Mike Miller had a dream for the historic Bitterman building located on Downtown Evansville’s Main Street. He just needed someone to help realize the dream with him.
Three years ago, Miller purchased the former Bitterman Brothers Jewelry Store building at 204 Main Street, which remained in business until the late 1960s and was replaced by Rowe Imports. Miller owns the space next door that Salad World occupies and looked to expand into the attached upstairs space and into the parking lot behind the building.
In late July, Evansville resident Chandra Maxheimer reached out to Miller after her mother met him through a Pop Up Main Street event in March, an effort by the Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville. Maxheimer contacted him to inquire about future opportunities running her store, Be15, out of The Bitterman.
To Miller, it was a blessing. The pair partnered with Maxheimer taking over the role of manager of The Bitterman Mini Shoppes & Farmers Market and Miller serving as the proprietor. Maxheimer previously was a stay-at-home mom for her three children and operates Be15, which sells handcrafted clothes and accessories while giving back 15 percent of every purchase to Project Restore, Uncharted International’s effort to end human trafficking.
“I knew Chandra was a friend of my daughter Meagan’s and was a craftsperson looking for a job,” says Miller, who made and sold leather craft items in Newburgh, Indiana, as a teenager. “I had been trying to do something with the space for two to three years. I finally decided that I had to do something or I had to do something else with it. I have no shortage of ideas or vision, but I needed someone to manage it daily.”
The pair joined together and began approaching vendors at various events gauging interest. After a strong response, The Bitterman Mini Shoppes & Farmers Market opened on the weekend of Oct. 3-4 and saw around 300 customers each day at the Main Street location with its signature stone lion in front of the store.
Today, the store has more than 30 vendors and features a variety of products from locally grown produce, meats, condiments, and treats to all natural soaps from Soap Solutions, women’s boutique items and home accessories from Roffe’ Boutique, fabrics and materials from Olive Manna and Ginger Cat Knits, fresh-pressed juices from Sunshine Juice Company, and more.
The farmers market features vendors such as Steckler Grassfed, Stonewall Farm, Engelbrecht’s, Reimann’s Farms, greenhouse produce throughout the cold season from Bud’s, locally-roasted coffee from Dandy’s Slow Coffee, fresh baked items from Artisan Bread, and more. The indoor farmers market runs October through May and open Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The indoor stores are open year-round Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
“There are people who are still unsure if we’re open on the weekdays, but every person who comes in here absolutely loves it and keeps coming back,” says Maxheimer.
Both Miller and Maxheimer feel The Bitterman Mini Shoppes is an opportunity to bring more activity to Downtown Evansville. While people have suggested adding a full-time restaurant in The Bitterman, Miller stresses that’s not his purpose and points out the many options just on Main Street such as Salad World, Emge’s, Peephole, DiLegge’s, Milano Italian Cuisine, and more.
Miller also doesn’t want to take away the already prospering summer farmers market in Downtown Evansville, which is why the season will end in May at The Bitterman.
“I love the Downtown community and the more people I meet Downtown, the more it fueled my passion,” says Maxheimer. “We are the live, shop, and eat where you live kind of people. With The Bitterman shops, we want to complement the other Downtown stores, not compete. We want to support each other and help each other.”
Evansville resident Natalie Jost has taken advantage of The Bitterman Mini Shoppes with her textiles and paper goods business Olive Manna. She joined as a vendor at its opening after having an online store for about seven years.
“I was really excited about having a local presence,” says Jost. “I don’t have enough capital to open up an actual store of my own. I have a few local customers from online, but sometimes they are awkward about paying for shipping. This allows me to drop things off and meet the customers in person.”
Olive Manna sells home décor, knit and crochet items, handmade packaging, such as ribbons and twines for gift giving, as well as many other materials.
“I think Mike and Chandra have done fantastic,” says Jost. “The vibe is awesome, especially with the Sunshine Juice Co. girls upstairs with us and meeting the other vendors. The type of people coming in are so friendly. This would be a place I would want to hang out even if I didn’t have a store inside.”
For more information about The Bitterman Mini Shoppes & Farmers Market, call 812-205-1920 or visit thebittermanshoppes.com.