Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
A Cook’s Corner
2501 YMCA Way, Sterling, Ill., (815) 625-7040, acookscorner.com
This well-stocked kitchen store opened in October 2008. “We owned the building, and my husband, Charlie, who comes from a business background, asked me what business I’d like if I could have one,” explains owner Debbie Lawrence. “I love to cook, bake and entertain, and my favorite place to shop is a kitchen store, so that’s what I picked.”
Pans aplenty, gadgets galore, and specialty mixes and treats in abundance fill this 1,400-square-foot space – just about anything you can imagine: spatulas, servers, cookie cutters, knives, melon ballers, pineapple corers, aprons, pots and pans, bakeware, linens, gourmet coffees and teas, mixes, mustards, dips, biscotti.
Lawrence carries many U.S. made items: Stonewall Kitchen specialty foods out of Maine; earth-friendly cleaning products from Caldrea in Minnesota; bakeware from Pennsylvania’s USA PAN; Urban Accents spices from Chicago; Victorinox knives from New Hampshire; Vic Firth rolling pins and salt and pepper mills; Plentiful Pantry soup mixes; and more.
On the first Thursday of each month, the store stays open late for Girl’s Night Out, featuring food and beverage samples, along with services like a paraffin dip or chair massage, from outside vendors. A door prize is awarded every half hour, and Lawrence says the event averages 100 women.
Check the website for the recipe of the month, which offers unique ways to use the mixes and dips sold at A Cook’s Corner.
Hours: Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat. to 3 p.m.
The Bramble Patch
526 1st St., New Glarus, Wis., (608) 527-4878, thebramblepatch.biz
High-quality retail is in owner Carol Allen’s blood: Her great-grandparents ran a 19th-century general store, where her grandmother worked until she married. Allen’s grandparents began producing maple syrup in 1889, and Allen worked in this family business until 1992, when she decided to open her own store.
This quaint shop carries jewelry, some women’s fashions, local cheeses, gourmet teas, salsas and mustards, and of course, the family’s award-winning maple syrup. But Allen’s signature merchandise is the hand painted Polish pottery from Ceramika Artystyczna, and she keeps upwards of 2,000 pieces in stock.
“If something doesn’t meet our high standards, we don’t sell it,” Allen says. “We home-tested various brands, and this was the only one that passed our rigorous everyday use. It can go from oven or microwave to table, to dishwasher or freezer.”
Hours: Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. to 7 p.m.
The Driftless Area Stillroom
116 E. Market St., Mt. Carroll, Ill. (815) 244-5610, email@example.com
Penny and Bruce Lally run this small wine store, specializing in affordable vintages from around the world. “We get them from areas known for their wines – Portugal, Spain, France,” says Bruce. “We also carry domestic wines from places like California and Washington state, and some produced locally.”
The Lallys complement the wine selections with local and regional meats, cheeses, jams and other food, along with various kitchen knick-knacks. The store also sells art and other items created by local artisans.
Transplants from Wauconda, the couple settled on Mt. Carroll for their retirement, after a two-year search for just the right spot. They opened their doors in June 2010.
“Our daughters got together on the name,” says Bruce. Driftless refers to the area’s topography, which was spared the debris, or “drift,” left behind by glacial movement.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m.
Bunker Hill Dog Training, Grooming & Specialty Store
6982 S. Bunker Hill Road, German Valley, Ill., (815) 362-2045, bunkerhilldogtraining.com
Owner Tracy Regole has loved taking care of dogs for as long as she can remember. “When I was a child, I would ask to borrow neighbors’ dogs, and return them shampooed and combed,” says the former mortgage broker, who began grooming dogs professionally, on the side, in 1976, eventually becoming a professional trainer and handler herself. “I’ve trained and shown my Australian shepherds all over the world, in every event, from obedience to flyball,” Regole says.
She opened Bunker Hill 10 years ago – a one-stop shop for dog owners, from crates and beds to leads and collars. Treats and organic and holistic dog and cat food, like Canidae and Chicken Soup for the Dog or Cat Lover’s Soul are always in stock.
Also offered are a wide range of training aids and grooming supplies for the serious competitor as well as the home pet owner, along with a huge selection of books. Owners will find just the right toys among the latex squeak, soft plush and tuggies, and outfit their furry friends with sweaters, coats, even doggie boots.
Especially fun is the selection of breed-specific gifts, like door mats, mouse pads, greeting cards, garden flags, mugs, jewelry, key chains, even cookie jars and sugar bowls.
Regole grooms dogs of all breeds by appointment, and offers group training sessions (over several weeks), hourly training and private training. Visit the website to see upcoming classes.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.