Kim Mattson knows how it feels to walk into a store and not see any clothes in her size. Sure, she could buy jewelry — but why should she settle? So she opened her own store, The Middle Sister: A Curvy Boutique, at 211 S. Prospect Road, Suite 15A, Bloomington.
BLOOMINGTON — Kim Mattson knows how it feels to walk into a store and not see any clothes in her size. Sure, she could buy jewelry — but why should she settle?
she opened her own store, where she stocks women’s tops, jeans, dresses, leggings and more in sizes up to 6X. The Middle Sister: A Curvy Boutique opened in August at 211 S. Prospect Road, Suite 15A, Bloomington.
The Middle Sister: A Curvy Boutique carries women’s sizes up to 6X at 211 S. Prospect Road, Suite 15A, Bloomington.
“I wanted to offer something more to the community,” Mattson said. “It’s so much needed. There’s nowhere else to go.”
The name of her store is inspired by her place as the middle sister in her family.
“I have an older sister and a younger sister who are regular sizes. I am not, and I used to be, but I had kids, put myself on the back burner, life takes hold and, like most women, I put myself last,” Mattson said. “I finally accepted my size — it’s just a number.”
Kim Mattson opened The Middle Sister: A Curvy Boutique at 211 S. Prospect Road, Suite 15A, Bloomington.
She put her background in bookkeeping and office work to use in planning for The Middle Sister, which opened its online storefront Aug. 1 and its brick-and-mortar site Aug. 6.
Knowing that sizes vary greatly by brand, with sizes 4X to 6X being the hardest to find, Mattson aims to carry several different brands to accommodate all shapes and sizes.
A coffee mug reads “Thick thighs save lives” at The Middle Sister: A Curvy Boutique at 211 S. Prospect Road, Suite 15A, Bloomington.
“If you have three or four women who are, say, a size 20, they’re all going to be shaped differently. … They may be apples, pears, triangles, tall, short,” she said.
She looks for clothing and accessories that will appeal to all ages, from her 27-year-old daughter-in-law to her 72-year-old mother.
Also on her list of must-haves: comfort, convenience and class. The store has super-soft sweaters and tops, matching pajama sets, and pockets aplenty, even in leggings and scarves.
Scarves, sweaters and bath products are displayed in advance of Christmas shopping season at The Middle Sister: A Curvy Boutique at 211 S. Prospect Road, Suite 15A, Bloomington.
“It’s gotta be comfortable,” Mattson said. “Comfort is key. But also classy. … We all want to be comfortable, but we also want to look nice.”
Kim Mattson opened The Middle Sister: A Curvy Boutique at 211 S. Prospect Road, Suite 15A, Bloomington.
But the passion for Mattson’s business goes beyond filling a void in the retail industry.
In November 2020, Mattson’s granddaughter, Ava, developed a fever she couldn’t get rid of, and her abdomen began to swell. Doctors sent the family to OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois, where doctors found a mass in the baby’s liver and diagnosed it as a malignant rhabdoid tumor. They gave her a 5% chance of survival, even with chemotherapy. Ava died April 2 of this year, missing her first birthday by two weeks.
In Ava’s memory, Mattson set aside a section of her store as Ava’s Corner, where 80% of proceeds from those items will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and its local affiliates.
“You don’t realize how important the fight against childhood cancer is until it happens to your own family or to someone who’s close to you,” Mattson said.
In the future, Mattson would like her store to host small gatherings with a charity aspect.
Items in Ava’s Corner at The Middle Sister, 211 S. Prospect Road, Suite 15A, Bloomington, give back 80% of proceeds to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and its local affiliates.
Other future plans include expanding her hours in November, finding the perfect line of jeans and intimates to carry, and maybe, someday, expanding with stores in other cities.
“I want women to know that they are enough. They are beautiful on the inside and the outside,” Mattson said. “Don’t let anyone make you feel that you are unworthy or that you are not the same just because you are a larger size.”
Owner Kim Mattson shows off products on the sale racks at The Middle Sister: A Curvy Boutique at 211 S. Prospect Road, Suite 15A, Bloomington.
