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New Schoenbein and Sweet Soul partnership in VG

Photo: Tony Hooker Stacy Rea, Juschinda Schoenbein, and Dana Clark of Sweet Soul in Villa Grove.

By Tony Hooker
What do you get when three ladies with sweet souls who love dogs get together? 

In Villa Grove, you get a combination dog grooming/doggie boutique that bears the Sweet Soul name. I recently caught up with Juschinda Schoenbein, Stacy Rea and Dana Clark to talk about their new business, located on south main Street. 

Juschinda, how long have you been in business?

I’ve been grooming dogs for twenty years, but I’ve been in business in Villa Grove since 2008. 

What was behind your decision to open a storefront and move your business out of your home?

I hired Mel (Rauckman) to help because I was getting so many dogs, getting overwhelmed and working so many hours, and we were on top of each other in the basement. It was just too tight and cramped with more dogs and Mel and I being down there. I also didn’t like the stairs with my older clients and older dogs. This (Main street space) popped up and I went for it. 

Stacy and Dana, what was the impetus to bring Sweet Soul into the doggie world, for lack of a better way of putting it?

<DC> We have Sweet Soul in Tuscola, and we started implementing tee shirts with dogs and cats and things like that, and they really went over well. Both Stacy and I have been long time customers of Juschinda, and when we found out she was up here, we were like “Oh my gosh! Do you want to try this?”, and that’s where it was born.

What sort of products are you offering?

<DC> We’re going to have tee shirts and sweatshirts, apparel for humans, and then we’ll have socks and hats, some dog collars and leashes, chew bones and treats and things like that.

<SR>We’ll have purses and dog clothes, things like that. Anything for your dog that we come across, basically! <smiles> We have leash holders for your home. We found birthday cakes and party supplies, things like that. When people bring their dogs up to get groomed, they’ll find little treats and things like that. They’ll be able to go to the canister and get their dog a little treat. Also, Juschinda carries a good line of shampoos and perfumes.

You have perfumes for doggies?

<JS> I do! I’ve actually sold quite a lot of them! <laughs>

How long have you had the merchandise in your shop?

I’ve had the perfume and shampoo in there for probably the past two years. Dana and Stacy just brought all of this (clothing & merchandise) in last Friday. 

It sounds like there’s a lot of interest in it?

<JS> Definitely, yes. People want to shop local, and if they’re already here and the items are available, they would rather buy them rather than have to go to a big box store. Here, people can bring their dog in to try on the item and see if it’s going to fit. 

Has having Main street exposure caused a positive jump in your business? 

Business has definitely started booming. We’ve got new clients every day. With having the storefront, we’ve got people who walk by. Believe it or not, there are tons of people who never knew I had a business. They think I just popped up a couple of days ago! <smiles>

<SR> We think it really compliments each business because now our stuff’s here and people are starting to see that we’re in Tuscola and that they can go there to there to shop, and we are able to tell people in Tuscola who ask about a groomer about Juschinda. We’re sending them over here because they’re interested in the dog products so it’s really starting to parallel ( the growth of) each business.

<JS> It’s been happening, even in the short time we’ve had their products.

Can you see this growing your human customer base?

<DC> Our heart is here in Villa Grove, but three years ago when we opened up Sweet Soul, we debated where to open our boutique. At the time, there was really no place to open in Villa Grove, but also because of the traffic from the Mall and that sort of thing. As times have changed nation and world-wide, we’re seeing people that do want to shop local and support their own communities instead of buying online, coming from China or wherever things come from. We opened Sweet Soul in the beginning to give people that small town experience where you walk in, and we know your name. I remember growing up here in Villa Grove, there were stores all up and down Main Street. I was telling my husband this morning that there was the Lady Bug, the Index and PN Hirsch and the shoe store, and now here I am now, with Sweet Soul and Juschinda, kind of going back to the old days. I travel a lot with my other job, and I’m seeing that in a lot of other towns. Main streets are picking up again, rather than everyone going to the big box stores. It’s safe, you know familiar faces. We’ve been locked up for the last two years because of the pandemic and people want the experience of getting out and seeing old friends and familiar faces in a place where they feel safe. 

Do you envision that same sort of hometown, local, laid back, sweet vibe in Villa Grove that you have at your store in Tuscola?

<SR> It was very important to us to collaborate with someone who can maintain our reputation in general and who would be kind. We wanted to be sure to collaborate with someone who obviously has a good reputation, also. It was very important to us to keep that going, working with people who want to build it up in the community. 

From a business standpoint, it makes sense, but can you see where, with the Main street improvement project and everything else, your business can help that and also grow from it?

I definitely do. I like having the businesses around here. For example, the Korner Beehive is doing really well. We have a lot of clients who come from out of town and don’t have anything to do while their pet is being groomed, so I’ll send them down to the Korner Beehive or Trisa’s Quilting Corner or Main Street Treasures. I like to see that Main Street is coming alive again, and it makes me feel good. 

<SR> That’s what people are looking for. They’re looking for specialty shops and that hometown feel. They want to walk the streets and get that feeling again. 

Is there anything you would like to add?

<JS> Not really, I’m a little tired, but I’m excited and happy to be here. I’m glad to be here on main street. 

<DC> Someday, we (Sweet Soul) would love to be a bigger part of the growth of downtown Villa Grove. We have to be a part of the community, and if they support us, there’s no limit. It is hard to be a small business, competing with the big box stores and the shipping and all the price increases and all the stuff we’re living in today. We’re doing all we can to keep it reasonable. If you order something online and don’t like it and have to pay to ship it back, did you really save any money? I think all of us are touchy-feely. I want to touch it and feel it and see the quality of things. 

<JS> I personally don’t like buying any clothing online. You never know what you’re going to get and it’s often not the right fit or not what you wanted. 

That’s another good point, because you just can’t tell how high quality the items you’re selling are. Without coming into the shop, you’re not going to know how sweet and soft those sweatshirts are, and you combine that with a kind and soft and sweet groomer, and it all flows together. 

<SR> It changes constantly. Every day we get new products in, that’s what we like to do, we like to shop! <laughs> Everything will change. Juschinda will be opening and shutting that door, hopefully the drawer more than the door, quite a bit because people stopping in will get that hometown feel. You’re going to know the person and you’ll be able to stop and chat with her and see new things. If you’re a pet lover this is the place to be.

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