Rise Above It Bakery & Café: 2019 Award for Rehabilitation


After restoring her own 1921 bungalow and establishing the Carterville Heritage Museum, Jennifer Spence was not finished with her efforts to revitalize her town and celebrate its history.  Spence embarked on a new project to restore a downtown building and create a gathering space that complimented the museum next door. The building has since become home to Rise Above It Bakery & Café, a popular destination for the more than 5,000 residents in Carterville. The project has sparked excitement and appreciation among locals for the town’s history and its preservation and given life to its historic downtown area. The bakery, owned and operated by Spence’s sister, also houses historic photographs and artifacts as well as salvaged architectural pieces. The notable project has led to economic development and a sense of pride for the community.

Project Principals

Jennifer Spence, J. Spence Properties, LLC

Phil Hees

David Gobert

Rocky Harris

Shawn Spence



Jennifer Spence, J. Spence Properties, LLC & Award Recipient

“Rise Above It Bakery & Cafe is important to me for multiple reasons. In addition to delicious, creative food offerings for locals and visitors, it also serves as a gathering space for the community. Friends meet for lunch, folks that return home for a visit enjoy coffee and breakfast, small groups have a place to rent for private evening events. Every town needs a place like that. In addition, I have incorporated as much of our town and family history into the space as possible through walls of photos from multiple decades and repurposing of architectural salvage and wood items. Customers will see lights, glass cabinet doors, chalkboards and concrete elements from former Carterville school buildings that were torn down, as well as wood from regional barns and the downtown’s iconic furniture store which is no longer in business.  Even the bakery case comes from Hampton Drug Store, a beloved downtown Carterville store that has been closed for decades. People appreciate the preservation of items like this that bring so many fond memories to their mind.

In addition to this, people sometimes walk into the space and say, ‘This looks like something you would see in cities like Chicago or Nashville.’ It is an inspiring space that welcomes all those who enter, and it sometimes surprises people with the quality of the décor. For this reason, I believe it is important because it tells anyone that a building in the worst of conditions often still has great possibilities, and if we can create this charming bakery in downtown Carterville, imagine what else we can do with the other buildings and spaces.”

How will saving this place impact people in your community?

“Every building that we can save along Carterville’s downtown main streets – Division Street and Illinois Avenue – the better. Carterville is known as a popular bedroom community – people want to live in our town because of location and school quality, but they often work in towns outside of Carterville. Saving the building used for Rise Above It Bakery & Cafe, or any downtown building, impacts people because these residents want to walk to downtown and enjoy local, unique restaurants and shops. They want events like Christmas In Carterville and Pumpkin Path. They want the specialized, local offerings of a charming downtown. I’ve seen two historic buildings come down since returning to Carterville eight years ago – one by fire and one condemned. It currently leaves an empty space craving to have purpose, and it is almost like a scar left in the downtown landscape. Our residents support downtown offerings, but they would support it further if downtown Carterville continued to expand and enhance more business. And the more business for Carterville, the more tax dollars for important city needs for our residents.”


Visit Rise Above Bakery & Café

Attend the 2019 awards ceremony!


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