The Illinois Made program was created to recognize the makers, creators and artisans who help craft Illinois by hand. These makers inspire visitors and Illinois residents to discover more about the state by experiencing the passion that makes it thrive. The Chicago Southland is home to eight of these creators, all of which exemplify what it means to be a local artisan.
Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery in Flossmoor is the oldest brewery in the Chicago Southland area. In the 1990s, Dean and Carolyn Armstrong purchased a former train station in the heart of downtown Flossmoor that had become both obsolete and a safety liability. The couple invested their time and money into the building to create an establishment that the community could enjoy. Since Flossmoor Station officially opened in 1996, it has become a true public house and community gathering place. Known for their gourmet pub food and handcrafted beers, Flossmoor Station has received over 80 awards for their beers.
Established in 1920, Gayety’s Chocolates in Lansing offers mouth-watering treats to go along with their old-world charm. Specializing in fresh, high quality hand dipped chocolates and hand-made ice cream from their 100-year-old recipes, they were recognized as one of USA Today’s “Top 50 Ice Cream Parlors.”
Visitors to Homewood Bat Co. in Homewood will experience the baseball bat-making process firsthand. Watch as the staff carefully carves, sands and shapes each bat. Each handcrafted bat is created with top-quality wood. Homewood Bat is one of the few makers authorized to sell bats to Major League Baseball, which speaks to the quality and workmanship of their products. Bats created by the local shop even made it all the way to Tokyo during the 2021 Olympics when pro baseball player Mitch Glasser used Homewood Bat products during his games.
Some of the finest glass in the world can be found right here in the Chicago Southland, at Lotton Art Glass Gallery & Studios in Crete. With a career spanning over 50 years, the late Charles Lotton’s works have been displayed in the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corning Museum of Glass and the Smithsonian Institution. One of the few studios in the world to use elements of the earth like sand, soda ash, lime, borax, zinc and metals, Lotton glass pieces feature breathtaking colors. Vases, bowls, sculptures, paperweights, perfume bottles, lamps, pendant lighting and even chandeliers are among the pieces created by the artisans at Lotton Art Glass. Charles’s sons David and Daniel Lotton, along with his grandson Robert Lagestee and the studio artist Scott Bayless continue to create one-of-a-kind works of fine glass art.
Located in the oldest standing brewery in Illinois, Thornton Distilling Company is a 20,000 square foot facility that produces small-batch craft spirits by hand, offers historic tours, tastings, and an award-winning cocktail bar and restaurant plus hosts weddings and social events. Additionally, they’ve produced over 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and continue to donate it for free.
Vintrendi Wine Company in Park Forest is a craft winery that aims to demystify wines and offer the consumer taste experiences not typically found on the average retailer’s shelves. By presenting their wines based on their taste profiles, they’re able to coach wine consumers in finding what they truly like.
Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery is not only the first winery in Chicago, but also the only producer of mead on the Northern Illinois Wine Trail. Wild Blossom raises their own bees and collects their own honey. These bees pollinate around 2 million flowers, which in turn, produce 20-40 million seeds that are destined to become new flowers. Wild Blossom also purifies and uses water from Lake Michigan to produce their wines. With over 30 years of winemaking experience, the creators at Wild Blossom are responsible for a ripple effect of positive environmental change in the Chicagoland and surrounding areas.
To find out more about the Illinois Made program and the local Chicago Southland artisans, please visit EnjoyIllinois.com/Illinois-Made.