The Middle Sister is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The store is closed Sunday and Monday.
20 Bloomington-Normal places of the past
20 B–N places of the past
What do you remember from the 90s? The 80s? The 70s and before? This collection takes a look at local businesses and establishments that have closed their doors and stayed in our memories.
The Grand Hotel is a landmark among Twin City eateries.
In a 1997 “Best of Pantagraphland” survey the restaurant was ranked as having the best fried chicken. The restaurant, which was located at 1201 E. Emerson St., was torn down in 2002.
Specials throughout the years included fried chicken, domestic rabbit, fish fries and Italian spaghetti. The restaurant held parties on New Year’s Eve, Halloween and other holidays.
Pictured: The Grand Hotel is seen in May 2001.
The Jefferson Cafeteria
The Jefferson Cafeteria was located on the east side of the courthouse square in Bloomington from the late 1930s until 1969.
Advertisements boasted “fine foods — deliciously prepared by seven experienced women who like to cook and prepare well seasoned foods.” Specials included creamed chicken, deep sea perch, baked chicken, lemon pudding, and pumpkin pie, and cost between 4 and 33 cents.
The Jefferson Cafeteria was closed by Donald Thompson, who took over the businesses in May 1968 from John Grassfield. Grassfield opened the cafeteria in 1933.
College Hills Mall
College Hills Mall was finished two months ahead of schedule and opened on Aug. 14, 1980, with 177,000 square feet of mall area and 75,000 square feet of public area. The 45-acre site cost $21 million to construct. In the 1980s, College Hills Mall and Eastland Mall offered B-N shoppers a combined five major department stores and 117 smaller stores.
From the late 1990s into the early 2000s, stores were closed throughout the mall until it went up for sale in November 2003. Cullinan Properties Ltd. purchased the property and the present-day Shoppes at College Hills opened on Aug. 17, 2005 — almost exactly 25 years after the opening of the original.
University Cinemas opened in 1971 near the Illinois State University campus, and with its two screens, pioneered the multiplex concept in Bloomington-Normal. The screen count increased to four, and later eight, through subsequent expansions.
In May 2009, the theater closed for a week-long conversion into a “dollar house” cinema. Ticket and concession prices were all lowered. This status has historically marked the last stage in a theater’s lifespan.
The theater abruptly closed its doors in July 2010, despite having booked a full slate of films for the upcoming weekend. While the closing was not unexpected, it came without warning, according to Ruth Kreiser, district manager for the theater’s owner, Carmike Cinemas.
In place of the theater today are the . The 56-apartment complex has a total of 204 bedrooms in a variety of combinations from two-bedroom to four-bedroom styles. 1010 Lofts on Main
Double Nickel Drive-In
A “unique and exciting restaurant decorated in the era of the 1950s,” the Double Nickel Drive-In opened in June 1988. Its name reflected its location on Business Loop 55.
Located at Veterans Parkway and Morrissey Drive, the restaurant had two drive-up windows and inside seating for 54 patrons. It was built on the site of the former Streid’s Restaurant and served frozen custard, ice cream, hamburgers, chicken, fish and more.
Pictured above: “Ryan Chambers, 3, left, and Nicole Hilton, 6, don’t know anything about the 50s, but the two dined in full ’50s style at the Double Nickel Drive-In.”
The first Steak ’n Shake
Gus Belt opened the first Steak ’n Shake at Main Street and Virginia Avenue in Normal (now home to Monical’s Pizza), after he added food to a Shell service station line-up of gasoline, tires and turtleburgers.
The chain restaurant, which includes a sit-down dining room and drive-through lanes, was founded in 1934 in the Twin Cities.
Belt died in 1954, and his wife Edith ran the chain until 1969. Current owner Biglari Holdings Inc. of San Antonio, Texas, has more than 500 Steak ’n Shake restaurants in 27 states.
The Eureka Co. (later Electrolux)
For a period of time, Bloomington was the North American headquarters for The Eureka Co., which later became Electrolux. From the 1940s until 2000, its vacuums and other products were manufactured in Bloomington-Normal.
