Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Sirius Sunlight Glass Studio
218 High St., Mineral Point, Wis., (608) 987-2716, Getsirius.com
Have you thought about having a custom stained glass piece of art made for your home or as a gift?
Jill Engels, a fifth-generation Mineral Point native, and her partner, Chuck Pound, have been making specialty art glass for more than 30 years in their Mineral Point studio. The duo makes and sells stained glass, glass balls, Christmas ornaments, glass icicles, marble kaleidoscopes and more. Pound is known for his artisan glass marbles, but has tapered off production in recent years to pursue other adventures in glass.
A journey to this shop is an experience in whimsy. Engels works with customers to transform their vague ideas about custom patterns into reality.
“Turn-around time for a custom stained glass window panel is a month or two,” says Pound. “It depends on the complexity.”
Order a chandelier crafted from 86 handmade icicles or simply purchase a dozen for $36 to add winter sparkle to your home.
Hours: The duo is in their shop most days, but if you’re driving from far away, be sure to call ahead in case these free spirits are chasing some inspiration.
130 Cass St., Woodstock, Ill., (815) 459-4216, mdtrains.com
Tucked in the Woodstock Square, this model railroading store carries many engines and cars, mini railroad sets, layout designs and accessories from a variety of suppliers. The business also services train engines and installs electronics, sounds and remote controls.
“This is pretty much your classic hobby train store,” says owner Matthew Drennan.
A lifelong fan of trains, Drennan opened the business in 2018 after spending four years running a train shop in Crystal Lake that dealt strictly with over-the-phone and online sales.
“I love working with trains, and my wife told me I was a very good salesman,” Drennan says with a laugh. “I used to go and watch trains come into the station in Crystal Lake, and I’ve spent a lot of time at the Illinois Railway Museum. For me, this is as much enjoyment as it is a job.”
Drennan says his business has shown plenty of first-year growth, especially since more people are finding him.
“We’re one of the only train shops between Rockford and Grayslake, so we have a very large hole to fill for the customer clientele who are figuring out we’re here,” he says.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
3622 E. State St., Rockford, (815) 398-4900
This store has been buying, selling and trading used tools for 20 years and recently began stocking new tools, too. When you think about it, the concept makes sense. How many times have we purchased new tools for a specific job only to see them collect dust after that job was done?
“There are enough people wanting to sell things and enough people who realize that secondhand tools are just as good as new ones to keep me in business,” say owner Dave Stenberg.
He offers tools at about half the original retail price and everything in the store has a warranty for parts and labor for 30 days. He’ll buy back anything he sells for 60 percent of the cost.
Stenberg’s inventory includes hand tools, power tools, automotive tools and saws, bench grinders, drill presses, micrometers, calipers, levels, gauges, ladders, nail guns, air compressors and much more.
Stenberg has spent his life working in retail sales and finds it a rewarding way to help people.
“Part of the fun is helping people to find what they’re looking for because they know what they want to do, but don’t always know how to do it,” he says.
ReTool was a franchise at one time. When it went out of business in 2000, Stenberg kept the store going as a local business owner. Hours: Mon., Tues. and Thurs. 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wed. and Fri. to 5 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.