Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
883 W. Main St., Lake Geneva, (262) 683-8604, InspiredCoffee.org
Opened in June, this business is a labor of love from Inspired Ministries, a 70-year-old nonprofit in Walworth, Wis., devoted to people with cognitive and physical disabilities.
While excellent coffee, tasty baked goods and a cozy atmosphere delight customers, the business exists to give disabled adults the hard and soft-skill job training they need to find successful employment. “Even pre-COVID, their unemployment rate was 15 percent,” says Merik Fell, director of development at Inspired Coffee. “We’ve spoken to many local employers who’d like to hire more disabled adults but don’t have the capacity to invest in the specialized training needed. We’re filling that need.”
The shop sells Bon Kafe Roast, a sustainable Arabica coffee that directly profits the Haitian farmers who grow it, and Geneva National Foundation Roast, a Columbian bean roasted by Boxed and Burlap Coffee and Roastery in Delavan, Wis.
A wide variety of hot and iced teas are on the menu, along with hot chocolate and dozens of espresso, frappe and latte varieties, plus cold brew and nitro cold-brew coffee. Baked goods include scones, cookies, muffins and coffee cakes made locally by Hummingbird Bake Shop; many are gluten-free.
Summer hours are Mon.-Sat. 6 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. – Janine Pumilia
3065 N. Perryville Road, Rockford, (815) 282-8881
Lori Wetzel became the new owner of Porch in January. In March, she shut her doors because of COVID-19.
She used the down time to re-invent her inventory and spiff up the store – taking down all items and shelving, cleaning, painting, freshening up displays and rearranging everything to give it a new look.
The store specializes in unique gifts, clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, yard and garden art, home decor, kitchen items, baby gifts, wedding gifts, soaps and candles.
Gift-wrapping is free.
“Customers typically come in looking for a gift for someone else, but they almost always end up buying something for themselves, too,” she says.
On holidays like Mother’s Day, Wetzel and staff are busy filling orders for flower arrangements and planters as fast as they can produce them.
Wetzel is gearing up for a busy autumn and Christmas season and has purchased traditional, fun and glitzy items to help her customers freshen their seasonal decor.
“I’m really excited about it,” she says.
Watch the store’s Facebook page for announcements about special holiday events.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. – Peggy Werner
Blue Moon Bikes
211 W. State St., Sycamore, Ill., (815) 899-3100, bluemoonbikes.com
This specialty shop offers a large collection of new and classic bicycles made by Schwinn, Haro, GT and other favorite brands.
The business is run by a group of skilled enthusiasts who repair and restore bikes. They also accept trades and will purchase used bikes.
“It’s a fun little store,” says Rod Griffis, who opened Blue Moon in 2001. “It’s a place to get away to see some old and new bikes. A lot of people even come here to reminisce about their old bicycle.”
Each floor of this multi-level building is full of bikes. Newer models are on the first floor, vintage bikes are on the second floor, and the third floor is home to a personal collection belonging to Griffis, with a focus on Schwinn Stingrays dating back to 1963.
“We also have a basement that’s full of parts, so we call this ‘the building with four floors of fun,’” he says. “I started my collection in 1996. I just started buying them, and over time I ended up with a lot of bikes.”
Each year, Blue Moon Bikes puts on Krate Fest, a bike show and flea market in downtown Sycamore, this year scheduled for Sept. 26. It’s named for the Krate series of Schwinn bikes made between 1968 and 1973.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. – Jermaine Pigee