(River Bend Gallery photo)

Nooks & Crannies, Spring/Summer Edition

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

(River Bend Gallery photo)
(River Bend Gallery photo)

National Mustard Museum Store

7477 Hubbard Ave., Middleton, Wis., (608) 831-2222, mustardmuseum.com
Some folks are unaware that the one and only National Mustard Museum is located right here in our region. Founded by condiment connoisseur (and former Wisconsin assistant attorney general) Barry Levenson in 1992, it showcases more than 6,090 mustards from 70 countries, telling their stories through the Mustardpiece Theater and other clever exhibits.

“There’s no other museum like it, and visitors can stop at our tasting bar and sample any mustard we carry,” says Jeremy Jacobson, operations manager, who describes his job as “weird and wonderful.”

Museum admission is free, with no obligation to visit the store, but why wouldn’t you want to? Along with a dizzying variety of mustards, it sells gourmet oils, vinegars, salsas, chutneys, hot sauces, dessert toppings, preserves and more.

With National Mustard Day coming up on Aug. 3, perhaps your mustard apparel needs updating. Find the “Poupon U” sweatshirt, “Peace Love Mustard” tee and more at the online store, where you can shop for mustards by country of origin. You’ll also find lots of recipes, like Mustard Spice Cake and Hurtin’ Habanero Mustard Guacamole.

Museum and store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except on major holidays.

River Bend Gallery

313 S. Main St., Galena, Ill., (815) 281-9199, riverbendgalleries.com

This attractive gallery sells stunning photographs by Geoffrey Mikol, who owns the gallery with his family. Born with Down Syndrome, Mikol’s professional strength is capturing light with technical precision as he seeks out natural beauty in and around the Galena area.

Mikol has won numerous awards and developed a following. Collectors describe his work as emanating a sense of quiet calm, and sometimes humor.

Visitors can view his work in the gallery or online and purchase photography displayed on framed prints, metal, barn wood and slate. He’s often available in the gallery for guests to meet.

The gallery opened in 2016 but quickly outgrew its space and moved to larger digs on Main Street. This year River Bend Gallery was one of 18 Illinois businesses welcomed into the Illinois Made program.

“The Illinois Made program drives visitors to all regions of Illinois by promoting authentic, locally loved experiences throughout the state,” explains Jan Kemmerling, acting director of the Illinois Office of Tourism.

Gallery hours: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Rock Cut Concessions

Rock Cut State Park, Loves Park, Ill., rockcutpark.com

If you’re looking for some hassle-free outdoor fun, consider spending time at Rock Cut State Park, with its Pierce Lake ideal for fishing and boating, and Olson Lake for swimming.

What makes it hassle-free? The ability to rent boats and buy supplies on site from the state-authorized concessionaire, Rock Cut Concessions, owned and operated for 14 years by Jim Talkington. There’s no need to haul your own kayak to the park or dig your own bait. Heck, you don’t even need to pack your own lunch because the Lone Rock Café, also operated by Rock Cut Concessions, sells fresh-made burgers, hot dogs, chili, fries, ice cream treats and more.

“Our mission is to give people cost-effective, high-quality opportunities for recreation – to get people outside,” says Talkington.

The outdoor store is on the south side of Pierce Lake near the docks. It sells ice, firewood, picnic supplies, camping gear, and fishing tackle and supplies, including live bait and minnows. It rents out single and double kayaks, pedal boats, rowboats, stand-up paddleboards and flat-bottom jon boats.

You’ll encounter some construction in the park this year as half of the 4-mile road circling the lake is improved, with hike and bike lanes being added, as well as some new parking lots, but everything is open for use as usual. Follow Rock Cut Concessions updates on Facebook.