Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Books on First
202 W. 1st St., Dixon, Ill., (815) 285-2665, booksonfirst.com
Literary mavens and booklovers explore a wide selection at this locally owned business. Larry Dunphy and his wife, Carolyn Chin, opened the store in October 1998, and it’s grown to become a fixture in the community.
“It’s a friendly place,” says Dunphy. “We have lots of regulars that have shopped here since we opened. It’s almost like family.”
In addition to classics, popular fiction and nonfiction, Dunphy stocks books about the Midwest, Illinois, Chicago and Dixon, to create an atmosphere that values community. The store also has a large children’s section, and carries jewelry and World of Good scarves.
Books on First hosts musicians every Saturday evening, with styles ranging from folk and country to jazz and bluegrass.
“Folk performers often play their own compositions,” Dunphy says.
Customers enjoy coffee and pastries as they shop for great reading material and receive high-touch personal service.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Fri. 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Hidden Timber Gardens
462 S. Chana Road, Chana, Ill., (815) 751-4162, hiddentimbergardens.com
In 2007, Monica Putnam and husband Jim Williams expanded their love for gardening into their own business. The pair has used their 5.5 acres to create a living showroom of specimen trees and display gardens. “We wanted to show what plants look like in their natural settings,” Putnam says. “That way, customers have a better idea of what they’re buying.”
Customers will find native plants, ornamental grasses, specimen trees and shrubs, and more than 160 varieties of hostas, as well as containers of annuals, vegetable plants and hanging baskets. Most in demand are Hidden Timber Garden’s many unique hardy perennials. Delivery and installation are available.
“We walk around with each person to provide ideas and knowledge about what materials would be best for their yard,” Putnam says.
Services also include landscape consultation and design. “Jim works on the design with the customer in the winter,” Putnam explains. “Then, he does the installation in the summer. What people want for their gardens, he can create.”
Hours: Tues.-Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
236 W. Water St., Shullsburg, Wis., (608) 965-8585, kingsleycrossing.com
About two years ago, Sandy Russell fulfilled her dream, when she opened her own store in an 1887 building on Shullsburg’s historic main street. The name comes from the old one-room “Kingsley School,” attended by both her father and grandfather, which still stands on the family homestead.
The store offers a great selection, including home decor, antiques, gifts, fudge, coffee and chocolate ice cream.
“I like to think we have a little bit of everything – vintage items, gifts, Shullsburg Miner gear,” says Russell. Rooms upstairs have items based on themes, such as vintage, baskets and sports apparel. There are handbags, jewelry and refurbished furniture. Clocks are especially popular, and Russell takes great pride in the humorous home décor signs she displays.
“We have a lot of signs, and I really love it when customers see a funny sign and laugh out loud,” she says. “I want them to enjoy what they’ve seen and walk away with a chuckle, too.
“The town of Shullsburg has so much history and so many great stores,” she adds. “I invite everyone to come see what it has to offer.”
Hours: Sun.-Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Elizabeth’s Grand Antique Co.
300 West St., Elizabeth, Ill., (309) 337-9477, elizabethantiqueco.com
Michael Maynard and wife Ashley converted this former school building into a 28,000-square-foot mall, filled with antiques, vintage items, collectibles and more. “Locals said that antiques were scarce, so we saw it as an opportunity to help out our community,” Michael says.
Opened in April 2014, there’s an antique market with high-end antique furniture, architectural pieces and home decor. The mall also sells vintage items, collectibles and gifts. Find old bicycles, lamps, fishing gear, artwork, furniture, gardening and farming tools.
With both high-end and shabby chic in one location, customers are assured of finding something that suits their fancy and their budget. And even with 120-plus vendors, there’s always room for more.
“I want customers to be giddy about rummaging through the items,” Michael says. “I want them to find something that has meaning to them, for them to say, ‘I just found a treasure.’”
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.