Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Silver Prairie Soap
124 Cass St., Ste. 4, Woodstock, Ill., (815) 403-6931, silverprairiesoap.com
Annette Gast had never made soap before her family moved to a Harvard-area farm and began raising goats.
“It was all fun and games. Then, one of the goats was pregnant,” says Gast. “So, we had the goat milk. We were milking and learning about the goats. I made some cheese and then thought it would be fun to try to make goat milk soap.”
Though it was a struggle at first, Gast stumbled onto a unique new product, one that’s remarkably versatile and increasingly popular.
Her best seller is the large bath bar bearing a carved goat’s face, but she also sells natural shampoos, shave soaps, creams, lotion bars, body butters and scrubs all derived from the Gast family’s goats. Their milk makes each product mild and gentle on the skin.
Gast also carries products made by local artisans, such as repurposed jewelry made from silver forks, spoons and typewriter keys.
“It’s just a fun little store where we sell our products and other products by locals,” says Gast. “Mostly everything is made in McHenry County. We’re just adamant about supporting local businesses, local artisans, selling earth-friendly items and using the least amount of packaging we can.”
Hours: Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 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 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.
Hours: Thurs. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Sat. to 5 p.m., Sun. to 4 p.m. Also available by appointment.
Galena Canning Co.
106 S. Main St., Galena, Ill., (815) 777-2882, galenacanning.com
Chef Ivo Puidak says there are times when he works at Galena Canning Co. seven days a week and 18 hours a day.
“If you love what you do, it reflects in what you do,” says Puidak, chef and owner of Galena Canning Co.
For more than 25 years, Galena Canning Co. has offered a huge selection of salsas, pasta and barbecue sauces, relishes, hot sauces jams, jellies and flavored oils and vinegars, among other things. The products are available to sample.
“When our customers are happy, we’re happy,“ Puidak says. “It doesn’t take a master’s degree to learn how to be good to people.”
In addition to the Galena store, Puidak also has locations in Long Grove, Ill., and Lake Geneva, Wis.
Because the original location is in Galena, which is a big tourist attraction, many visitors have caught on to Puidak’s work. His products have been featured on The Food Network, “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and “Good Morning America.”
Hours: Daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Extended hours on Saturday.