Campaign learns how Main Street entrepreneur is keeping American dream alive

By Ann Knef | Oct 23, 2008

Judy Knapp (left) shows state representative candidate Dwight Kay and NFIB state director Kim Maisch some of her wares.

She's no Joe the Plumber, but this Edwardsville business woman is keeping the American dream alive with a little money and a lot of imagination.

Judy Knapp, owner of "The August Garden" at 118 N. Main St. is adapting to times when people aren't spending as much money as they were before the economy began to sour.

A florist since the 1980s, Knapp transformed her gift shop business into a socially conscious purveyor of "charming" and "romantic" vintage decor.

Knapp, who describes herself as a good steward and a Republican, also is selling recycled clothing from the 1940s in a line called EPAA – Environmentally Protected Apparel and Accessories for the environmentally conscious consumer.

She still peddles in fresh flowers, but since the recent stock market plunge those aren't selling as well unless "a man really screws up," she said.

Knapp said she changed her business model out of necessity because the floral industry has changed. "Everybody is selling fresh flowers," she said.

She says she believes her inventory with "laugh lines" and "character" will stand out in a "throwaway" world.

"I've gone to markets and showrooms where they show the same things over and over," she said. "There are warehouses full of this stuff in China."

"That's not me," she said.

Knapp's business was one of several visited on a rainy Thursday by Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Doug Whitley and National Federation of Independent Business state director Kim Maisch.

Stumping for Republican candidate for state representative, Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon, Whitley said the folks he talked to on Main Street said they felt "lost and unappreciated" by the "powers that be" in Springfield.

He said Kay, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Democrat Rep. Jay Hoffman, is the right person for the job because he's a "job creator."

Kay is vice president of Cassens Corp. in Edwardsville.

"Dwight has the employer's perspective," Whitley said. "He knows what it's like to win customers. He knows what it's like to lose customers. He knows what it's like to make payroll."

Whitley said some of the business people he talked to, including Knapp, feel that downstate Illinois has been neglected, that there is an "anti-business" theme in Springfield and that there's "not an Illinois outside of Chicago."

"We need to get Illinois back on the right track," Whitley said.

Maisch said the business people she talked to on Main Street said Hoffman never walked to their doors.

"Entrenched politicians forget," Maisch said.

She said her organization supports Kay because he will oppose tax increases on small and large businesses such as the $7.5 billion gross receipts tax proposed by Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"Dwight would bring fresh perspective to Springfield," she said.

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