By Tony Hooker
And there was great rejoicing.
After 15 months, the Embarras River Bridge project in Villa Grove is drawing to a close, and with its end in sight, the delays and stop light miseries are also at an end. There was some speculation around town as to whether IDOT would leave the stop light at the four-way stop, but it proved to be incorrect, as the lights were pulled as quickly as they could be. We’re once again a no-stop light town, which is the way most locals prefer it.
There is, however, another perspective to the bridge being finished. For the past year plus, the bridge crew has been frequenting our local grocery store, bars and restaurants.
When asked about the financial impact they had made at Rick’s Country Market, Jessica Baird said she wasn’t sure of the exact number, but that it was significant. “We had at least four guys eating lunch every day,” she stated. “I miss my bridge boys.” Her “bridge boys” also contributed to the local economy in other ways. They rented houses or apartments. They went out and had a cocktail or two after work. They bought groceries to cook in their rental homes, or they ate dinner or lunch at JR’s, the Tri City Country Club and every other restaurant in town. Karla Westray from JR’s was also quick to note the impact they made, not only financially, but socially. “We came to expect them in the afternoons when they got off work,” she said. “Like everyone else who comes in, they weren’t only our customers, but they became our friends.”
As usual, Villa Grove stood out from the crowd. Some of the bridge boys reported that they had never been treated as neighborly in other towns as they were, right here in river city. Some of them even reported to Karla that they would be back with their spouses at some point to introduce them to their new friends. So, kudos to the folks from Sangamo Construction for easily assimilating into the fiber of our community. And kudos to VG for being open and welcoming, even if it could get a little messy at times. “I even miss the dirt and mud they tracked into the store, “ Jessica Baird lamented, with a smile.
New establishment set to open
The Korner Beehive is undergoing their final inspections and getting ready to open their doors to the public. As reported previously, the Beehive is a coffee shop, and so much more. Its plan is to be as veteran centric as possible, with most, if not all of their vendors being veteran owned. Although it will definitely be open to the public, the hope is that veterans who might not feel comfortable elsewhere will be compelled to have a cup with fellow vets across all branches. As the name implies, the two owner/operators, Mary Hite and Bethany Floyd-Jenks, are Navy veterans, having served in the Seabees, the navy’s construction brigade. It sounds like it’s going to be a good place to go for good coffee and good conversation.