Belleville 200th anniversary store opens downtown

News-DemocratSeptember 26, 2013 

— The Belleville 200th Anniversary Memorabilia Store to raise money for the city's bicentennial events in 2014 has opened downtown.

The store debuted last Friday during the Belleville Oktoberfest, the one-year mark of the main bicentennial celebration that will take place next Oktoberfest, Sept. 19-21, 2014.

The store is located at 227 E. Main St., a city-owned building that previously housed the Belleville Main Street Association.

The entrance to the store is set back from the street, and marked by a trellis and fence decorated with flowers and lights.

"We tried to make the atmosphere in front of the store look like a little German garden," said Debbie Belleville, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department and a Bicentennial 200 Committee member. "It's just a nice, little, quaint corner."

Store hours are noon to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The store is staffed by volunteers and will be open through Dec. 31, 2014.

The Bicentennial Committee has assembled a variety of items for sale in the city's colors -- green, black, yellow and white -- with the Belleville anniversary logo.

At the store are green and gold holiday ornaments, T-shirts, paperweights and beer steins.

There are also jelly beans in pouches or containers, marked with the anniversary emblem, from Jelly Belly, which has ties to Belleville.

"Not everybody knows that, so our store is trying to educate people, too," Belleville said.

The Jelly Belly was crafted by candy makers of the Goelitz Confectionery Co., which was started by Gustav Goelitz. He emigrated to Belleville in 1867 and learned to make candy by hand.

The committee will continue to add new merchandise throughout the year, especially items linked to the city's German roots, Belleville said.

The committee plans to have pieces recognizing Belleville's sister city, Paderborn, Germany, and other items such as pilsner beer glasses, hot plates and Advent calendars.

The committee also wants to partner with local vendors to make and sell merchandise, Belleville said.

For instance, Todd Keller, a financial consultant who collects cars, and oil and gas memorabilia, decided to produce 12-inch collectible metal signs with the Belleville logo through his Motor Car Memories Inc.

"I think people would love to send it to friends and relatives who have moved away from Belleville," Keller said. "I have a brother in Michigan and I think it'll be nice to send him something from his hometown so he can reflect on where he grew up."

Keller charged the Bicentennial Committee for just the cost of making the circular Belleville signs, now being sold for $16 at the store.

"He's a lifelong Belleville resident and that's exactly why he wants to give back to Belleville," Belleville said.

The committee also got a boost from the now shuttered Teacher's Aid, a store that sold teaching materials, with a donation of shelves for the store.

Belleville estimates the committee needs to raise $500,000 to put on the main celebration.

The next major events are a gala at Fischer's Restaurant on March 8 and a Bicentennial Parade and 5K Fun Run on April 25.

An ongoing fundraiser is the sale of 200 limited edition 1-ounce silver anniversary coins, printed with images of the downtown fountain and the horn from the city's flag.

The coins, numbered 1 to 200, cost $200 each. The committee has sold 100 coins.

To purchase items online or for more information on the city's bicentennial events, visit www.belleville200.com.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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