Shoppes at Grandon business incubator in Sterling taking applications for new vendors

Norma Thompson makes her first sale to Henry Meridan, 4, and mom Sterling mayor Diana Tuesday, June 6, 2023 at Rustic Paw Studios, a part of Sterling Main Street’s Shoppes on Grandon.

STERLING – The new Sterling Main Street downtown business incubator, Shoppes at Grandon Plaza, is readying for its second round of retailers.

Applications are being taken until Feb. 18 for tenants for the next shopping season, which will begin in May.

Vendors lease the space for eight months for $300 a month, utilities included, through the Christmas holiday season before deciding whether to migrate to their own space.

The $200,000 incubator, at 310 Second Ave., opened June 6 with four 12-by-16-foot free-standing “chalets,” but next year six units will be available, as well as two parking pads for a rotating schedule of food trucks, Main Street Executive Director Janna Groharing said in a news release.

The vendors who are chosen will be notified in early March and will be able to set up their spaces beginning in early April.

The goal of the incubator ”continues to be fostering entrepreneurship in Sterling and the greater Sauk Valley region, specifically as it relates to retail shopping,” Groharing said in the release.

The plaza’s retailers not only get an opportunity to test a brick-and-mortar business model, or perhaps simply try out a new market, but they also get advice, training and mentoring from the experts at the Small Business Development Center at Sauk Valley Community College, and from Main Street, the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and other community partners.

The incubator, which has space for four more units if needed in the future, also has the added benefit of bringing more shoppers to the downtown, which benefits all merchants, Groharing has said.

This first year “has been a good learning experience for all of us,” she said Friday.

“We’ve learned a lot as a Main Street organization, and hopefully they’ve learned a lot as entrepreneurs.”

To apply, shop or learn more

The Shoppes at Grandon Plaza’s inaugural four vendors, which will be open through Dec. 23, are:

Stone Bridge Running, owned by Grace Johnson, who has sold running shoes and accessories at 107 S. Hennepin Ave. in Dixon since May 15, 2018.

Brea’s Custom Creations, owned by Breannna Litts of Dixon, who sells customized T-shirts, hoodies, tumblers and crafts online.

Rustic Paw Studios, where owners Steve and Norma Thompson of Dixon sell clothing, bags and gifts.

Moonlight Apothecary (Moonlight Minis), where owner Ashley McAlvey of Walnut sells all-natural beauty products, including Red Aspen, as well as kids clothing and toys.

The plaza is open from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Find Shoppes at Grandon Plaza on Facebook or go to to apply for a vendor spot or for more information.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.