Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
122 S. Prairie St., Rockton, Ill., (815) 624-8393, cyndyscountrycottage.com
Cyndy Fogarty was a stay-at-home mom, selling antiques in rented booth spaces, when husband Jim came home one day and told her about a building he’d seen for sale. “He said to me, ‘You might as well start doing this on your own,’” she says.
Fogarty bought the building, and with the help of the entire family, renovated the 1890 former blacksmith shop, retaining as much of the original charm as possible, from the creaky screen door to the rough-hewn rafters. Now, the 5,000 square-foot space is chock full of antiqtue, vintage, handmade and cottage industry merchtandise. “I have friends who like to shop antiques, and I have friends who don’t,” Fogarty explains. “So I wanted to create a place they all could enjoy.”
Antiques range from dishes, porcelain, knickknacks, lamps and pottery, to chairs, desks, dressers, beds, and pantries. All other furniture is handmade, whether upholstered chairs, sofas and textiles from the Carolinas or willow rockers from a renowned Kentucky artisan. “I work very hard to bring in merchandise from small, American companies, even the textiles, soaps, candles and lotions,” says Fogarty.
Also on hand are specialty food items like handmade pie filling and jellies and mixes for dips, scones and other pastries, along with over 60 varieties of vintage sodas made with natural cane sugar. “People love them,” says Fogarty. “They get nostalgic when they see Dang!, Green River or Jic Jac.”
Shoppers will lso find seasonal decorations, and Fogarty rents booth space to some local artisans and vendors.
Still don’t see what you’re looking for? Just ask, and Fogarty will do her best to get it for you. Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Loose Threads8005 N. Hwy. 26, Milton, Wis.
This structure began life in 1852 as a one-room schoolhouse. Even with upgrades and expansions, owner Mary Kay Schiefelbein has preserved the original footprint and restored its rustic charm.
Inside the original coatroom, the cubbies and coat hooks are now adorned with colorful fabric. What had been the main schoolroom is stocked ceiling to floor with bolts of fabric, kits, instruction books and more. “When I came in, I took down a drop ceiling and discovered these beautiful ceiling fans,” Schiefelbein says with a wave upward. “Over there are the school’s original blackboard and library shelves.”
Since purchasing the store nearly nine years ago, Schiefelbein has expanded the space three times, to make room for more fabric, provide a generous private space for classes and, most recently, expand her line to include Pfaff sewing machines.
Here is everything for the textile do-it-yourselfer: 6,000 bolts of fabric; phat quarters; notions or tools; patterns; cutting mats; yarn; even a long-arm quilting machine. With an experienced proprietor and six knowledgeable employees, expert advice is also in abundance.
Hrs: Mon. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri. to 5 p.m.; Sat. to 4 p.m.; Sun. noon-4 p.m.
109 N. Main St., Galena, Ill., (815) 777-4080, galenabeads.com
A person can’t help but be inspired by a visit here. The 1,400-square-foot space holds more than 1,000 beads – with new ones arriving regularly – plus every accessory, tool or material a beader could need.
Find beads in every material – onyx, turquoise, quartz, crystal, wood, copper and more – in every shape, from round and oval to alphabet or animal, along with a variety of pendants and charms. Chains, toggles, clasps, cords, findings, tools and instructional materials are here, along with specialty bead mixes and jewelry kits, even crochet supplies.
Also for sale is a huge selection of “Made in Galena” jewelry, created by local artisans, including proprietor Jan Ketza, a published jewelry designer and instructor specializing in wire crochet, as well as an abstract and plein air artist and teacher. Her knowledgeable staff is always ready to offer advice.
Daily and weekly workshops and extended classes are available, but registration is required. The shop is open daily.
Geneva Village Shops
727 Geneva St., Lake Geneva, Wis.
This group of specialty stores is located in a renovated church. Originally the First Baptist Church and its parsonage, the building was converted into a retail center 14 years ago. With a variety of upscale businesses in one spot, this is truly a shopping destination.
Doodlebugs sells infant and children’s clothing, shoes, hats, coats, accessories and toys, including a line of retro tricycles and peddlers. In All Her Glory is a women’s boutique, with clothing, scarves, evening bags and other accessories, including Teresa Goodall jewelry and Dancing Cat handbags. Much of the merchandise is displayed against a backdrop of beautiful stained glass windows.
Also here is Lake Geneva’s longest-operating bookstore, Breadloaf Bookshop. Family-run for 41 years, it relocated here in November 2011. At the Lake Geneva School of Cooking, foodies can experience Chef John Bogen’s culinary delights or take part in scheduled classes.
Downstairs, shoppers can take a break at Geneva Java Coffee & Bake Shop and check out the beautiful pieces at Gilbertson’s Stained Glass – a natural ending for this unique shopping experience. “People are drawn here because it’s shops and a café and a gallery, but it’s also a church,” says Kym Davidson, retail associate at Doodlebugs. “It’s an interesting repurposing.”
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., to 6 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.