Discover these unique stores that remain off the beaten path
Marv’s Farm Toys & Antiques
1512½ 11th St., Monroe, Wis.
(608) 325-3948, (608) 558-2185
Owner Marv Rufi grew up on a farm and has been collecting farm toys since he was a kid. “I got serious about 30 years ago – too serious,” he jokes. He stocks this 3,200-square-foot basement nook with everything agrarian, from toys and riders to milk cans, old tools and metal signs. He says he has “a serious collection” of farm toys at home, not to mention more than 30 real tractors.
“I own the building, and when the upstairs storefront was empty, I used to put toys in the window,” Rufi explains. “Everyone kept asking when I was going to start selling them. When I rented out the upstairs space, I decided to move everything into the basement and do just that.”
He has a large selection of ERTL toys, and more than 100 pedal tractors, cars and bikes, not to mention antique apple peelers, pumps, files and wheels. Browsing through the mix could occupy an afternoon. The toys, which account for about two-thirds of Rufi’s stock, are a mix of antique, vintage and collectible, including new stock still in boxes. He’s happy to help customers to recover a memory – “I used to have a red and black toy tractor with this logo. Any idea what it was?” – or to learn more about a certain brand or make of tractor.
Because Rufi’s a carpenter by trade, he’s open only on Saturdays and by appointment. ❚
2553 Milton Ave., Janesville
(608) 756-5797, thecranberrymoon.net
Two memorable mascots inhabit this unique gift store: Socks, a rescue cat who’s been in residence since the place opened; and a crone mannequin, set at the front of the store, whose attire changes to reflect the seasons.
Owners Linda and Dave Wilcox opened the shop in 1999; last year, they opened a second location in Stoughton. Shoppers can get special-order furniture from Johnson Benchworks; special-order rugs from Home Spice Décor; lamps; wall coverings; and antique and vintage furniture.
Home décor items include chandeliers, wall hangings, custom and ready-made signs, clocks and silk floral arrangements and stems. Whimsical figures from makers like Laurie Mitchell and Willy Raye make fun, unique gifts. There are also bird cages and feeders; gift cards; Bean Pod and Woodwick candles; jewelry and art; and soup, dip and cheesecake mixes and jellies from Country Home Creations.
Watch for seasonal and holiday open-house events.
Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday to 5 p.m.; and Sunday noon – 4 p.m. ❚
Krenek’s Clock Haven
2214 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 965-4661
Doug Nelson came to own a clock shop in an interesting way.
“I used to work at a grain elevator, which is feast or famine – 100 hours a week or struggling to make 40,” he says. “When I married and became a father, I needed something more stable.”
Original owner Bob Krenek happened to be fixing a grandfather clock for Nelson’s father, who mentioned that his son was looking for a new job. Krenek said to have him come by.
“So I started there in 1990, and I bought the business in 1999, when Bob retired,” says Nelson. “He worked on clocks in the Navy, and I got my hands-on training from him.”
The little storefront is filled with all types of clocks: grandfather, mantle, anniversary, cuckoo, even Felix the Cat. In the back is the repair area, where Nelson has as many as 40 grandfather clock movements to repair at a time.
“After the Clock Tower was sold and the Time Museum clocks moved, The Best Western retained eight clocks that were dispersed throughout the hotel,” he says. “When they sold the property, they called us to pick up the clocks and get them running again. One was built in 1697.”
The shop is open Monday-Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Friday to 6 p.m. ❚
Air Play Sports
115 E. 3rd St., Sterling, Ill.
(815) 564-2787, airplaysports.com
Find equipment for your favorite sports that take place in the air: disc golf; power kite-flying; boomerang throwing.
“These are all of the hobbies I enjoy, and it’s hard to find these things in this area,” says owner Tim McNinch.
Disc golfers will find discs from companies like Innova, ABC and Vibram, dyed, limited-run and night discs, and bags and accessories. Kites range from single-line style to heavy-duty, dual-line, lift-you-in-the-air; the store also stocks a selection of wind socks and lawn spinners.
“We held Kite Fest this past spring at Sauk Valley College, and we drew about 130 people,” says McNinch. “In fall and spring, we bring in other toys and items related to air – little gliders, bubbles, things like that.”
McNinch recently added an espresso bar that serves lattes, cappuccino and other beverages and fresh pastries. He even hosts live entertainment during the weekends.
Air Play Sports is open Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and shoppers can buy on the website anytime. ❚