Nooks & Crannies, Annual Guide

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

The Dairy Bean

13561 Julie Dr., Poplar Grove, Ill., (815) 765-2500,
When Dawn London realized there was a need for a coffee shop in Poplar Grove, Ill., she decided to do something about it.
London, who spent seven years working at Starbucks, decided last spring it was time to venture out on her own.
She left Starbucks last April and three months later opened The Dairy Bean, a cafe that specializes in handcrafted espresso beverages, frozen custard, homemade pastries and soup.
“My family and I live in Poplar Grove, so The Dairy Bean is an extension of my home, and treating the customers as such is very important to me,” London says. “I personally make all of the soups, pastries and goodies at The Dairy Bean.”
While setting up shop, London believed a drive-thru was a must-have. The property she found for her cafe, which is located in a shopping area off Illinois Route 76 near Candlewick Lake, came with a drive-thru window. On any given morning now, you’ll see Dairy Bean customers getting their items on the go.
Local artists can also show off their work at the coffee shop.
“All of the pieces are for sale and 100 percent of the sale price goes directly to the artist,” London says.
Hours: Mon-Fri. 6 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Extended hours in the summer.

Lallygag Boutique

4616 E. State St., Rockford, (608) 345-7802,
Located in the heart of Rockford’s Miracle Mile is a small boutique with quaint ambiance, stylish merchandise and a friendly staff.
The fun little boutique opened in 2014 and specializes in comfortable and stylish women’s fashion, fun accessories and unique gift items such as jewelry, handcrafted soaps and home decor.
Owner Kim Knutson, a former marketing director in Madison, Wis., searches high and low to find fashionable items that won’t sacrifice comfort.“I want people to leave my shop with a feeling that’s ‘easy like Sunday morning,’” she says.
The scalloped lace extenders are especially popular at this store. “Extenders add length, dimension and a pop of lacy flair to any shirt or dress,” Knutson says.
What separates her little store from the big-box apparel stores is that Knutson buys products in small batches. She also sells items from local businesses, such as Rockford-based The Green Rift, which crafts bath and body products.
“I’m able to connect local artists with customers and keep a sense of community alive in our area,” she says.
Hours: Wed.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. to 4 p.m.

Affinity for Gaming

811 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, Ill., (815) 529-0968, Also in Crystal Lake, Ill.
Affinity for Gaming is the perfect name for Justin Maher and Michael Purn’s business.
They both have an affinity for gaming.
“I’ve been playing Magic: The Gathering since the early 1990s,” Purn says. “We also play board games, so opening a store that sells these games was perfect for us.”
The store retails several fantasy trading card games including Magic: The Gathering, and several board games of skill, such as Dead of Winter.
The store hosts daily tournaments, where you can play games like  Magic: The Gathering and Dungeon and Dragons Encounters.
Maher and Purn launched Affinity for Gaming in Crystal Lake, Ill., about four years ago. They expanded to DeKalb, Ill., four months ago, locating in a storefront just off the Northern Illinois University (NIU) campus. They want to reach NIU students who are interested in playing fantasy games.
“With NIU being in DeKalb, we now have access to a community of people who play the games,” Purn says.
This store sets itself apart from other gaming outlets because of one key factor. “We’ve played almost all of the games, so we’re able to sell the games more effectively,” Purn says. “Other stores may not be as versed in what we are selling.”
Hours: Daily 12:30 p.m.-11 p.m.

Hutch + Hide

600 First St., New Glarus, Wis., (608) 636-2300,
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, which opened last April, 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 made 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.
Winter hours: Thurs.-Mon. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Summer hours, beginning May 1: Daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.