Its roots can be traced to 1909, when the Eureka Co. began in Detroit. By 1927, the company sold one-third of all vacuums in the U.S.
The company merged with Williams Oil-O-Matic, a Bloomington company that made heating and refrigeration equipment in 1945, and became the Eureka-Williams Corp.
In 1974, AB Electrolux purchased the company and another name change occurred – this time to The Eureka Co. Over the years, the company had several locations in Bloomington, including 1201 E. Bell St., and its final headquarters at 807 N. Main St. The Eureka name disappeared in 2004, when it became known as Electrolux.
Sadly, after decades as a major employer in the community, Electrolux made a clean sweep out of Bloomington-Normal in 2011. Its final headquarters on Main Street was demolished this month.
Mr. Quick Drive-In
Normal became the site of the first Mr. Quick Drive-In in the summer of 1960. The drive-in boasted a 15 cent “bigger, better, tastier 100% pure government inspected hamburger.”
The last location of the Bloomington-based restaurant chain was closed and put up for sale in January 2001.
For nearly a century, Illinois State University’s oldest and largest building loomed over the campus grounds and town environs. It was the Watterson Towers of its day, though instead of brutalist concrete, Old Main offered a more pleasing arrangement of brick and Italianate woodwork.
Dedicated in 1861, the administration and classroom building was originally known as Normal Hall because, back then, ISU was called Normal University. Old Main remained the center of campus life well into the 20th century. Yet by 1946, concerns of the structural integrity kind led to the removal of the dome and entire third floor. A new roof was then placed over the second story, and the building continued to welcome students, though in a somewhat diminished state.
On July 17, 1958, the wrecking ball took care of the rest. Today, a memorial to Old Main featuring a bell from the beloved building can be found on the north end of the ISU Quad. Founders Day tradition calls for members of the ISU community to venture out to the quad for a ceremony in which the bell is struck once for each year of ISU’s existence.
Read more about Old Main in this column by Bill Kemp.
For 68 years, Miller’s Hardware served the community.
The Miller True Value Hardware building was located at 200 W. Monroe St. in downtown Bloomington; the company moved there from another downtown site in 1977. The hardware store closed in the summer of 1993, a victim of changing retail trends in the Twin Cities.
In a 1993 letter to the editor, two Normal residents wrote, “We loved the ‘old’ store with its hardwood floors; at Christmas our children loved the toy department in the ‘new’ store, upstairs, and at every season would race off to see the fish, and to visit the monkey, who never failed to give them a delicious scare by furiously banging the side of his cage.”
Gil’s Country Inn
The restaurant was particularly known for its fried chicken — Wednesday nights were chicken-only nights. Gil’s Country Inn was located on Mackinaw Road, south of Townline Road, about 20 miles away from Bloomington and a few miles northwest of Minier.
Karen Bressner and her husband, Larry, bought the restaurant in March 1997 from Larry’s father, Ron, who had owned it for 13 years. There’s been a restaurant at that spot for about 40 years. Gil’s was originally opened by Gil Morton in 1978.
In a 1997 “Best of Pantagraphland” survey, Gil’s ranked third in the “best fried chicken” category.
Cotton’s Village Inn
Cotton’s Village Inn was located at 401 N. Main St. in downtown Bloomington.
Owned by Melton and Millie McNabney, who went by the names of Mr. and Mrs. Cotton, the restaurant featured specialties such as ham loaf, creamed chicken pie, swiss steak, date nut pudding and pecan pie.
Columnist Steve Vogel wrote in 2013:
“Cotton’s was a unique restaurant in the basement of the building at the northeast corner of Main and Monroe. You walked down covered outside steps (still there) to a small eatery with whitewashed walls decorated with hand-painted ivy and Bavarian scenes.
The menu had simple daily specials crammed onto a single typewritten sheet with humorous thoughts and sayings added along the edges. Owner Cotton McNabney might show you to a table in one of the semi-private alcoves (former coal bins) under the sidewalk. Don’t know when it opened, but Cotton’s was there back when Route 66 passed through downtown. Cotton’s closed around 1976. Reopened as Halfpenny’s Village Inn, it didn’t last long. A unique place to take visitors.”
