DREAM THEATRE- The Orpheum gets a throwback-style renovation.

Ever since my family has been around the Hillsboro area, the Eisentraut Theatre has been a big part of the vibrancy of downtown. Day and night people are coming through, enjoying themselves and talking with everybody that’s working the counter. (There’s usually a few off the clock still hanging around too.) It’s been quite a few years that I’ve been hoping the stars would align and I would get to help remake the lobby into something really special… Well, this is my lucky year.


We tore out the old counters and I built two curved 40’s soda-fountain style counters to the sides with a large, rounded, ash topped counter in the center. In the process the original tile got revealed. Scars and all it is beautiful.


The boys were as excited as ever to help me stick together the first bones of the layered candy counter.


Starting the frame for the legs. (It’s flipped over)


Screwing in the other side.


Cary and Jeff Eisentraut scraped up the old glue and tore the carpets out.


The theatre also upped the candy game and had already added around thirty new kinds of candy by the time the built ins were finished! I turned into my ten year old self and bought some hot tamales.


Theatre owner Jeff Eisentraut checking out the new station and giving it a polish up.



You can’t buy this kind of character… I love it.


For those of you who missed the post about the x-wing built for the Star Wars premier a few years back check it out here! Also, come down and check out the new setup, get some popcorn, soda, and candy and hang out with us!- CHeck out what’s playing at www.bestmoviedeal.com

As ever, thanks for reading along and keep it cool.

-small town cool




The Red Rooster Gets a Face-lift!

I got a call a few months ago from John and Kendra Wright.  If you don’t know about them yet, they are the brave and energetic souls who bought the Red Rooster Hotel here in Hillsboro last year. John had recently retired from Apple (yes, that one). Kendra and he had toyed around with the idea of taking on a project downtown that would both help revitalize downtown and give them a cool project to work on.  After attempts to buy a smaller project (still a crazy one.. I ended up getting it a while later. check it out here.) They decided they might as well go for the biggest needed renovation in town, The Historic Red Rooster Inn.


So anyways, the call was for a reworking of the front entrance. The plan was to remove the first set of doors, exposing the beautiful brick arch and replacing the second set of double doors with an eight foot tall, four foot wide single door.


Here’s what we came up with, some giant trim and a double curved glass door with a steam bent header to echo the curved arch and curved windows on the exterior.

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Here’s how it went-


Ta da! Another fun step in the revitalization of Hillsboro’s downtown!

To follow the Red Roosters progress follow them on Facebook here or take a bunch of videotours with Rinoa Super-Genius here.


See you more this summer! Lots of crazy projects coming up!

-Small Town Cool

Opening Weekend at The Gold Pan Records & Recording in Hillsboro!

For friends, family, and Hillsboro natives near and far here are a few shots from our opening weekend at Hillsboro’s new record store (and soon recording studio!)

-photography by Matt Sands.


It was really rewarding to have people coming in asking for all kinds of different music, telling stories, drinking coffee, and enjoying themselves together.  Matt and I were pretty shredded tired from hauling, cleaning, organizing, and working towards the big move, but as soon as people showed up, adrenaline took us all the way to Saturday night on a wave of totally-pumped-out-of-our-mindness..


The couch is on loan from Black Rabbit Coffee Roasters’ Isaac and Bailey Reynolds and the neon signs are from local neon sign maker Jeff Dunn. I like this sign because it’s pretty easy to agree with…


That’s me in my “The Gold Pan” uniform…



Always good to have these punkers around!


Collecting heavy hitter Chris Funk checking out the fresh stock…


It’s pretty surreal to have this store open now, and we’re really thankful to everyone for coming out and supporting Matt, Devin, and I.

To keep up with The Gold Pan and see what’s coming in new each week or to sell us your record collection click here. or call 6152023837

To buy some sweet swag to help Devin fund the gear for the studio click here.


P.S.(long version!)-I especially wanted to thank Tony Marcolini for the custom sign (and beer tasting!), Jeff Dunn for the neon and the panels from his family’s office that I used to make the checkout counter and wall panel. Thanks to Josh Randle for the beastly prints, and to Isaac Reynolds for the crazy design for the record store sticker and sign. Thanks to Isaac and Bailey for serving up your coffee at the opening! Thanks to Devin for letting Matt and I hop onto his dream with The Gold Pan, The Journal News for the great writeup. Check it out here. Especially thanks to Kristen (mi amore) and Missy Sands for taking up the slack this week while we “do records”. You are both jewels.-

Digging for tin- 1st update on big blue!

The beginning. This is really my favorite part of these old building renovations, the part where the building starts to tell you what to do… So despite the insane cold the last few weeks we’ve got a bit of gutting, cleaning, and searching for architectural details to save.  A very long road ahead but some exciting progress!


My cousin Kyle Reindl and I stripped most of the brick. (well, mostly Kyle… You are a champ!) We tore out a bunch of walls and dropped ceilings, cleaned out a TON of cat litter buckets, a ceramic horse, and a bunch of weird junk. I can’t wait to see these ceilings get back in shape!


I love the curved panel in each corner.


This crazy old storefront will have to go and be built from scratch later this summer, but the floors and brick are in great shape.




