Kim Votsmier selling China Towne to a longtime patron

After more than two decades of operating China Towne, owner Kim Votsmier is selling the art studio at 4007 Yucan Dr. to one of her longtime patrons, Dr. Tabatha Wells.

“She likes art and creating things, and that’s why she came to the studio and took lots of classes with us,” said Votsmier. Wells was part of a physician’s group in Champaign but left that practice last fall and is now in the process of setting up her own practice in Springfield. “She has a unique format for her medical practice, so she’ll be able to be here a lot of the time as well,” said Votsmier. Wells also has a longtime friend, Rae Ward, who will be active in the business.

Votsmier said she plans to focus on Art4U, an artist co-op she opened in 2018 in the same shopping center as China Towne. “We started with 16 artists and now we have 60,” said Votsmier, who works with artists from across the country. The retail store at 4015 Yucan Dr. carries a wide variety of merchandise including paintings, metal work, home and garden décor, clothes and jewelry.

In addition, Votsmier still plans to have some involvement in China Towne. “My husband, John, and I will still be teaching classes for now,” she said. “Tabatha will take over the kids’ summer camp and ceramics classes, but we’ll still have the other adult classes for stained glass, fused glass and jewlery.”

Votsmier said that one of the main reasons she is selling is that for the last few years, it’s been a challenge to find employees. “I’ve hired and trained 13 people (since COVID), but I have one person who works four hours a week, and otherwise I have no one to help,” she said. “The last time I ran a help-wanted ad, 17 people responded and I offered every single one of them an interview. Four accepted, and only one showed up.”

Votsmier said that the pandemic was a turning point for the business. “When we were told we were non-essential, that was a major bump in the road. And going forward, COVID changed everything, from how you did things daily to the whole format of the business and supply chain issues. It’s been really draining.”

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