Pictured above in August 1962: Jack Stats, left, a Bloomington native and art teacher, has been doing murals on the walls of Cotton’s Village Inn of and on since high school.
Once the Sinorak ruled.
It was what they called a smorgasbord (or a one-price, all-you-can-eat cafeteria) at the south edge of Bloomington. Pete Karonis owned it and named his place after himself, Sinorak being Karonis spelled backwards.
You could get roast beef, fried chicken, ham, pork chops, salads, steamed vegetables, chunks of watermelon and big ol’ scoops of cottage cheese until your eyes changed color. People lined up practically into the parking lot just for the pleasure of passing through those food lines and filling their plates and bowls to overflowing, oohing and aahing over this delectable or that delight. You could get as much as you wanted and it still only cost the same.
Pictured is a serving table at the restaurant. Diners served themselves; lunch was served from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for 95 cents, and dinner was serve from 5 to 9 p.m. for $1.65.
The site originally was the Phil-Kron drive-in theater and restaurant, which opened in 1947. The restaurant name later was changed to Sinorak. The drive-in was purchased by the Kerasotes theater chain in 1958. It closed in 1984, after being damaged in a fire that destroyed the vacant Sinorak.
The F.W. Woolworth Company opened for business on March 1, 1918 in the Durley building at the corner of Main and Jefferson streets in downtown Bloomington. In 1939, a fire destroyed the Durley building and damage was estimated at $300,000.
Woolworth left downtown for 30,000-square-foot location in Eastland Mall in 1967. Pictured is the “colonial” storefront in the mall.
After 30 years as an Eastland Mall tenant, the Woolworth location in Bloomington was closed in 1997; it was among the brand’s remaining 400 five-and-dime stores nationwide after 118 years of business.
Biasi’s Drug Store
In 1922, Edward C. Biasi opened a store on the northeast corner of the courthouse square. For the next 62 years Biasi’s was a fixture on the first floor of the six-story Griesheim Building, with Biasi calling it “probably the very best business location of Bloomington.”
Although Edward C. Biasi passed away in June 1963 at the age of 71, the business remained an ongoing concern as Biasi’s Drug Stores, Inc. In 1973, pharmacists John L. “Jack” Ingold and Steven Richter purchased the drug store, though Ingold, who had worked there full-time since 1958, would become the sole owner.
Disaster struck in late August 1984, when the Griesheim Building was lost in one of the more spectacular fires in recent Twin City history.
The blaze proved a complete loss for Ingold, though with the help of John McGinnis he opened a temporary location at the former Color Wheel store at 413 N. Main St. To his credit, Ingold (who died in 2012) never entertained the idea of moving his store to the city’s sprawling east side.
In mid-October 1984, less than two months after the fire, Biasi’s was back on the east side of the courthouse square, now in the Unity Building, a similarly impressive multistory professional building located on the south end of the block. Incredibly, less than four years later, July 3, 1988, a fire destroyed the Unity Building. “Lightning does strike twice,” a stunned Ingold said the following day.
Biasi’s reopened that same month on the south side of the courthouse square, and in November 1990, the drug store moved into the newly constructed Snyder Building, which had replaced the Griesheim and Unity buildings as well as those sandwiched in between on the 200 block of North Main Street. After three-quarters of a century in downtown Bloomington, Biasi’s closed for good on Jan. 18, 1997.
Read more about Biasi’s in this column by Bill Kemp.
When the General Electric plant opened in 1955, it employed more than 1,000 workers. Its then-rural east Bloomington location was part of a post-World War II movement that saw factories leave the core of inner cities for more lush suburban surroundings.
A casualty of a slowing, shifting economy, officials at GE Consumer & Industrial announced plans in 2009 to shutter the Bloomington plant by the end of 2010. While the October 2010 plant closure may not have shocked those with GE ties, its loss was still mourned.
The 56-year-old plant at one time employed 1,600 people, growing Bloomington toward the east. It was also among the first well-paying local companies to employ white workers side-by-side with black peers.
