Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
The Collector’s Bench
218 E. State St., Rockford, (815) 708-7675, thecollectorsbench.com
All things sports and 1,000 percent authentic,” is how Brad Parvin describes his collection of sports memorabilia, cards and apparel.
He boasts the largest collection of Chicago Cubs baseball cards in the world, all on display and for sale in his shop, which attracts the likes of WGN reporters.
“You can literally come in and see the entire history of the Cubs in these cards,” he says. Beckett Magazine – the bible for all things sports memorabilia related – considers him a Top 10 dealer in the world.
A Rockford native, Parvin is a lifelong buyer, seller and trader of sports cards who nurtured his hobby-turned-business from home the past five years, while also working full-time.
“It got so busy that I just decided to take the leap and make this my full-time business, after I got the approval from my wife, Natalie,” he says. “It required a lot of begging.”
Parvin’s dry humor comes through as sports fans gather in his shop to watch him open new packs of cards, an experience he records and uploads to his Facebook page for the enjoyment of fans as far away as Australia.
“People buy the boxes and ask me to open them. They seem to think I’m lucky.”
Parvin partners with Fanatics Co., which distributes authentically autographed items from major league teams.
“As with any industry, there’s some fraud, so it’s important to work with authentic dealers. I guarantee everything I carry because I work with the very best suppliers,” he says. He carries the Bryzzo line of sports apparel, a co-adventure of Cubs players Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Krenek’s Clock Haven
5124 N. Second St., Loves Park, Ill., (815) 965-4661
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 now it operates just across the river in 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.
Hours: Tue.-Thu. 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Fri. to 6 p.m., Sat. to 1 p.m.
Pizzazz Gift Boutique
313 State St., Beloit, (608) 365-6660, pizzazzbeloit.com
Pizzazz Gift Boutique is serious about meeting the evolving style needs of its customers. Founded 11 years ago, the boutique offers a diverse mix of women’s clothing, accessories, home goods and gifts that are as fun to give as they are to receive.
“We wanted to be our own bosses, so we just decided to open this store,” says Christine Drake, who owns the business with her sister-in-law, Anjanette Aumann. “We’ve worked in retail for a long time, and we thought it would be fun.”
The store specializes in comfortable and stylish women’s fashion, fun accessories and gift items such as jewelry, handbags and candles.
“We’ve tried to add what our customers wanted,” Drake says. “When we first started, we didn’t carry clothing, and now we carry a lot of clothing. This is what people wanted when they came in here.”
One thing that separates this boutique from big-box stores is the uniqueness of the merchandise. Everything you’ll find in this place is one-of-a-kind, so you won’t run into the dreaded outfit twin.
“We don’t carry a large amount of one item,” Drake says. And the inventory changes constantly.
Hours: Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Hutch + Hide
600 First St., New Glarus, Wis., (608) 636-2300, hutchandhide.com
This is not your typical retail store. Filled with a variety of home goods and unique items, Hutch + Hide is filled with lots of surprises, including tree swings, cow- and sheepskin rugs, and trendy clothing for little ones.
“We are unique because of our collection of brands that encompasses both up-and-coming companies and established classic brands,” says Tory Hutchison, who co-owns the store with his wife, Kelsy. “We try to carry goods that are hard to find in our area but are still fun and practical.”
Hutch + Hide, which opened last April, is filled with items that add a rustic style to your home. Look for steel hardware pieces including Wisconsin state-shaped bottle openers and hammered copper candle holders. Alongside these crafty items are authentic vintage finds, including old typewriters and coat hooks made from hand-hammered wrought iron.
The Hutchinsons also sell custom-made cabinetry crafted from reclaimed wood.
“We love the creative aspect that it gives us, and we can build whatever people want and can dream up,” Tory says. “We are pretty rustic people, so the reclaimed barn wood fits our vibe.”
The Hutchisons are in the store almost every day interacting with customers.
“We love interacting with and learning the needs of our customers,” Tory says.
Winter hours: Fri.-Mon. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Summer hours, beginning May 1: Daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.