Linda Faas got tired of driving to St. Louis to get spices and other ingredients for her African cooking, so she opened Ogbah’s African Market in O’Fallon.
Ogbah is her middle name. She also sells imported clothing, hats, souvenirs, rugs, backpacks, masks, soaps and lotions.
“I figured all the Africans in this area would benefit from having a local store so they wouldn’t have to drive to St. Louis like I was doing,” said Faas, 34, of Belleville, who was born in the United States but grew up in Nigeria.
The small store is in a yellow-sided storefront at 110 W. State St. It opened in September.
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One of Faas’s customers is Queen Okalanwa, 31, of Swansea, whose husband is Nigerian. She has bought African stew seasonings and snacks such as chin chin, a sweet, fried pastry.
“If you’re married to someone, you want to find out what they are used to, and the things in her store help me,” Okalanwa said. “She has the seasonings for the traditional foods that make them taste good and very close to the original dishes.”
Ogbah’s is open Wednesdays through Saturdays. The rest of the time, Faas works as a correctional officer at Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center in East St. Louis.
Faas was born in Springfield, Missouri, while her parents were attending Bible school. They returned to their Nigerian homeland when she was a baby.
Faas moved back to the United States to live with friends in Louisiana at age 15.
“People said I’d have better opportunities in America since I was a U.S. citizen,” she said.
Food items at Ogbah’s include spices for pepper soup and jolloff rice and ingredients for garri, bantu soup and other African recipes.
The store is extremely colorful, between its bright-yellow walls and racks of imported clothing, such as dashiki shirts and boo boo dresses. Faas sells handmade jewelry, but it’s not from Africa.
“It’s really nice to have a store that’s not your normal mall store,” Okalanwa said. “Nothing is the same. Every piece of clothing is different. They’re handmade. They’re not made by a machine. They’re original.”
Downtown Edwardsville will have more offices and retail stores now that the City Council has approved selling its public safety facility, formerly City Hall, to a developer who plans to demolish it and construct a new building.
Last week, aldermen voted 6-0 to authorize Mayor Hal Patton to sell the facility to Gori Properties for $1,040,000. Alderman Craig Louer was absent.
“Right now, downtown Edwardsville is a beautiful place,” said Walter Williams, the city’s economic/community development director. “We have a lot of small boutiques and specialty stores that do very well. But we can always use more.”
The new five-story, 70,000-square-foot brick building on North Main will house offices for the law firm Gori Julian & Associates and others on the second through fifth floors, according to a project summary from the mayor’s office.
There will be 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and an underground-level parking garage. The fifth floor will combine offices with a rooftop terrace.
Plans also call for demolition of a brick house, recently used as a dentist’s office, at the corner of North Main and Abner Place. This will allow the Gori development to fill an entire block of North Main.
Retail space in the new building will consist of three to five stores, said attorney and developer Randy Gori, but it isn’t known who the tenants will be.
“I like the idea of mom-and-pop local businesses, but it just depends on who comes to see us,” he said, noting other retail spaces that he owns in Edwardsville have rented quickly.
The public safety facility is at 400-410 N. Main St. It was built in 1965 and served as City Hall until 1995, when offices for the mayor, city clerk and others were moved to Hillsboro Avenue. Since that time, it has been home to Edwardsville police and fire departments.
Those departments are moving to a new $12 million public safety facility at West Schwarz and South Main. The ribbon cutting is set for Dec. 2.
The city published a request for proposal regarding the North Main facility in May and distributed it to 20 developers, according to the project summary. Only Gori Properties responded by the July deadline.
“We’re in several different buildings in Edwardsville right now, so it will be nice to consolidate all of our office space,” Randy Gori said.
I like the idea of mom-and-pop local businesses, but it just depends on who comes to see us.
Randy Gori on tenants in his new office building
The City Council’s Administrative and Community Services Committee had recommended approval of Gori’s proposal after discussion at its Nov. 16 meeting.
Alderman S.J. Morrison, a committee member, has pushed for a diverse combination of office, restaurant and retail space around Madison County Courthouse to keep downtown Edwardsville lively and interesting.
“Sales tax revenue is important to the city, but it’s as much about creating a vibrant streetscape,” he said.
TheBANK of Edwardsville has opened a new facility in St. Charles, Missouri — its second location on the other side of the Mississippi River.
The new facility will focus only on lending-related services, including commercial, mortgage and retail loans.
“We’re excited to be in the St. Charles area,” President and CEO Kevin Powers stated in a press release. “We first ventured into the St. Louis market three years ago and opened our Clayton Center about a year and a half ago.
“We’ve had our eye on the St. Charles area since the beginning. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success in a short period of time in the St. Louis market, and we feel this will only help us continue to build on that success.”
TheBANK is a locally-owned institution that was established in 1868. It has 20 locations. Besides Clayton and St. Charles, the other 18 are in Madison and St. Clair counties.
The St. Charles facility is the only one limited to lending-related services.
“The rest are full-service banking centers,” said Mark Cruse, marketing coordinator.
The St. Charles facility is at 3050 W. Clay St., Suite 100. Services are available by appointment only.