Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
The Foundry Books
105 Commerce St., Mineral Point, Wis., (608) 987-4363
There are plenty of reasons to stop in Mineral Point when you’re wandering around Wisconsin, and here’s another one.
This little gem of a shop, located inside a limestone 1847 iron foundry, is loaded with rare finds, including many books with connections to our region. Those who love to breathe in the scent of books new and old, and whose hearts beat faster with the thrill of the hunt, will enjoy this place the most.
“We specialize in regional books, children’s books – mostly first editions – and cookbooks,” says Gayle Bull, owner. Her collection includes vintage maps, local histories and books on local wildlife and traditions.
Books of poetry – haiku in particular – are also prized here. Gayle and her late husband, Jack, worked as publishers of American Haiku magazine for many years and hosted Cradle of Haiku festivals in Mineral Point.
“I’ve loved poetry all of my life,” says Gayle.
The shop is open mostly on weekends. Gayle advises, “If you’re coming from a distance, call first to be sure we’re open.”
Generations Brewing Co.
1400 S. Adams Ave., Freeport, generationsbrewing.com, (815) 616-5941
Steve Winters likes to joke that his big brother got tired of buying him beer, so he taught Steve how to brew his own. But he mostly learned the ropes by working at Galena Brewing Co. for three years. A native of Freeport, he opened his brewery and taproom in 2014. Right now he’s turning out a Red October beer, a light and fruity Whole Cone pale ale, and a big, hoppy Double IPA made with locally grown hops.
“We always have 10 beers on draft,” he says. Classics in his collection include Pretzel City Amber, Hella Good and No Promises. Late summer fruit beers include Jelly Donut and Cherry Czar.
At the Generations Brewing Co. full-service bar, you can sample the beers, craft wines and other spirits. In warm weather, a wall of the taproom opens for patio-style seating with an attractive, industrial-style vibe. Bring your own food or order carry-out/delivery from a menu of nearby eateries.
Live music, guest food trucks and other special events are announced on the website.
“Making beer was a big tradition in Stephenson County at one time, and we’re glad to be part of reviving it,” says Steve.
Hours: Wed. & Thurs. 3-10 p.m.; Fri. 3-11 p.m.; Sat. noon-11 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m.
The Wright Way Farm
9002 West County Road H, Beloit, (608) 201-1000, TheWrightWayFarm.com
“I farm, therefore you eat.” That’s the T-shirt Susan Wright wears to farmers markets. “Nobody can argue with that,” she says with a laugh.
Susan and husband Denny Wright believe in healthful, sustainable and cruelty-free food. They established their farm in 2005 and grow produce that’s USDA organic certified – the highest possible standard for farming without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They grow most every vegetable you can think of, often heirloom varieties, along with strawberries, basil, cilantro, dill and garlic.
“By using environmental sustainability practices, we’re farming lightly to leave resources for our grandchildren,” says Susan. “By practicing social sustainability, we pay our employees fair living wages.” They also work with partners to get healthy food into communities where access is limited.
The Wrights sell their produce through farmers markets in Beloit, Rockford and several Chicago suburbs, as well as straight from their farm. Some customers sign up for summer share programs in which portions of fresh-picked food are set aside weekly for pickup June through October. There’s also a fall storage option for those who want to can or freeze organic foods to enjoy in winter months.
The Bicycle Hub
418 Main St., Pecatonica, Ill., (779) 770-6411, thebicyclehub-il.com
Jim Brechlin has many talents. He’s played string bass with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and the Rock River Symphony since the 1980s. He spent nearly three decades working as a professional chef. And as a kid growing up in greater Rockford, he ran a bicycle repair shop from his basement for 10 years.
“I was the second-oldest of 10 kids, so we had a big demand for bicycles,” he says.
Jim returned to his childhood passion in 2012, on the eve of the Pecatonica Prairie Trail completion, and today helps fellow cyclists to purchase, maintain and fix their bicycles.
“I believe bicycles are the best form of transportation on earth. As long as we have gravity, land and legs, we’ll have bicycles,” he says. Brechlin often finishes a tune-up within 30 minutes, depending on store traffic. He helps customers to upgrade, refurbish, clean, overhaul and replace their bikes, and accepts trade-ins.
A typical $32 tune-up buys you bearing, brake and gear adjustment, proper tire inflation and a lube job.
Along with many brands of bicycles, the store carries or can access three-wheelers, tandems, unicycles, scooters, trailers, carriers and toddler vehicles.
Hours: Sun., Wed. & Thurs. 1-5 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; By appointment only on Mon. & Tues. and in the months of January and February.