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Discover these unique stores that remain off the beaten path

Blarney Stone Popcorn, Shannon, Ill.

Blarney Stone Popcorn and Gifts

2 W. Market St., Shannon, Ill. (815) 864-2100, blarneystonepopcorn.com

This little gourmet shop is owned by a group of area residents. Shannon’s sister city is Shannon, Ireland, and the name and shamrock logo honor that.

The popcorn is prepared onsite, as are the homemade flavorings. Aromas floating through the air are wonderful: Caramel Apple, Zesty Ranch, Almond Frost, Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Turtle – caramel corn popped with pecans and drizzled with dark chocolate.

Shannon is home to Tee Lee Popcorn, a locally-owned international company that’s over 60 years old. It grows, processes and packages private-label brands of regular and microwave popcorn, as well as its own Prime Time premium microwave popcorn. This shop is owned by a group of local residents.

“We opened here about three years ago,” says co-owner and manager Diane Handsaker. “Tee Lee used to run a factory store but expanded processing operations and had to close it. So we partner with them. All of our popcorn comes from them, and we sell both their bulk and microwave brands.”

The store stocks many other regional foods, like Shullsburg cheese, Galena Canning Co. items and Door County coffee. Also find barbecue sauces, jams, whole-grain pasta, kitchen gadgets and Shannon-imprinted souvenirs, along with locally-produced art and gift cards.

“We also sell the popcorn for wholesale, retail and fundraising purposes,” says Handsaker. “Our Internet store does a big business.” The store is open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. ❚

Quilters Compass, Monticello, Wis.

Quilters Compass

201 N. Main St., Monticello, Wis., (608) 938-4334, quilterscompass.com

Owner Barbara Hartman was a home quilter, and spent a couple of years working as a professional long-arm quilter, before she opened her store in August 2010.

“My children were grown and my husband retired,” she explains. “So I said, ‘Now, it’s my turn.’”

This full-service quilt shop stocks high-quality, 100-percent cotton fabric, a blend of traditional patterns with a leaning toward the contemporary. Brands include Robert Kaufmann, Better Tex, In the Beginning and Moda, with a large selection of batiks. It offers quilting classes for all levels, long-arm finishing, threads, pattern books, notions.

“And advice,” says Hartman. “We love to talk quilting.”

With her Web site, she’s shipping fabric around the world.

Hartman says she owns the baby quilts from both sets of her grandparents. When each of her children went off to college, she sent along a handmade quilt, saying, “If you ever need a hug, wrap yourself in this.”

“I’m trying to bridge generations,” she says. “A good quilt will last for generations, and tells a story.”
Hours: Mon.-Wed., Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs. to 8 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. ❚

Shulllsburg Cheese Company, Shullsburg, Wis.

Shullsburg Cheese Store

208 W. Water St., Shullsburg, Wis. (608) 965-3855

The building that houses this Midwestern fromage homage was constructed in 1855. It’s owned by the Midwest Dairymen, owners of Shullsburg Creamery, but alas, there’s no longer a cheese factory in town.

The cheese is still as fresh as you can get, and the store is stocked with regional fare. “We carry some imported brands, but we buy many local products from small suppliers, including New Glarus beer and Spurgeons wine,” says Manager Donna Schoenfeld.

Get cheese in any shape or form: curds, spread, block, wheel, sliced to order. Choose from a variety of sausage – garlic, beef, summer, German, hot & spicy. Pick from shelves of salsas, jams, mustards and dips. Take home a souvenir plaque, spoon, glass or coffee mug.

The store is open Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri. to 9 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sun. 8 a.m.-4 p.m. ❚

The Blue Orchid Artist Gallery & Gift Shop, Freeport, Ill.

The Blue Orchid Artist Gallery & Gift Shop

10 E. Main St. , Freeport, Ill. (815) 291-7873

This little gem inside Luecke Jewelers offers the wares of local artists: oil and watercolor paintings; wearables like knit caps and aprons; quilted purses, iPod carriers and book covers; jewelry; stained glass; photography.

“I wanted a place where area craftspeople could showcase their talents,” says Jennifer Nall, manager. “We get something new and exciting in almost every day.”

No mass-produced items are allowed. Everything is original and handmade. The merchandise is a testament to talented people in the region who have no permanent venue in which to merchandise their creations.

The store is open Mon. through Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. ❚

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