Special to the EagleHerald
Benjamin Golley and his business, Today's Beauty Supply, is based in Alton, Illinois, and was included in season 3 of "Small Business Revolution — Main Street," which ended this summer.
Special to the EagleHerald

Benjamin Golley and his business, Today's Beauty Supply, is based in Alton, Illinois, and was included in season 3 of "Small Business Revolution — Main Street," which ended this summer.

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Different people, different stories.

But in the end, the owners of the small businesses chosen by the Deluxe Corp. and “Small Business Revolution — Main Street” for renovations and revitalizing find out they are not so different after all.

Marinette and Menominee have been selected as one of the Top 20 communities by Small Business Revolution to potentially participate in Season 4 of the online series and receive $500,000 for marketing, physical renovations and business advice from experts in their fields.

To get there, this community has to make it to the Top 10, and then the Top 5, before a nationwide online vote selects the winner.

But other communities came first.

In Season 1, it was Wabash, Indiana, a small northern town of about 11,000 residents, located about 85 miles from Indianapolis.

The Season 2 winner was Bristol Borough, one of Pennsylvania’s oldest boroughs and a melting pot of nationalities, people and culture.

In Season 3, SBR tackled its biggest challenge in Alton, Illinois, a city of about 30,000 people, and a rich history with its ties to the Civil War and the Underground Railroad.

Two of the 18 business owners chosen to have their establishments put under the marketing and business management microscope of the Deluxe team and other experts were Annabella’s, an Italian restaurant in Bristol Borough; and Today’s Beauty Supply, a retail store in the Central district of Alton.

Benjamin Golley, owner of Today’s Beauty Supply, and Alison Angelaccio, co-owner of Annabella’s with her husband, Robert, shared their experiences with the EagleHerald in telephone interviews Thursday and Friday.

Their stories speak of not only their personal experiences, but to the positive effect Small Business Revolution has had on their communities.

It is a gift that continues to give.

“The whole town got involved,” said Angelaccio, whose husband returned to his hometown and opened Annabella (its original name) about 15 years ago, after running a restaurant for two decades in Colorado.

She said there have been changes to businesses throughout the downtown since the Season 2 series aired, and the vacancies in downtown buildings went from 20 to 2.

On a personal note, Annabella’s business “has doubled” since the changes were made to the exterior, the kitchen, the dining room and, most of all, the marketing.

“We have replaced every piece of equipment in the kitchen and expanded the chef’s table,” she said, adding that they had purchased a gelato machine and a fresh pasta cooker.

The biggest change came from simplifying their menu, but also increasing customer flow during what used to be their off-peak season.

“Business has been more consistent,” she said. The local theater’s productions several times a year still create a busy flow for Annabella’s. “When they are in production, we are packed,” she said. “But it’s much more even” she said of other times of the year. Robert is the chef and Alison makes the desserts, but also works at the local community college.

Golley said it is too soon to gauge the overall financial impact, since Season 3 ending this summer, but said he is on track to do better this year than last year.

Golley has owned his business for more than 18 years, and said he started before social media and marketing was in everybody’s business plan.

“Eighteen years ago, there was no Facebook or Instagram,” he said of the marketing direction he has received and continues to promote.

His business received a complete makeover from the Deluxe team — in what he calls “a holistic approach. They look at finances, construction and marketing.”

In the episode of Season 3 that focused on Golley’s business and the other space of his building reserved for kids of the neighborhood to hang out and study or play video games, viewers could see that everything inside the store was taken out and the building was remodeled inside and out.

“My process, my story was ‘be careful what you wish for,’” he said of the onslaught of work that had to be done in a short period of time. “It was all hands on,” he said.

But he had the support of his neighborhood and his customers, even when product was moved from the inside to the large front porch.

“My customer base still showed up,” he said of those who bought items right off the porch. He said is showed the “loyalty and support from the community” which was the base of his business.

People from the Central area of Alton are among the most impoverished, and its businesses are “embedded” with residential. Golley said there are eight or nine businesses there, including his, and they struggle to keep up, as their neighborhood goes through constant changes. But there are improvements being made since the series aired this year, with neighbors on both sides of his street working on their buildings.

Central’s story, and the divide between Alton, Upper Alton and Central, came as a bit of a surprise to the Deluxe team, he said.

“Alton is a bigger town with several different pockets,” he said. “It hit Small Business Revolution by surprise — they didn’t think it was part of the story.”

“My story brought some of those social issues to the table and laid it out there, and they had to make a decision whether or not they were going to run with it. But because of Amanda, and Matt (Naylor) and Julie (Gordon) and the staff, they encouraged and said, ‘Hey, this is the story.’”

So the SBR team, with Deluxe, told the story in a honest way, he said.

“It was truthful and realistic,” he said of the story they presented and of the conversation it started about the racial divide in the community.

As the project moved forward, everyone involved had a seat at the table. And while it hasn’t solved the racial differences in the community, “what is has done is allowed the conversation to start,” Golley said.

He was invited to speak at the finale event and shared a personal and emotional speech that touched those who heard or watched it.

Recently, the city held a “Peace Meal,” where people came from all ethnic and religious backgrounds to have a meal together. Alton has picked up on the feeling of community separation and is working toward bringing people together, he said.

Angelaccio said, as a result of SBR, Bristol’s business association has been revived, and is working together to bring more activities to the downtown. An event called First Fridays creates a festival on the two main business streets each month, and there are plenty of things to do “and so many people,” she said.

“There is a new pride in the town; everyone is looking at us,” she said of the exposure the show brought to her community.

She said the restaurant is doing so well, that Robert is considering shutting it down for a week after Christmas.

Both Golley and Angelaccio have great things to say about the people who came into their lives from Deluxe and the “Small Business Revolution — Main Street” production team.

“This is an uplifting show,” Angelaccio said, saying she asked Amanda Brinkman, the creator of the show and the chief brand and communications officer with Deluxe, why the show wasn’t on network television. “Everybody should see this,” Angelaccio said.

Angelaccio said she has been asked if the people from SBR and Deluxe are really as nice as they seem to be in the program.

“They are truly the nicest people that walk the earth,” she said. As far as the Flow/Nonfiction film crew from Austin, Texas, “We just loved them. They spent a lot of time at Annabella’s, because when the day was over, they would come an spend time in the dining room and they just relaxed. We got to know them really well. They are just the most authentic people.”

She said the same of “Amanda and Julie and Cam (Potts) from Minnesota, they’re typical Midwestern, just the most generous, kind people. Always looking to help — we still are in contact with them.”

Golley said there was a lot of work that went on behind the scenes with the Deluxe team to help him with marketing, product placement and business information.

That work continues.

“That’s what’s wonderful about it,” he said. “They don’t leave you. It’s almost like you’ve become an alumni.”

He said he has access to experts like Gordon and the Deluxe staff, “to communicate and ask questions and order things I need or want; and I have that as long as I want it.”

He said “The Deluxe staff, they are so warm. And you know when you can sense people are just good people, beyond just their job? They are doing something that they truly love and have passion behind. They want to see you succeed as much as you want.”

Episodes of all three seasons of “Small Business Revolution — Main Street” can be viewed on Hulu or at https://www.deluxe.com/small-business-revolution/main-street/