Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Crazy Frank’s Flea Market
1246 State Road 23, Mineral Point, Wis., (608) 987-3346
From books and albums to decor and china, Crazy Frank’s Flea Market is filled with all sorts of gems for customers to discover.
The business started in January 2012 and quickly expanded, which led vendor Carol McKernan to begin selling vintage jewelry at the store by April 2012.
“It’s a treasure hunt,” she says. “Different people are looking for different things, so we want them to find something to add to their collections.”
With more than 100 vendors, this flea market caters to many tastes and interests, as each station offers unique antiques and collectibles.
“One month, one thing will be hot, and the next month, it will be something completely different,” says McKernan. “It all depends on who comes in and what they collect.”
Those interested in becoming a vendor are invited to call the store owners, but be warned: there’s a waiting list for floor space.
“It’s a treasure hunt for us, too, to see what we can find for customers,” says McKernan.
Hours: daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Midwest Rail Junction
1611 N. Alpine Road, Rockford (815) 963-0200, midwestrailjunction.com
Owner Scott Matejka opened Midwest Rail Junction in 2004, after working in other hobby shops. “I wanted to make a store that would be better than my competition,” he says.
This shop carries a wide range of products that are uniquely geared toward collectors of model trains. Hats, whistles, memorabilia, games and puzzles are just the beginning. Major brands include Atlas, Bachmann, Walthers and Digitrax.
“For the younger kids, we have Thomas the Tank Engine, starting out with wooden trains and moving up to the larger electrical trains as they get older and are more capable of handling that,” says Matejka. “I love watching the kids who come in and see Thomas products.”
The store also sells model train products for older kids and young-at-heart adults.
“We also support local area model railroad clubs and regional organizations, like railroad museums,” says Matejka. “We support the hobby, as well as the collection.”
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Gilbertson’s Stained Glass Studio
705 Madison St., Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 248-8022, stainedartglass.com
Since 1983, Ed Gilbertson has created one-of-a-kind stained glass artwork and it’s on display at Gilbertson’s showroom and gallery, in numerous forms.
“It’s a great feeling to create something that someone has a vision for, and to fulfill someone’s ideas and desires for art,” says Gilbertson.
Stained glass can be used many ways, from decorating doors to dressing up skylights. “You can also beautify a window that has a poor view,” suggests Gilbertson.
The artist and his four employees mainly do custom work for residential settings, crafting pieces such as lampshades, sculptures, small window hangings and new panels for entryways and doors. The business also contributes to the historic preservation of many churches around southern Wisconsin.
“I love when customers see the final product and get the satisfaction of having a piece of art that was created especially for them that they can enjoy forever,” Gilbertson says.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
711 N. Brinton Ave., Dixon, (815) 284-2084, dezine99.net
Handcrafted artwork fills this shop, which is set up like a small gallery and specializes in unique gifts, glitzy apparel and large banners.
Sandy Schuler launched the store in 2013, hoping that others would find these unique fashion accessories and home accents as intriguing as she does.
“I love finding really different, unique items, like a lamp made from a Brownie camera, or a lamp made from a microscope,” says Schuler.
Popular products include candles, jewelry, handbags, wine glasses and wine corks. Customers also find hanging art made from watercolors, oil paints and pastels, as well as wood products, such as cutting boards and smaller tables. The shop also sells stained glass works and sculptures.
“Almost everything in the store is hand-crafted,” Schuler says. “About half of the art is from local artists that I can find, and the other half is from artists around the country. If I see something and say, ‘Ooh, that’s really cool,’ that’s how I decide to include it in my collection.”
Schuler also offers custom rhinestone transfer designs for apparel and personalized items, such as bracelets, plaques, T-shirts and ornaments.
“When customers come in, they love to walk around and browse, since there are so many unusual, one-of-a-kind items,” says Schuler. “I love the search and showing what I find to customers.”
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.