Business, Feature

Businesswomen of Shops on Sterling help each other

Seven of the nine small businesses in Shops on Sterling, a building full of boutique and specialty shops in downtown Flossmoor, are owned by women.

The businesses in Shops on Sterling are different enough so that shop owners don’t feel like they’re competing with each other. They help each other out whenever they can.

All business owners in Shops on Sterling share the cost of rent and utility. If a business owner has to leave the store, another one will keep an eye on the shop. They promote each other and benefit from customers walking by the different shops on the way to their destination.

“I think we’ve got real good energy in here,” said Morgan Sullins, owner of Gypsy Fix and founder of Shops on Sterling. “Everyone is happy and kind.”


Sullins said that when considering what businesses to add to Shops on Sterling, she makes sure it’s nothing too similar to something that’s already there.

“If we’ve already got a business in here that sells popcorn and we have somebody on the wait list next in line that does the same thing, I can’t do that,” Sullins said. “It’s okay if there’s a little crossover here and there.”

Sullins credits the Flossmoor Business Association as partially responsible for spreading the word about Shops on Sterling to aspiring entrepreneurs.

“[Shops on Sterling] is a collective group of businesses that are really unique,” Flossmoor Business Association President Maureen Mader said. “They all have a symbiotic relationship with each other where they’re not in competition.”

Mader, who owns Dunning’s Market & Deli in downtown Flossmoor, said she tells her customers about Shops on Sterling while they’re waiting for their orders.

Starting a small business can be hard for women because not everyone takes their expertise seriously or they’ll assume a woman is doing it because she’s bored, Mader said.

“People walk in and the oldest man in the room is who they assume owns the business,” Mader said. “I don’t know if those ladies have experienced that but I certainly experienced it.”

Mader said that for small business owners, “our pay is our own destiny.” Female business owners don’t have to worry about an employer paying them less than they’d pay a man, she said.

“We’re showing that we can be a mom, we can be a business owner, we can be a wife and all of those things all at the same time,” said Tonya Byrd Neeley, owner of Wired: The Design Boutique, a women’s clothing store in Shops on Sterling.

Neeley said that being “a Black woman who owns a business” shows “that it is doable” to “the younger generation.”

Neeley said the women’s clothing sold at Wired: The Design Boutique is different enough from what’s at Gypsy Fix because she sells “edgy” clothing that a woman isn’t likely to wear on a typical weekday. The type of clothing at Gypsy Fix is generally more “conservative,” she said.

Wired: The Design Boutique was one of the original businesses in Shops on Sterling in 2021. The store was previously in Hazel Crest. Neeley said she moved her business to Shops on Sterling because a shared space was less costly than renting an entire storefront.

“When I was a single storefront, there was no way I could run and go get my kids. I would have to lock the door, put the sign up, be back in 45 minutes,” Neeley said. “Whereas, [at Shops on Sterling], there’s a business across the hall. I can simply say ‘I’ll be back in 15-20 minutes. Can you watch my business?’”

“We bounce ideas off of each other,” said Kristi Dinkins, owner of Product Freak, a beauty supply store that moved to Shops on Sterling from Flossmoor Commons, describing how the businesswomen support each other. “We have an ear that we can lend to each other.”

Restaurant and brewery in old train station in Flossmoor since 1996. We offer Americana food options and many craft beers. We opened in July 1996. We wanted to make the Brewery a gathering place for our HF community. We have a caboose, a large outdoor area including a craft beer garden, a fire pit and a dog park.

Carolyn Armstrong
Flossmoor Station
Restaurant & Brewery
1035 Sterling Ave.

Shawnda DeBose
Ruby Ella Sweets
1056 Sterling Ave.

Ruby Ella Sweets brings a bit of nostalgia for the candy lover! We specialize in old school candy and homemade baked goods.
Because of my love of sweets and desire to start my own business, I made the decision to open in 2021 during a time when I felt there was more I had to offer my community, continuing to serve children in a different capacity.

Boutique Beauty Store that sells hair care, wigs, makeup, skin care and accessories. We also carry unique boutique finds and local products you won’t find at other beauty stores. I started my business in 2021 because I wanted to create a cute, fun safe space for women to shop for their beauty products.

Kristi Dinkins
Product Freak
1056 Sterling Ave.

Chogie Fields
Conservatory Vintage
and Vinyl
1042 Sterling Ave.

We are a destination, specializing in rare, pre-owned and new vinyl records, plus premium Midcentury Modern furniture (and home décor). I’m a 25+ year award-winning ad executive, small business owner, brand coach, and
home design coach. My husband and I opened our business in 2019 to create a cool shop inspiring and serving our community.

sive eye care, diabetic and pediatric exams, speciality contact lenses, ocular disease management, dry eye treatment, including intense pulse light therapy, featuring high end and independent frame lines.
I have been practicing optometry in Chicago and the South Suburbs since 2005. I purchased American Eye Care Center in 2022.

Elizabeth Hanno
Eyes on Sterling
1030 Sterling Ave.

Maureen Mader
Dunnings’s Market
1050 Sterling Ave.

gourmet foods, cheese, wine, and coffee. We have a great prepared meal program. All around gathering place for great food and conversation. I was a customer at Dunnings Market before I purchased it. I’ve been absolutely in love with the food and the community so it’s been the perfect match for me for the past 27 years.

Wired: The Design Boutique is a fashion boutique specializing in unique clothing for women. I have always been passionate about fashion. I decided to venture out on my own in 2016. This business gives me the opportunity to be a role model to other young minority girls that they can be successful

Tonya Byrd Neeley
Wired: The Design
1056 Sterling Ave.

Erin Ryan
Cutters For Men Inc.
2548 Central Drive

Cutters For Men, founded in 2004, is an upscale, friendly, therapeutic men’s barber shop. We specialize in men’s haircuts, kids haircuts and beard trims. I had the privilege of being mentored by Ed Jones. I’ve been carrying his torch while building my empire (Girl Boss). It’s been an amazing journey of building relationships and making others feel special.

I offer skin/body care products, including sugar scrubs, whipped shea butter, facial care products and wellness pamper parties to foster self-care and relaxation. After a crisis with my skin, I began making gentle exfoliants and moisturizers. After supplying friends and family with my products for a few years, Kathy’s Creams and Things was born in 2019.

Katherine Staten
Kathy’s Creams and Things
1056 Sterling Ave.

Alison Turner
Alison Turner Nail Studio
1056 Sterling Ave.

Boutique nail salon. I’ve been in the nail industry almost 20 years. Many of those years I’ve worked in salons and spas. In 2022, my family encouraged me to strike out on my own.

The Bistro on Sterling is a melting pot of American and Creole cuisine in a welcoming, fine dining atmosphere. I’ve had the pleasure of being the executive chef since 2020 and then taking over when the previous owners decided to retire. I’m excited to continue providing great food and culinary experiences, as I strengthen my bond with the community.

Yvette Zavala
The Bistro on Sterling
1040 Sterling Ave.

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