Kyle “the brick master” is still going to bring out that pretty old brick! Sadly the second side of the building is really badly water damaged, and has a lot less original character to preserve but we’ll have to put some of our own character in!  Until next time-

Stripping away the layers at the Opera House!- Before and after.

Another exciting phase of Hillsboro’s Opera house Brewing Company renovation went off tonight.  The Marcolini’s, and The Schmidts, (co-owners of the brewery) with help with some friends peeled back the old green paneling that covered the old opera house facade.  The nearly finished recessed entrance, is part of a plan to restore the old foyer to it’s original layout, including re-building the old staircase, double height entrance and re-opening the front windows to their original size. Pretty dang cool.


The beautiful carved limestone “Oddfellows Hall” sign had been heavily damaged, but Tony plans to retain or repair it sign to show the history of the building.


“Grind” house?


Jim May makin some sparks…


What can I say, it’s just dang purty.


Jeremy and Jennifer getting the last bit of paint on.


This is going to be a great year for our small town friends! Thanks for sharing the excitement. See you this weekend at the storybook Christmas, and next weekend at the Small Town Cool/ Black Rabbit art pop up!

DIY’er- a cheap way to make custom windows in the future site of “The Gold Pan”- by Brian Lee Carpentry

A few months ago studio owner Devin Moroney and I were talking about the vision for The Gold Pan, a recording studio and vinyl records store Devin, Brian Lee (me), and Matt Sands have in the works to open in Hillsboro, IL March 2018.  Devin was passionate about the community aspects of recording in a small town and wanted a place where people could watch up close as artists record and where artists would feel connected to the street as they worked. So, I had the daunting task of trying to create a large scale window that felt like it belonged to this historic spot, looked visually exciting, soundproof, and oh yeah, super cheap… So here’s what I came up with.


I love curves. Here I’m cutting out the curved shape from a single piece of MDF.


I traced and cut two of these, stacked them, separating them with a six inch piece of luan, which easily bent to match the curve.


Using used double hung windows that I got for free, I disassembled each one and let the odd sizes hang wild outside of the trim. Two more layers of the traced MDF trim, some spray foam and caulk and paint and this pretty crazy looking window is ready to install. Don’t drop it!



In the rough framing, the window sits above some beautiful room divider panels donated by local neon sign maker Jeff Dunn. The piece was in his family’s Law office for years in a nearby building.  The gap under the window was filled with glass from another free set of rotted sliding glass doors found on Hillsboro buy-sell-trade.

Next, cover with drywall, being very careful not to put screws through the glass behind the drywall and there it is! No basket ball in the studio!


The lights in the reflection were donated by local Rich Chamberlin who just walked in while I was working one day and said “I have some lights I’m going to give you.”


In the coming months, the renovation will be getting finished, Matt and I will be looking for record collections to buy while selling at The Refinery Vintage Goods, and Devin will be getting gear together and starting to take bookings at the studio.  We’re all pretty excited for this project to get into gear in March.


Underground with local Black Rabbit Coffee Roasters

The underground roasting room of Black Rabbit Coffee Roasters is a bright, industrial work space filled with books, art, and furniture from the likes of Jean Prouve and Ghost Shrimp, as well as original art by head roaster Isaac Reynolds. A heavy coffee scent and a copious amount of various coffee brewing equipment surround us as we talk about the origins of the two year old roaster in small town Hillsboro, IL.


In 2015, Isaac Reynolds bought a dilapidated downtown building across the street from his wife Bailey’s parent’s family run movie theatre.  “I was spending a lot of time learning about coffee, the roasting process, brewing beer, cooking, and lots of other things, while working carpentry in the day and at a restaurant at night. Roasting seemed to be one of the most important aspects of the process, and I realized that you could make money at it right around the time we got married and bought the building.”


The couple bought a ten kilo Ambex commercial roaster for a steal at ten thousand dollars and immediately stared selling at the theatre across the street during movie showings. Within a month they built a website and were selling online offering free local deliveries (which they still do!).  A big turning point was realizing how much the community would support them. The first time they sold at the “Hillsboro Harvest Market”, they gave away free coffee and sold 90 bags of beans in three hours, meeting many new local coffee fans.


They had assumed sales would be mostly wholesale to stores, but have had strong local support since day one.  Black Rabbit was featured in Roast magazine’s “Daily Coffee News” in their second month of operation.  The interviewer remarked that it was a good sign for third wave coffee to see such a high caliber company coming out of a small town like Hillsboro. This year, in addition the the daily roasting, they are in the middle of a full swing renovation of “Black Rabbit Cafe” currently scheduled to open some time in 2018.



Isaac is an artist and designs the packaging.  Both he and Bailey customize, make, and design just about everything they can themselves.


The Alien typography inspired door handle to the the bean storage room.


The view of the stair case leading from the street level to the basement roasting area.



Black Rabbit now sells at local IGA, Hyvee in Springfield, and regional coffee shops as well as in their online shop at www.blackrabbit.com  Speaking of, they have kindly offered a mail only promo for Small Town Cool Readers…   Try a bag or two for yourself, or buy one and have them send it to your uncle in New Hampshire…

Type in Promo code SMALLTOWNCOOL17 this week and get your beans for $10 a bag + shipping!

Photography- via Black Rabbit, and B.Lee