Going Local: The Garlic Press

Pam Locsin (left) and Sarah Bushnell McManus (right) became business partners at The Garlic Press in 2000. They joined owner Dorothy Bushnell (not pictured) who has owned the business since 1976. (Image credit: Erik Prenzler)

Pam Locsin (left) and Sarah Bushnell McManus (right) became business partners at The Garlic Press in 2000. They joined owner Dorothy Bushnell (not pictured) who has owned the business since 1976. (Image credit: Erik Prenzler)

The Garlic Press opened in 1974 when the central business district in Normal was still known as Downtown Normal. Dorothy Bushnell took over the business in 1976; and in 1981 the business moved a few doors down to its current location at 108 North Street. 

Sarah Bushnell McManus and Pam Locsin were added as partners in 2000, although Dorothy (who also goes by Dotti) still remains an enthusiastic and active partner in the business.

The business currently has 15 employees and remains successful with a new generation of loyal customers. As Sarah says, “it’s diversify or die,” so The Garlic Press is always looking at new products and ways to attract new customers. 

Over 30 years ago, when local jewelry artist Linda Isaacson Healy decided to give up her retail business, a jewelry section was added. However, The Garlic Press is most known for its cooking and food-related inventory.

In 1978 the store began offering cooking classes at a nearby church kitchen, and in 1996 the space in the rear of the store was renovated for classes to be offered on site. A newsletter that started in the 1970’s is still published as a tool to market the cooking classes. Evening classes are offered year-round except during December and July.  

In 2005 The Garlic Press expanded 1,500 square feet to the east and opened its Market Café. The Market Café closed in 2017, but a new specialty popcorn operation will open in that space in March. 

“We will be making our own popcorn and putting our name on it,” said Pam. “We will have over 50 varieties of popcorn and our chocolates & coffees will also move into the space.”

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The Garlic Press has been located at 108 North Street in Normal since 1981.

The Garlic Press takes pride in its inventory. “We consider form and function in everything we stock,” said Sarah. “We also make a conscious effort to keep our price points accessible to everyone,” added Pam. 

No doubt, The Garlic Press has benefited from the extensive new construction in Uptown Normal. “We were part of the brainstorming sessions 20 years ago,” Sarah said. “It’s exciting to see those ideas become a reality.” 

The Garlic Press has over ten cooking classes lined up through April 2018. The class schedule and registration information can be accessed on the website.