Shannon Dickens enjoys being in business for herself but also wants to give back and contribute to the community that supports her enterprise.
That’s why her new lounge at Chateau Plaza in Fairview Heights features artwork from local artists. She opened her doors at the Cloud 9 Lounge & Emporium earlier this month and has planned a grand opening for April 20.
She recently invited business writer Will Buss to her new business to discuss her vision:
What do you provide your customers?
“We have fresh pastries from Berkemann’s in New Baden. We have Thomas brand coffee and Community coffee as well. We are military veterans, so I try to support them as much as I can. We have chips and other drinks and juices. Besides the pastries, we have doughnuts and muffins and we can do some special orders as well. All of our inventory is all handmade from local artists and others who live in different states. We have glass art, macrame, wire wrap. We also have Wi-Fi and TV.”
Why did you go into this business?
“I wanted a coffee house. I always wanted a bed and breakfast, but that’s kind of unattainable and kind of a money pit sometimes. About three years ago is when I started building my business plan and seeking out grants, but there’s really nothing to start out a business. Most shops are just geared to certain clientele, but I didn’t want to have that. I wanted to have everybody. I wanted to have a place for kids, because I have kids and they help me do things and plan the kids events we will have here. It just kind of happened.”
How did you come up with this idea for a business?
“I have a social psychology degree and I was in the military. You know how people go through training and internships? I never did that because we were always moving. My husband was always deployed, and I was always working in various jobs on the base. So after my husband and I finished school, I started thinking about it.”
What kind of artwork do you sell?
“Glassware and woodwork. The woodwork is from Charles Free. He is a retired military member who lives in O’Fallon. Some of the jewelry is from Massachusetts, New York and Florida. I noticed it a couple of weeks prior on Facebook and I watched her work and commented and shared. I told her that I wanted to buy from her. ...”
How would you describe your lounge?
“It’s just a safe place. There are a lot teenagers who come in here just to do their homework and a lot of other people who come in here. Sometimes you can’t do that at home because you get distracted. It has not been that busy, yet, so they are able to do what they need to do. It’s just been a collection of people. At Starbucks, you can’t let your kids go in and play there. But I have kids’ books and games. So we have something for kids when they come in. It gives them a place to go. We have a nice relaxing place. I picked this place because of the neighbors. The comedy club, I talked to them because we want to do functions together and parking lot functions like festivals. I also plan to start hosting hula hoop classes here.”
Hula hoop classes?
“I know it sounds silly, but there’s a lot of people who are interested in it. It really is an art form. You don’t just use it around your waist, it can be used all over. It’s exercise. I do it at home and it gets your heart going. It’s fun.”
What else would you like to do with your new business?
“I want to start a nonprofit and I have talked to my landlord about building out on the grass plot out there and develop an urban garden to have a community activity where people come and work together and they can take what they want, if they work for it. It’s kind of a give-and-take thing. I think there’s a lot of potential there.”