Here’s the scenario: Two people from Colorado — one with a detail-oriented personality, the other with a passion for a burgeoning sport — were looking to move somewhere with a historic home to renovate.
They find the perfect place in Southern Illinois and combine their move and their interests into an opportunity to start a unique new business.
This is the story of Matt Locke, director of a software company, who realized during the COVID-19 pandemic that he could work from anywhere. Eager to take advantage of the opportunity, and sharing a desire with his domestic partner Katie Lee to find a home with “an ancient character”, he began looking to move.
Working state by state in eastern Colorado, the couple searched for homes online. One of them, in Benton, captured their imagination.
“When we got to Illinois we found this crazy house and in picture 23 or 26 there was a golden spider on the ceiling of one of the rooms and it turned out that in every window in that room there was an ornate cobweb,” he explained. “We called it the house of spiders.”
It turns out the couple had discovered a three-story, 6,000 square foot home on McLeansboro Street in Benton, built in 1910 by prominent banker, entrepreneur and farmer Robert Ward. Formerly home to a stained glass business, the house had the cachet the couple were looking for.
Their new home also had plenty of square footage, perfect for Locke to practice his disc golf shots. He is passionate about the sport where players throw flying discs at targets. The game is played much like traditional golf, with the number of throws required from the tee to the target being counted towards the scores. Like golf, low scores are preferable.
Given the growing popularity of disc golf in the area, Locke’s interest in the sport, Lee’s desire for a new challenge and, thanks to a converted school bus – also with “character”, a new company was born.
“We found that a lot of people in the area were already playing disc golf, but there weren’t a lot of places to get discs,” Locke explained. “There are so many different plastics, so many different brands and moulds. You can’t get an idea of how a record feels online; it is simply impossible, but it is imperative to touch the discs before buying them.
To help disc golfers and grow the sport, the couple, using their new home as inspiration for a name and the converted little school bus as a mobile retail unit, launched Spider House Disc Golf earlier in the year. ‘year.
While the company offers discs and accessories online, one of the company’s main goals is to set up shop at disc golf tournaments and events in the area.
“Matt brought a lot of passion for the sport and I brought the passion for small business,” Lee explained. “We both wanted to start a small business and I just didn’t know what that was. Disc golf is perfect for us. With the bus, our overhead is low.
“Katie grabbed the company rings and did a great job,” he added. “She set up all the business relationships, set up our store and everything was perfect. We drive to tournaments and set up and people love it.
Disc golfers can play an entire course with a single disc, but like traditional golfers, many use specialized equipment depending on the course and stroke required. Special “driver” discs, mid-range discs and “putters” are all available.
With disc golf courses in Anna, Carbondale, Carterville, Cobden, Goreville, Marion and other area communities, Locke said the sport is taking off in southern Illinois.
“I think we have a subtle glow right now, but it’s about to ignite,” he said. “We offer an average of about 1,400 new courses nationwide each year. It is growing incredibly quickly in southern Illinois.
He said it’s a great game for area residents.
“Disc golf is perfect for southern Illinois for a variety of reasons. One of the big ones is that it’s such an affordable sport,” Locke said. “You can get a set of boot discs for $14.99 and worry about them for years, and most courses are free. It’s a great way for people to get out and play for a very low price.
The couple plan to convert the carriage house of their new home in Benton into a bed and breakfast for disc golfers who can even play on site.
Locke said the pair consider themselves not only advocates for disc golf, but also for entrepreneurship in the region.
“We want to serve as an inspiration for others – to encourage them to do something similar with their own passions. We want to let them know that they can be successful in a job they love if they just put in some effort and kinda dream,” Locke said.
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