Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
“Supporting locally owned businesses strengthens our local economy and improves our quality of life as a community.”
We’ve been preaching that message in our magazines for 16 years, but there’s never been a more important moment to “think local” than right now. Small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open during this pandemic, and the 2020 holiday season is a “make or break” moment for many. More than 100,000 have closed nationwide since March.
The good news is that American resilience also is on display. Especially impressive is the way small shops have scrambled to build websites that allow homebound customers to “buy local” safely. While holiday shopping this year, please remember that the internet reaches to Main Street shops, not just Wall Street big-box stores and Amazon.
In this special Nooks & Crannies, we highlight some cheery holiday shopping enclaves that brim with interesting shops. Behind each business is an owner who enriches our local identity and employs our neighbors.
COVID-19 restrictions are ever changing, so be sure to call ahead before you plan a day trip.
New Glarus, Wis.
Swisstown.com, click “shop” for a store directory
This quaint village, founded 175 years ago by immigrants from Switzerland, is a goldmine of gift ideas. There are toys, puzzles and books at Kinderladen; Christmas décor, Polish pottery and local maple syrup at Bramble Patch; local cheeses, meats, wines and beers at Alp & Dell, Edelweiss, Maple Leaf Cheese, Hoesley’s Meats, Hawk’s Mill Winehaus and New Glarus Brewing Co.
Esther’s European Imports is as interesting as it sounds; Blumenladen brims with garden items, home décor and gifts for sports fans; Railroad Street Boutique and Sugar River Shoppe each carry designer clothing, artisan jewelry and much more; and Rusty Raven showcases industrial and rustic décor.
Make it an all-day outing by pausing for a Swiss fondue lunch at the New Glarus Hotel or Glarner Stube; a local beer and casual bite at Puempel’s or Tofflers; or a fresh pastry from New Glarus Bakery.
The many examples of Swiss architecture are fun to ogle in New Glarus, from Bernese Mountain Chalet to contemporary Swiss Emmental styles. See if you can locate the 16 hand-painted cows posted throughout the village, all imported from Zurich. Also check out Advent calendar-inspired shop windows; on each of 24 December nights leading up to Christmas, a new display is revealed at dusk.
Woodstockil.gov, click on “Welcome Visitors” and then “Visitors Guide to the Square”
Victorian-style Christmas magic begins here during the Lighting of the Square on Nov. 27 and continues all season long, with a parade on Nov. 29 and a virtual Gingerbread House Walk through Dec. 20.
Stroll the Opera House Christmas Tree Walk to view dozens of beautifully decorated trees.
This pretty little city (the backdrop for the film “Groundhog Day”) is known for its truly distinctive shops. Among them: Crisiswear Clothing – “handmade futuristic clothing” including clothing with integrated face coverings; The Backdrop, offering vintage and found object art, accessories, clothing and paper goods; The Thoughtfulness Shop, with brands like Nora Fleming, Vera Bradley, Department 56, Chala handbags and Woodstock Wind Chimes; Jackass Charm Corner Store, selling homemade natural soaps, candles, drinkware, greeting cards, clothing, linen and home goods; Jimmy’s Music, for the musician in need of an instrument; and Material Things, a marketplace of finely crafted jewelry, art glass, fiber, paper and leather goods.
Roscoe Woodstock Antique Mall, located about a mile from the Square, is a carefully curated antique store featuring all variety of treasures.
Other favorite stops include Read Between the Lynes and Green Spot bookstores; EmpowHER Boutique; Sewing Concepts; Old Courthouse Art Center; The Bike Haven; M.D. Trains; Silver Prairie Natural Soap Co.; Black Oak Home and Haven; Vainly Vintage; and Apple Creek Flowers & Gifts.
Visitgalena.org, click “things to do” and “shop” for a store listing
Any discussion of an old-fashioned, all-day shopping excursion must include downtown Galena and its neighboring towns. Strolling along the “frozen in time”19th century storefronts, all decked out in Christmas cheer, puts the fun back into Christmas shopping.
Part of Galena’s Main Street has been closed to car traffic from Hill to Meeker Street. This makes for a nice pedestrian zone and easier social distancing. Most shops are open from around 10 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days a week.
