Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
The Wooden Trooper
1015 16th St., Monroe, Wis., (608) 207-0091
After serving in the U.S. Army and doing government contracting for the military, James Reese decided it was time to return home to Monroe, Wis., and open his own business.
“Serving in the Army for 24 years, my family and I saw a lot of this country and Germany,” says Reese. “During the moves, our furniture didn’t always arrive in the best of condition, so that’s when I started building larger pieces. The construction was normally done in the garage of whatever Army housing we were stationed at.”
The Wooden Trooper opened its doors this June 1 and sells all kinds of handmade wooden pieces, such as Victorian-style rocking horses, custom shelves made from reclaimed barn wood, wine racks, quilt stands and movable sewing machines. Outdoor furniture items are sold, too, all made by Reese, who is part artist, part craftsman.
Reese loves the creativity that’s possible with custom designs. Customers can simply bring in a picture or sketch of what they want.
“My mantra is, ‘Imagination is the only limitation,’ meaning that if someone can think of an idea for a project, I should be able to come up with a plan,” says Reese. Visitors can watch Reese at work in his shop, behind glass doors that separate it from the showroom. Hours: Thu.-Sat., Mon. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. noon-4 p.m.
Krenek’s Clock Haven
5124 N. Second St., Loves Park, Ill., (815) 965-4661, kreneksclockhaven.com
Bob Krenek’s hobby of fixing clocks out of his own home turned into a local business in 1964. For many decades, the shop was located at 2314 N. Main St., but it recently moved across the river to Loves Park, Ill.
Current owner Doug Nelson began working at the store in 1990 and purchased it when Krenek retired in 1999.
“We repair all kinds of old clocks that have been handed down through families,” says Nelson. “People come in and say that a clock was their grandma’s, for instance, and that they want to keep it going because they want to always remember seeing the clock as a child at their grandma’s house.”
Most of the time, the antique clocks simply require routine maintenance. Customers can also find a wide assortment of clocks at the store that are available for purchase, from grandfather and cuckoo clocks to shelf and wall clocks. Krenek’s carries many brands, such as Ridgeway Clocks.
“Recently there’s been a push to get the clock at Clock Tower Resort working again, so we’re helping with that, too,” says Nelson.
Hours: Tue.-Thu. 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Fri. to 6 p.m., Sat. to 1 p.m.
The Artful Gourmet
526 First St., New Glarus, Wis., (608) 527-5858, facebook.com/TheArtfulGourmet
Sue and Duane Nettum had always talked about the possibility of opening a store in retirement. “One day, we finally thought, ‘Why wait until we retire?’ and decided to give it a try,” says Sue. In 2012, the couple opened The Artful Gourmet, selling gourmet foods, wines, and kitchen and home products.
When deciding on items to add to the store’s inventory, Sue looks for three basic requirements: items must be fun, unique and functional.
“For example, we sell unique wines that you don’t find in your local grocery stores,” says Sue. Monthly wine tastings are offered, too.
The owner of Vintage Birch Barn in Evansville, Wis., brings The Artful Gourmet repurposed furniture to sell. The store carries food brands including Robert Rothschild Farm, Stonewall Kitchen and Galena Garlic Company. Along with lotions and soaps, other products include teapots, cookware and kitchen towels. “We also have some great hand-carved platters and bowls made out of sustainable mangle wood,” Sue says.
The business is open year-round, but it has specific seasonal hours. Summer hours are Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Lena Mercantile Company
101 W. Railroad St., Lena, Ill., (815) 369-9955, lenamercantile.com
In 2004, Ruth and Larry Maedge opened Lena Mercantile Company, offering residents in the small town of Lena, Ill., a place to shop for antiques, collectible items and more.
“It’s a nice way for people to sell merchandise and offer a service to Lena,” says Ruth. “People were also looking for a place to go for coffee and pie, so we added lunch six days a week, and dessert all day, seven days a week.”
With 65 vendors, the store is filled with intriguing items such as wooden spoons, candles, sports memorabilia, signs, photographs and much more.
It’s easy to become a vendor, too – simply talk to Ruth to find out if a space is available.
“The way the store is put together is unique,” says Ruth. “My husband constructed the interior to look like a small village, so it’s a really interesting look.”
The attached restaurant, The Eatery, serves lunch Mon.-Sat. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Homemade soups, sandwiches and salads are popular. The delicious treats range from pies and cheesecakes to bread puddings and apple dumplings.
Hours: Daily 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.