Check out these unique stores that are well off the beaten path.
Waterfront Gifts & Antiques
212 W. 1st St., Dixon, Ill., (815) 288-4500
Mother-daughter team Virginia Witzleb and Chris Morgan opened their store five-and-a-half years ago as just a gift shop. “But people kept wanting to buy our display furniture, so we finally decided we should expand our line,” says Witzleb.
Now, along with seven other dealers, they fill the two floors of this historic downtown building with shabby chic, Victorian, antique, primitive and vintage furniture and home décor. Shoppers find curio cabinets, dining and kitchen sets, chairs, tables, cabinets, cupboards, antique stoves, Hoosier cabinets, the occasional lamp and more; items change often. To find their vintage and antique treasures, the women travel around Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa. A local retiree makes furniture in New Yankee workshop style, and offers it on consignment.Another local artisan crafts throw pillows out of old flour sacks and ticking, and embellishes them with antique buttons.
New merchandise includes candles and candle warmers, jewelry, florals, home décor and signs with messages like “Always Kiss Me Goodnight.”
Hours are Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sat. to 4 p.m. ❚
Maple Leaf Cheese Store
W2616 Hwy. 11-81, Juda, Wis., (608) 934-1237, mapleleafcheesestore.com
With more than 125 varieties, this place is a cheese lover’s paradise. “We have something from every factory in Green County – that’s about 85 percent of our cheeses,” says manager Shawna Bergemann.
Parents Gordy and Ruth Bergemann purchased the store seven years ago from a Master Cheesemaker at the Maple Leaf Cheese CO-OP factory, just five miles away. The CO-OP has been owned by local farmers since 1910. “The cooperative is special, because your neighbors are the people supplying the milk,” says Shawna.
Her favorite cheese is a cranberry cheddar, and she also recommends the yogurt cheese. “It’s great for people who are lactose-intolerant, because it’s lactose-free.”
The 1,500-square-foot space is also jam-packed with mustards, jellies, horseradish, salsas, relishes, pickles, dill slices, crackers and breads. “We use Wisconsin vendors on everything we can, and some from northern Illinois,” says Shawna. A customer favorite is hand-dipped Cedar Crest ice cream, produced in Rice Lake, Wis.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. to 5 p.m., and Sun., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ❚
Lena Mercantile Co.
101 W. Railroad St., Lena, Ill., (815) 369-9029, lenamercantile.com
In the heart of this quaint village along the Old Stagecoach Trail is a specialty mall with something for everyone: antiques and vintage items; Amish baskets and textiles; handmade wooden toys, dolls, rugs and clothing; rustic furniture and home décor; metal signs; homemade soaps, lotions, honey and candy.
“We have more than 60 dealers,” says Ruth Maedge, who co-owns with husband Larry. “We ran our own antique shop for 22 years, and this summer will be seven years here.”
Dealers can rent an entire room, or just a shelf, depending on their needs. “Someone who makes soap may not need that much space,” Ruth explains. “That flexibility means we can offer a wider variety of items.” That includes jewelry; fabric; porcelain, pottery and ceramics; furniture; lamps and clocks; coins; comic books; and collector cards.
Shoppers can take a break and recharge with a snack without leaving the building. The Eatery serves lunch six days a week, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and desserts and beverages all day, every day. Offerings include quiche, soups, salads and sandwiches, pies and bread pudding, most of which is homemade.
Lena Mercantile is open daily, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. ❚
Flowering Magnolia Gift Shop
2715 S. Main St., Rockford (815) 965-8146, klehm.org
Located in the Visitor Center at Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden, the shop offers not only mementos of your visit, but merchandise to help with your own flowering oasis.
Along with greeting cards, gift wrap, decorative plates, metal wall hangings, ornaments, coasters, figurines and baskets, there are garden utensils, tough totes, tools, gloves, shade hats, aprons, pots, walking sticks and bird feeders. Also for sale are gift bricks for the Fountain Garden Promenade, installed in 2009 at Klehm’s covered gazebo. The bricks can be personalized to commemorate a person or special event.
Right now, the shop is undergoing a revamping to offer a wider range of merchandise.
“We’re working right now on finding more kids’ items and garden-themed home decor that will be unique to Rockford,” says Jessica Miller, shop manager. “We plan to get the new merchandise in for spring.”
The shop is open during garden hours, Tues.-Sat., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. through March 30; daily starting April 1, with extended hours beginning in June. ❚