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LOCAL BUSINESS

Ginger Ale's makes a splash in Mattoon with first franchise location

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MATTOON — Mattoon is now home to the first franchise location for Ginger Ale's, an Olney-based cold drink shop with "2.8 septillion" flavor combination options.

The franchise location, owned by Brad and Casey Walk of Sigel, opened to the public on Tuesday at 1817 Charleston Ave. after holding an opening celebration the preceding night with the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce.

Casey Walk served up sugar-free sparkling strawberry water, orange and regular lemonade, blue raspberry and grape Sprites, and marshmallow sweet tea during the celebration, as well as a new Green Wave drink with Mountain Dew, blue raspberry and pineapple in honor of Mattoon High School's sports team name. The shop also offers hot dogs, giant soft pretzels, biscuits, cookies and more.

Casey Walk

Ginger Ale's franchise owner Casey Walk of Sigel serves up sugar-free strawberry water, orange lemonade, marshmallow sweet tea, Green Waves and other cold drinks Monday evening during a celebration for this new business, 1817 Charleston Ave., in Mattoon. The 1958 Eshelman mail truck in the background is used by Ginger Ale's founders Michael and Julie Hill as a business mascot that they call "Aunt Fanny."

Walk said she has been excited to see community support for Ginger Ale's among attendees at the celebration and those on social media who followed the Mattoon Ginger Ale's development this spring. The Sigel woman, who also operates a Gate to Plate food truck, said she is particularly proud to be the first franchise location to open with Ginger Ale's.

"I love that part. I am so excited about that," Walk said.

Ginger Ale's company founders and owners Michael and Julie Hill were in attendance at the celebration. Julie Hill, who is a dietitian, said she and her husband, who retired as Olney's fire chief, were operating a seasonal concession stand in their hometown when they decided they would like to do that kind of work year-round.

Ginger Ale's founder

Ginger Ale's founder and co-owner Julie Hill of Olney, at right, helps serve up cold drinks with the help of her daughters, Sarah and Lauren, during a celebration Monday night at the company's first franchise location, 1817 Charleston Ave., in Mattoon.

Hill said she and her husband decided to focus on cold drinks to keep prices low and drive-thru traffic moving quickly, and picked Ginger Ale's as the name because they and their two daughters all have red hair. She said they opened Ginger Ale's locations in 2015 and 2019 in Olney, and have recently gotten into the franchise business after fielding inquires from prospective entrepreneurs.

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The exteriors of all of their cold drink shop locations are painted with their signature shade of neon green. Hill said while neon green is not a traditional color choice, it helps people notice Ginger Ale's locations and start talking about them.

Mattoon's Ginger Ale's is in the east end of a former dry cleaning and laundry building that owner Jasper Holdings LLC of Mattoon has renovated for use by the cold drink shop.

Ginger Ale's exterior

Community members gather for free cold drinks and cookies Monday evening during a celebration at the new Ginger Ale's location, 1817 Charleston Ave. in Mattoon. The 1958 Eshelman mail truck at the left is used by Ginger Ale's founders Michael and Julie Hill as a business mascot that they call "Aunt Fanny."

Walk said she and her husband, who have broken ground on a Ginger Ale's location in Effingham, appreciate that the 1817 Charleston Ave. building already had a drive-thru in place. She added they were drawn to this building by its high-traffic location along U.S. Route 45 and two state routes in the heart of Mattoon.

"We're a hometown place. It's not an interstate place," Walk said of Ginger Ale's. "We found this space and we thought this is exactly where we need to be."

The Mattoon Ginger Ale's will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. More information is available by calling 217-235-6531 or visiting mygingerales.com.

Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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