Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Wildflower Collectibles, Etc.
1517 11th St., Monroe, Wis., (608) 325-4841, wildflowercollectibles.com
Shoppers here will find an eclectic mix of new, vintage and antique items, displayed in a welcoming, quaint atmosphere.
The store is owned by Eleanor Morstad and Martha Lewis, a mother-daughter team who strive to offer their customers fresh, unique, one-of-a-kind items. “We’re very particular about the products we carry,” says Lewis.
They’ve been in business for six years, and at their current location, in the historic Eugene Hotel on Monroe’s square, for four. “Mom’s an auction addict, and she passed that on to me,” Lewis says. “It was our pastime, something we enjoy together, so we finally decided to go into business.”
The two floors are filled with antique furniture, lamps, pictures, tapestries, jewelry, knickknacks, pottery, glassware, garden décor, and works from local artisans, such as paintings and woodworking.
New merchandise includes product lines from Tyler candles, earth-friendly cleaning products from Caldrea and Eco-Totes.
“We both have totally different tastes and perspectives, so we balance each other,” says Lewis.
The store is named because of Morstad’s love of wildflowers.
Hours: Tues. 1-4 p.m., Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m., and by appt.
Cottage Garden Gallery
Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Dr., Janesville, Wis., (608) 752-3885, rotarybotanicalgardens.org
In addition to touring its award-winning gardens, visitors here can take home a special souvenir: a handcrafted work from a gifted area artist.
Since July 2011, the gardens’ gift shop has been selling wares from artists in Wisconsin and the nearby Illinois area. Also, these items aren’t necessarily garden- or nature-themed. Among the pieces: blown glass; stained glass; metal, stone and soft sculptures; wall décor; handmade jewelry; original paintings; photography; ceramics; textiles; woodcrafts; even serving pieces and dinnerware.
All items are brought into the shop through a juried committee. Artists may apply online to have their work considered to be offered for sale in the gallery, and a list of criteria is provided. Items are rotated regularly and will change by season. All price ranges are covered, from $1 and up.
The nonprofit 20-acre Rotary Botanical Gardens are maintained by a small permanent staff and a few seasonal employees, who are assisted by a group of dedicated volunteers. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youth (age 6 and under free). Rotary Gardens’ Friends members are also free.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through Oct. 31.
Twin City Market
106 Ave. A, Sterling, Ill., (815) 626-8610, twincityfarmersmarket.com
V endors here provide a year-round source for locally produced food – including vegetables, fruit, beef, pork, bison, free-range eggs and poultry, and organic herbs – as well as sunflower seeds, corn, black walnuts, baked goods, artisan wares and more.
Twin City Market (TCM) began in 2005, the result of a Northwest Illinois Ag Coalition project to offer access to fresh, local food, and to educate the community on the benefits of local agriculture. The City of Sterling contributed funds and the historic Twin City Produce Building, built in 1916 and originally home to Sterling Wholesale Grocery Co.
TCM has wares from 24 different local vendors, and in addition to meat and produce, shoppers can find candy, spun wool, home décor, metalwork, jams, jellies, sauces, homemade pasta, baskets and crafts.
TCM is open from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday, and its Scarecrow Café provides homemade breakfast and lunch items.
Freeport Bicycle Company
120 S. Chicago, Freeport, (815) 235-2014, freeportbikes.com
This shop has been run by just three families in its 115-year history.
In 1909, Joseph Kegel purchased the bicycle shop at 44 S. Galena Ave. in Freeport from Michael Redlinger, who had started it in 1897. The following year, Kegel added Harley-Davidson motorcycles to his product line, and Joseph Kegel Co. Bicycles & Motorcycles became the first Harley-Davidson dealership in the country. In 1936, Joseph moved his operations to Rockford and sold the Freeport shop to brother Julius, who renamed it Kegel Cycle Shop.
Julius relocated to the present location in 1936, in a building built in 1870. He sold the business to his nephew, Ed Kloepping, in 1960, who stopped selling motorcycles in 1966. Ed sold it to his son Joel in 1985, who sold it to current owner Ron Mattson in 2005, when it became the Freeport Bicycle Company.
Joe Dadez has been store manager for 24 years; between Dadez, fellow employees and owner Mattson, the group has a combined 100 years’ experience in building, racing, selling and repairing bikes.
The store specializes in high-quality family, road and racing bikes. Low-end models run around $500; a few on display go for $7,000 to $9,000, including one designed especially for an annual 1,400-mile Iditarod race. Accessories and clothing are also in stock, and bike rentals are available. There’s even a special computerized trainer that simulates the conditions of specific courses.
Freeport has a strong bicycle history. The Stove Bicycle Manufacturing Co. of Freeport made the popular Phoenix model from 1892-1898, with its patented “coaster brake” that became standard on most bicycles.
Hours: Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. to 4 p.m.