Nooks & Crannies, Summer-Fall Edition

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

Van Laar’s Farm Market & Bake Shop

Edgebrook, 1645 N. Alpine Road, Rockford, (815) 904-6645,

Fans of local farmers markets probably know about the fruit farm owned by Brian and Julie Van Laar in Capron, Ill. Their five children, ages 9 to 25, delight customers by describing the flavor profile of every variety of apple and heirloom tomato they grow. They also grow raspberries, peaches, strawberries, beans, lettuce, corn and wheat. They grind the organic wheat just before using it to make some 1,200 loaves of bread per week, as well as semi-baked pizza crusts.

“We use a 20-hour ferment process that breaks down the gluten and makes it easy to digest, even for people with gluten sensitivity,” says Julie. No eggs or milk are used.

The family also bakes pies and turnovers from scratch and presses its own cider.

After customers requested more access to the baked goods, the Van Laars opened their shop at Edgebrook last Nov. 1.

Along with their own products, they sell local favorites like Dairyhaus ice cream; Bushel & Peck’s soups and condiments; Koehler’s honey; Javamania coffee and R Family Farm meats plus cheeses, eggs, pasta, rice, oils, vinegars, maple candy, jams, salsas, granola, popcorn and more. Fresh bread is available Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Hours: Tues., Thu. and Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wed. 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Mocha Moment

1121 Center Ave., Janesville, (608) 295-7085,

If stress has you tied up in knots – or even if it doesn’t – you may benefit from a visit to a wooded setting, with a cup of something hot and tasty or cold and creamy in hand.

Steve Dean’s family has been providing this “affordable luxury” to neighbors since 2004. For Dean, Mocha Moment is about more than the freshly roasted coffee.

“Public spaces help to meld America’s diverse strands,” he says. “When friends or strangers meet in a wholesome and open place, warm ambience enhances relationships and cheers the soul.”

An abundance of hard-working young people staff the business, and this is by design.

“When I opened Mocha Moment, I reasoned that if I respected and appreciated young people more than they could expect elsewhere, and if I paid them significantly above market rates, that some of the best workers would gravitate to me,” says Dean. “While I would take home less money, I would also take home fewer headaches. Did that ever work out well!”

The menu includes freshly baked scones, muffins and brownies; breakfast items; and sandwiches, soups and chili.

Internet is available if you must be plugged in. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 5 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 5 a.m.-6 p.m.

Wooden Wardrobe

209 Main St., Galena, Ill., (815) 777-0335,

Merchant Laurie Digman has been selling wares on historic Main Street for 23 years and knows what people want.

“Wooden Wardrobe offers high-quality items that wear well for years,” says Digman. “Women want dressy casual pieces that take them from shopping through dinner, or through a vacation. They want style, but they also want comfort.”

Sizes run small to XXL. Clothing brands include TRIBAL, Jag jeans, Comfy USA, Charlie B and Renuar.

You’ll also find sterling silver and costume jewelry by Metalsmiths Sterling, Loribonn, Lizzy James and Yest, plus accessories and travel gear such as Travelon anti-theft bags.

“I try to buy American as much as possible, and also carry some good brands from Canada,” says Digman.

Across the street at her Something Special shop, find home and garden décor by Polish Pottery, Meadowbrooke, Mud Pie, Studio M, Meissenburg signs and 1803 candles.

Order custom-made wood furniture and signs from Digman, too.

Hours: Daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.