In 2012, Destihl converted an old General Electric warehouse into a brewery facility, ramping up production of many varieties of beer. In 2011, t
he 420,000-square-foot building was still owned by GE; parts of it were listed as “available for lease” by various agents.
Livingston’s Department Store
Livingston’s Department Store on the south side of the square was arguably the premiere downtown shopping store in the 1960s. A close second, perhaps first in women’s minds, was Roland’s store for women on the north side of the square.
Founded in March 1866 by Sam and Aaron Livingston, the business was originally known as the McLean County Dry Goods Store. It was in the middle of the 100 block of West Washington Street, (the south side of the courthouse square), and there it remained for 113 years.
Livingston’s had 42,350 square feet of floor space, making it one of the larger department stores in downstate Illinois. Today, by way of comparison, some Wal-Mart Supercenters span 223,000 square feet. In 1946, Livingston’s added another floor by excavating a full basement to hold its household appliance department and a fur storage vault.
By the 1970s, downtown Bloomington was in decline. Sears and J.C. Penney’s had left downtown for Eastland Mall in the 1960s, and Montgomery Ward later moved to College Hills Mall around 1980. Roland’s relocated to the brave new world of Veterans Parkway but closed for good in the late 1980s. Locally owned department and clothing stores found it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to compete against the enormous economies of scale enjoyed by the likes of Sears and other retail behemoths.
Livingston’s never made it out of downtown. Despite an infusion of some $100,000 for redecorating and increased promotion, sales were disappointing, and Livingston’s closed on Jan. 31, 1979. The store held the obligatory “going out of business” sale in its final week, offering up store fixtures, mannequins (“whole and parts”), cash registers and clothes racks.
Read more about Livingston’s in this column by Bill Kemp.
Pictured: Phoenix Hall, located on the south side of the McLean County courthouse square, is seen here in this 1860 lithograph (the hall spanned the seven uppermost windows on the left). In 1917, Livingston’s razed five of seven Greek Revival buildings (including the two housing Phoenix Hall) to make way for a modern department store. Today, Michael’s Restaurant occupies the street-level floor of that building.
Bombay Bicycle Club
Bombay Bicycle Club was a hugely popular restaurant and bar in the 1980s. The extensive menu featured foods from around the world: potato skins and fried veggies, chicken, fish, and Cajun fried shrimp, steak, quesadillas, guacamole, and more.
The building originally opened in 1977 as a Smuggler’s Inn. It was converted to a Bombay Bicycle Club in 1984. Over the years, new restaurants came to this location. The property was also the home of Oriental Buffet & Grill, Prescott’s and the Wildcat Brewery Co.
In 2004, the structure at 305 N. Veterans Parkway was razed. In its place today are three restaurants: Noodles & Co., Chipotle Mexican Grill and Meat Heads.
Pictured is Edward Kruse, the manager of Bombay Bicycle Club, in August 1991.
Red Lion Inn
The Red Lion Inn was downtown Bloomington’s No. 1 live music club of the 1970s, when the brick-front venue at the corner of Market and Center streets was at its peak of nightlife dominance.
It was where the “regulars” list included names like REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick and Head East (before the rest of the country heard of them). The Bloomington site was the second of three Lions to roar in downstate Illinois, the first being in Champaign, the last in DeKalb.
The Red Lion Inn opened on Feb. 4, 1971, with a still-emerging REO Speedwagon as the debut act.
In order to gain a liquor license seven nights a week, the establishment had to function as a members-only club. Staff came up with a card and a $1 lifetime membership fee, and at one point, there were around 18,000 memberships.
In March 1980, all three Red Lion Inns closed. In October of that year, the Bloomington location was turned into a new, short-lived club called Off Center. Today, the property is the site of the Center for Human Services of McLean County.
Metropole Pool Hall
The Metropole , at 513 N. Main St. in downtown Bloomington, was among the last establishments end of its two-decade run in 1993. in the city to offer pool tables for 25 cents per game. The watering hole offered inexpensive draft beer and was described as a “working class bar.” It reached the
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Contact Robyn Skaggs at (309) 820-3244.