Stephanie Funkhouser of Royse + Brinkmeyer

Life has a funny way of leading us down unexpected paths, often to places we never imagined. For Stephanie Funkhouser, this was certainly the case when she found herself working for Royse + Brinkmeyer and spearheading the transformation of the stunning Inman building. What began as a series of serendipitous events and twists of fate eventually led Stephanie to become an integral part of the team behind one of Champaign’s most iconic landmarks. Royse + Brinkmeyer has used Stephanie’s unique vision and passion for decorating to help breathe new life into the Inman, turning it into a vibrant hub of activity and community in the heart of the city. Join us as we delve into Stephanie’s journey and discover how she’s turned unexpected opportunities into remarkable achievements.

Tell us about yourself and how you got involved with Royse + Brinkmeyer

As a mother of two and married to a retired police officer, I joined Royse + Brinkmeyer’s team about 12 years ago. Recently, in 2022, we took over The Inman, which was facing issues like low occupancy and financial struggles. We decided to transform it into an independent living space for people of all ages, aiming to breathe new life into the property.

While some residents left due to the changes, we’re thankful for those who stayed and helped build a sense of community. Over the past year and a half, we’ve been focused on renovating The Inman, making it more welcoming. It’s become like my baby nowadays, as I’ve poured my heart and soul into it.

Through hard work and determination, we’ve managed to fill the space and even added commercial features to improve its appeal. Though it’s been a challenging journey, seeing The Inman thriving now makes all the effort worthwhile.

What is your exact title and what does that job entail?

My title at Royse + Brinkmeyer is Chief Experience Officer which means my main goal is to make sure our residents have the best time possible while here. I’m in charge of choosing amenities like coffee machines and outdoor kitchens to make their stay extra special. On top of that, I manage HR duties to ensure our team feels connected to our company’s mission and has plenty of chances to grow in their careers. Building a culture where everyone feels included and appreciated is crucial for us to succeed. Because when our team is happy and fulfilled, our company thrives.

           I also took on the task of decorating all of the Airbnb’s, as well as anything you see in the lobby – from the artwork to the furnishings and even the flooring choices. It’s been quite enjoyable, to be honest. It wasn’t something I planned to do initially, but I thought, why not give it a shot?

We partnered with Omni Development on this building, and our partner was impressed when he saw the first few units I decorated. He loved the vibe of the lobby and the units. So, I decided to continue with the same mid-century modern theme throughout all of them, even though each unit has its own unique touches.

P/C: Royse + Brinkmeyer

What made you want to work for Royse + Brinkmeyer?

 It’s kind of funny, really. I never imagined this would be my path. I was working in events for a while, and then bam, the company did a major restructuring and I found myself out of a job. Spent a good three months figuring out my next move. My husband encouraged me to take my time and explore my options. He had a connection with the CEO and an owner of Royse + Brinkmeyer, who mentioned they needed an office manager. So, I decided to give it a shot. Twelve years later, here I am, starting as an office manager and gradually climbing the ladder to become the Chief Experience Officer. It’s funny how things unfold sometimes.

P/C: Royse + Brinkmeyer
P/C: Royse + Brinkmeyer

The Inman is a long-standing building in Champaign, any fun stories you have gotten from working here?

Before working here, every time I drove by this building, I was like, “What is that?” Eventually, I heard or saw something that made me think it was a nursing home or something. It wasn’t until we acquired the building that I actually stepped inside, and let me tell you, it was like stepping into a time capsule. It’s crazy how invisible it was to everyone before. But when I posted pictures of the floors, we’ve been redoing on the Champaign Urbana history Facebook page, the response was overwhelming. People shared stories about its past life as a ballet school, complete with students living there and a lady running the elevator! It’s incredible how many memories are attached to this place. Someone even shared pictures of marble altars from a local church, suggesting they came from our building. And you won’t believe the famous names associated with it – Nat King Cole, Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Capone. It’s been so fascinating hearing all these stories from people.

P/C: Champaign Center Partnership

How has being located in Downtown Champaign affected The Inman?

Over the past few years, I’ve been thrilled to witness the positive changes downtown. The summer events that bring people together downtown are something I particularly enjoy. Being in this building now further connects us to the downtown vibe, especially with events like the street fest.

I love highlighting our amazing downtown area to others. I’m eagerly looking forward to my sister and brother-in-law visiting from Arizona, and I can’t wait to show them around our downtown. It’s interesting because even coming from a place like Phoenix, they appreciate the quaint feel and walkability here.

This building is a perfect fit for Airbnb stays or for residents who don’t drive. It keeps them connected and engaged with the community. It’s wonderful to see that many of the residents who were here when we took over the building still actively enjoy downtown life. It’s a major draw for this building, and rightly so!

What is up next for The Inman?

P/C: Royse + Brinkmeyer

 Right now, we’re gearing up for the wine walk and finishing revamping our floors. Once we finish that I’m thinking of organizing a themed event, perhaps a twenties-themed soirée, to start attracting the public’s attention. I still feel like a lot of people don’t even notice the building, despite its rich history. I’d love to create a timeline display to highlight its story as much as possible. Maybe we could set it up on a wall or use some kind of interactive format. It’d be fascinating for visitors to walk around the room and discover the different chapters of this building’s history, spanning from its opening in 1915 to the present day.

We’ll continue to restore the lobby to its former glory, but we are simultaneously looking for long term food and beverage partners that will activate the Inman like years past. It has historically housed multiple businesses at a time which made its lobby a meeting hub for Champaign. They included:  billiards parlor, pharmacy, restaurants, salons, and cocktail lounges. That is what we see returning to the Inman.  This is such a beautiful building that deserves to be showcased to the public.

Do you have any final words you would like to leave for the public?

I want everyone to know that The Inman is here and available for bookings. We’re excited about our Airbnb units, which might not have been widely advertised yet but it’s something we offer here. What I love about it is that all the units are on one floor, making it perfect for large groups who want to easily move from room to room and socialize.

This setup is especially great for wedding parties, which is one of our target groups, but really, it’s suitable for anyone. The accessibility features are top-notch, with elevators for those who need them. Plus, being located in the heart of downtown Champaign, The Inman offers easy access to all the wonderful local restaurants, shops, and events going on throughout the year. It’s effortless to navigate the building and explore everything the area has to offer. In the short term, we are hosting pop-up events and would love for Champaign-Urbana chefs to reach out to us and try out their next culinary adventure in our beautiful kitchen and dining rooms in the meantime. The Inman is here and ready for you to check out!

ankful for those who stayed and helped build a sense of community. Over the past year and a half, we’ve been focused on renovating The Inman, making it more welcoming. It’s become like my baby nowadays, as I’ve poured my heart and soul into it.

Through hard work and determination, we’ve managed to fill the space and even added commercial features to improve its appeal. Though it’s been a challenging journey, seeing The Inman thriving now makes all the effort worthwhile.