place, and I just knew it was the one, so I signed a lease right soon after I toured it.
For more information about this small business in Champaign Center, please visit www.GoldenWeatherGoods.com!
Photo by Darrell Hoemann Photography.