There was only one building Laura Kempner was willing to uproot her life for — and it’s now the home of Galena, Ill.’s, Champagne on Main, which she runs with her sister, Lisa.
“It’s just a wonderful place to do business,” Laura Kempner said. “And there are very few champagne bars across the country, so we knew that with this concept, we would be the only (place) and that was exciting to us.”
The Kempners opened the champagne bar, located at 116 S. Main St., on Sept. 25, 2020, officially turning a family tradition into an experience for others to enjoy.
Originally from Chicago, the sisters would make a Binny’s run every time they returned home, and those trips to the liquor store always included grabbing a bottle of champagne. Then about five years ago, they were on a girls trip to Napa Valley, where they discovered a champagne bar called Sigh, prompting Lisa to suggest that the sisters could create something similar.
“I never really thought that would be a reality, then fast forward to 2019 (and that) building became available on Main Street in Galena,” Laura said.
Patrons are “mesmerized” when they step inside the building, according to Laura, as they’re greeted with a “gorgeous spiral staircase” and crystal chandeliers. The building’s second level is a lounge for private events, and above that is a mezzanine area that houses Laura’s photography studio.
Rose Noble, president and CEO of Galena Country Tourism, said Champagne on Main “adds class” to Main Street.
“It also brings a unique experience that we didn’t have before,” Noble said. “It’s the only true champagne bar in town.”
In addition to adding to the number of female-owned businesses in town, Noble said the Kempners’ “complete and total renovation” of the space was amazing.
“From top to bottom they thought about how it would look and feel,” Noble said.
The establishment also coordinates signature cocktails with a window display that changes monthly. April’s display was a Breakfast at Tiffany’s theme, complemented by a Tiffany’s sparkler cocktail.
Champagne on Main also has a private courtyard, which was not part of their initial plan. A tree behind the property was affecting the building’s foundation, so they had it removed.
“They poured in new concrete and suddenly we had a space,” Laura said. “That outdoor space is what kept us in business through the (COVID-19) pandemic.”
The Kempners started the process of opening the champagne bar in 2019, knowing Laura wouldn’t be able to move to Galena until mid-2020. They had arranged for tenants to use the space until they were in a position to open, but the pandemic prompted the tenant to leave early. That gave them an opportunity to have contractors come in sooner than expected to create the champagne bar.
“We were just in it, and we had to make it work,” Laura said. “There was no turning back, and it’s actually been an amazing journey.”
And as one of three Galena businesses that opened during the pandemic, Noble said it shows that the city has a “healthy market,” Noble said.
“It’s good for locals to see that businesses are still coming despite the hardships throughout the nation,” Noble said.
Kari Williams is a freelance writer.