Many special events remain a “go” this year, such as Night of the Luminaria and Living Windows on Dec. 12 and Snowflakes and Sweets Stroll on Dec. 19. See the website for a full list of events and shops. Many are pet-friendly.
Downtown Galena has more than 100 storefronts offering home décor, clothing, antique and vintage treasures, birding accessories, jewelry, collectibles, artwork, pottery and specialty items you never even thought about.
Some favorites: A Feathered Nest, for all things nature-inspired; At Home in Galena, featuring Galena-Made Candles, body pampering products and custom-made home accessories; Bangles & Bags; Beautifully Berkeley Bouquets & Home for nature-inspired home décor; Poopsie’s for the humorous and unexpected; Bella Rosa Boutique, which imports Italian apparel and accessories; Honest John’s Emporium; and Beyond the Horizon for items from around the globe.
Shoppers find European-imported chocolates at Chocolat 229; all manner of head toppers at Celebrity Hats; redesigned wood and vintage items at Dejawood; hand thrown pottery at both Pinder and Eshelman’s pottery galleries; kitchen items at Galena Spoon Co.; treats for history lovers at Gateway to History; and tasty sauces, jams and more at Galena Canning Co.
Gustafson & Grey offers fine jewelry and antiques; La Vie en Rose has garden items, antiques, home furnishings and jewelry; Old Blacksmith Shop Mercantile can hand-forge a gift item for you; New Earth Animals can satisfy the pet on your list; Pasta Parfetta sells 62 flavors of specialty pasta in 138 shapes; and Peace of the Past offers antique and collectible treasures. There’s also Country Crafts & Sports; Galena Roasters coffee; Kottage Kids clothing; Outside the Lines art gallery and many more shops too numerous to mention, plus wineries, breweries and distilleries, all open without indoor seating at press time.
The city has really stepped up its downtown holiday game in recent years. Even in a pandemic, there are special events to enjoy safely, from the drive-thru Festival of Lights at Sinnissippi Park to the All Aglow decorated gardens at Nicholas Conservatory and a modified Stroll on State. Learn about these and other events at GoRockford.com.
Downtown, find J.R Kortman Center for Design, specializing in strikingly designed art glass, jewelry, toys, folk art, home and personal accessories; Runner’s Image Sporting Goods, offering apparel, accessories and expertly fitted running shoes; Bath & Body Fusion, maker of luxury bath/shower products and the popular Dream Cream; Rockford Roasting Co., selling fresh roasted coffees and Rockford-related merchandise; Minglewood Boutique, with ladies’ new apparel and accessories in funky boho and eco-fashion styles with an emphasis on natural fabrics and dyes. The downtown is also home to Chocolat by Daniel, hand-crafted without artificial additives. Rockford Art Deli sells screen-printed apparel, posters, artist series goods and gift items, many with regional themes.
Outside of downtown, Toad Hall offers new and used vinyl records, books, comics, film DVDs, arcade games and equipment such as turntables, speakers, CD players and tape decks. Culture Shock is half boutique, half vinyl record store, with inventory from more than 40 locally owned companies and vintage audio equipment. The 510 Threads Fashion Boutique offers “vintage modern” ladies’ clothing.
At Rockford’s Edgebrook, visit 3 R’s Learning Material Centers for high-quality toys, books and puzzles; B Jones for upscale, trendy women’s clothing; and Fleet Feet running shoes, apparel and gear.
Elsewhere in Rockford find Shine, with its big Polish pottery collection, jewelry, kitchen accessories and unique home and garden décor; Porch Inc., with unique gifts, home decor, women’s clothing, jewelry and baby gifts; Arch, a purveyor of fine cosmetics; Finials for fine lamps, shades and Scandinavian gifts such as bird’s-eye maple cutting boards, floral table runners and angel chimes; Nicholson Hardware with its emphasis on American-made tools; One Love Candle & Bath; and Rockford Bicycle Co.
Wherever and however you shop this season, remember that the holidays are meant to pull us together with grateful hearts and love for our neighbors. Some of those neighbors are local retailers who invest in and care about our region more than big-box corporations ever will.