Nooks & Crannies

The Sweetery Co.

105 Buchanan St. • Belvidere, Ill. • (815) 544-3969
Filled with sweet treats in every color of the rainbow, and occupying an entire wall, candy jars complete with lids and scoops beckon not only the young, but also the young at heart. Visible in the glass-fronted freezer, giant tubs of real ice cream tempt even the most strong-willed.
Old-fashioned, stainless steel nozzles dispense soda; order a shake or malt, and get not only a glassful, but also what’s left in the stainless steel mixing cup. While waiting at the counter for their orders, customers can twirl to their hearts’ content on the authentic, vinyl-covered stools.
A visit to The Sweetery Co. is like taking a step back in time, when the neighborhood soda fountain was the place to be. Choose from more than 150 kinds of nuts, chocolates and candy; 17 flavors of ice cream, and all of the usual sundaes, malts, shakes and floats. Friendly service and ’50s and ’60s music make it the complete package.
Hours: 3-9 p.m., Monday-Friday; noon-9 p.m., Saturday-Sunday.

Tuff Dog Bakery

7 E. 3rd St. • Sterling, Ill. • (815) 625-5725 •
About eight years ago, Vicki Mandrell saw a TV show on Animal Planet or Travel Channel – she doesn’t exactly remember – about a bakery that catered to dogs. Even though she didn’t even own a dog, she thought it sounded like a fun business. A year later, Bailey the beagle came into her life, and the year after that, she started up her own pet bakery, first in her basement and then, within a few months, in her current location.
With Bailey on quality control as a taste-tester, Mandrell concocted dog-friendly recipes by deconstructing human treats like Cinnebons and brownies. Six years later, Bailey has passed on, but a six-pound apricot poodle helps Mandrell perfect more than 50 original recipes for cat and dog treats.
Yogurt-dipped rawhide treats, pupcakes – individual and party-sized – “SnickerPoodles,” and flavored treats ranging from carrot, carob, peanut butter, sweet potato, mint and more, are sold in bulk. Mandrell’s even got 16 local banks handing out Tuff Dog biscuits at their drive-up windows.
Hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday until 2 p.m.

The Discovery Center Museum Gift Shop

711 N. Main St. • Rockford, Ill. • (815) 963-6769
More than just a fun place to visit, the center also has a great gift shop, with all manner of intriguing and entertaining items, from the commonplace to out-of-this-world.
There are the latest Webkinz and Ty stuffed animals; Thomas & Friends engines; backpack clips; pens; games & more.
Find books on science, biology, plants and animals, and famous people like the Wright Bros. Costume play sets for veterinarians or fire chiefs fill the bill for Halloween. Pick up a kit to build a volcano, jet fighter, dinosaur, train or spaceship. Plastic farm animals and dinosaurs, bubble wands, craft kits, stencils, science experiments, cookbooks – there’s too much to list!
Admission to the museum isn’t necessary to visit the gift shop, which is open during regular museum hours, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, noon-5 p.m.

The Rustic Realm

County Road F N • Delavan, Wis. • (262) 728-8241 •
ow covering more than 3,000 square feet, this niche shop started out as a 15- by 20-foot room inside Larry’s Farm Equipment. Seven years and five expansions later, owners Larry and Patty Twist continue to pursue their goal of having the largest variety of great rustic furniture in the area.
More than a style, “rustic” at The Rustic Realm is a way of life. It’s all about authenticity, in coat trees made from real trees, furniture constructed from a variety of wood and log types, lamps made of antlers, taxidermy and even chainsaw carvings.
There are many one-of-a-kind pieces handcrafted by individual artisans. The Twists will be happy to explain how something is made, and offer decorating advice to help you to create your own perfect rustic realm. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.