Driving on East Court Street in Kankakee, you probably have seen a young girl smiling and waving at cars going by — and selling lemonade. What you probably don’t know is the same young girl and her mother also have a museum and art gallery inside their historic home.
Hayli Martenez, 11, who will enter sixth grade this fall, opened Haylibug Lemonadez in front of her home, 1042 E. Court St., last year. Since that time, her business has continued to grow, and she has become known throughout the region for her entrepreneurship, friendly hugs and beaming personality.
“It’s more than just lemonade. Hayli makes people happy,” said her mother, Iva Martenez. “I’m teaching Hayli through lemonade. I’m teaching her there is no color, only flavor.”
Hayli started the business because, “before my granny passed, she said, ‘When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.’ So, one day, we just went outside and sold lemonade.”
“I started the first day with $10. By the end of the first week, I made $500,” said Hayli, who puts her extra money in the bank to save up for college.
During her first week in business, a traveler from Kentucky happened to exit Interstate 57 at Court Street and found Hayli’s stand. She not only bought a lemonade, but after hearing about Hayli’s museum and art project, she donated $100.
A retired Kankakee School District teacher also stopped that first week and gave Hayli $100.
“We were amazed,” Hayli said. “It’s been so exciting and fun.”
Haylibug Lemonadez, sold in plastic recyclable bottles, is made without sugar — the only sweetener is local, raw honey. The ingredients are simple: water, honey, flavor and citrus fruit. The lemonade also can be used in a smoothie or served warm in winter months.
“Business is going better than last year,” Hayli said. “And we are starting to add different flavors.”
Hayli and Iva squeeze the lemons, add the local honey and add fruit for flavor. Flavors include apple turnover, purple monkey, hello yellow, orange twang, redfire and blue lemon.
The lemonade “recipe” came from research Iva did after going through books and journals that belonged to her mother, Shirley J. Wright. Wright, the longtime owner of Trichessence Beauty Salon in downtown Kankakee, passed away in 2015.
“My mom was into angels, health and history,” Iva said. “There were no actual recipes, except for her buttermilk pie. She only hinted at what to use and what to use it for.”
“My mom had books on fusing juices, about honey and bees,” Iva said.
She added honey is a purifier and good for so many health issues such as allergies, diabetes and blood pressure. They also make lemonade infused with cherry juice, which is good for arthritis and improves brain health.
“When I made it and tasted it for the first time, it was good — so good, I had to share it,” Iva said. “It’s not ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ it’s if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Life doesn’t have to be sour.”
Haylibug Lemonadez can be purchased from her stand or ordered by phone and shipped to your home.
On the second Saturday of each month, you’ll find Haylibug Lemonadez at Dance Therapy in Urbana. She also will be a featured drink table at the Juneteenth Celebration at Pioneer Park on Saturday and was at the Father’s Day event in Hopkins Park, the Kankakee Jaycees 5K run, all in June, and at weddings and special celebrations during the summer.
“I like going to events,” Hayli said. “I have a lot of fun and get to do things I never did before.”
Haylibug Lemonadez Art Gallery and Museum
While enjoying lemonade, the community is invited to learn about local history, enjoy art and listen to music.
The home once was owned by Daniel Holmes Paddock (1852-1905), who practiced law in Kankakee, served as the Kankakee city attorney and Kankakee County State’s Attorney and served in the Illinois House of Representatives. The Paddock House was approved by the Kankakee County board as a Historic Landmark.
“We are the first African-American family to live in and own this house,” Iva said.
The original built-in bookcase in the home’s living room is filled with books, movies and music for the community to enjoy.
The downstairs of the home features paintings, drawings and sculptures done by local and regional artists including Milton Murphy, Leon Burrell, Milton Savage and even paintings by Iva herself. Terry Keigher donated a painting, “Farmer John’s Harvest,” dedicated to Pembroke farmers. Other art donations also have been given to the family, but much of the art hung throughout the house was found in the home.
“My mom collected antiques and art. Before she died, she told me everything I needed was in the house. She was right,” Iva said. “I am keeping her legacy going.”
One wall features photos of local family, friends and community. Iva also believes in art and dance therapy and one room in the home is dedicated for such endeavors.
Hayli, who likes to DJ, has opened a music room that includes her own digital turn table board, a guitar, bongos and a keyboard, for others in the community to learn about and play music.
“I want Hayli to understand the value of entrepreneurship,” Iva said. “It’s hard work. I also want her to remain humble, put God first and love all people.”