Check out these original and inventive shops in our area.
201 Seventh St., Rockford, (815) 977-2823, inscapecollective.org
A new addition to Rockford’s Midtown District, this retail store and community hub pursues a mission of lifting women of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Our merchandise comes from local artists, who are typically women,” says Leslie Williams, Inscape Collective’s fundraising and program coordinator. “We also have a clothing line called Jhoole, which is created, designed and printed in India by a group of local women artisans.”
The store’s merchandise includes art, ceramics, clothing, jewelry and more. The project is run under the umbrella of Jhoole, which is a registered nonprofit organization.
In addition to providing retail opportunities for local artists, Inscape Collective also offers a wide range of programming, centered around holistic health, self-development, creativity and entrepreneurial skills.
An attached event space is used to host these programs and weekend events featuring live music, lectures, readings and children’s activities.
“Our event space is beautiful and comfortably holds about 30 people,” says Williams. “It is available to rent as well, for shows or bridal showers.”
As the newest member of Rockford’s eclectic Midtown neighborhood, Williams is excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.
“We’re always looking for artists, volunteers and program facilitators,” she says. “We’re looking for anyone with a gift to share and something to teach.”
Hours: Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
523 First St., New Glarus, Wis., (608) 527-2772, shopkinderladen.com
When Brenda Siegenthaler opened this store in downtown New Glarus in 2013, it was meant to be.
“The store is in the building where my dad ran the Ben Franklin Store, in New Glarus, for 26 or so years,” she says.
Ben Franklin Store, a popular chain of five-and-dime stores, can still be found in a few small towns throughout the country. The New Glarus location was known for its toy section, located in the basement. It seemed only fitting that Siegenthaler carry on that tradition.
Kinderladen specializes in brain-driven toys, meant to inspire kids to think and use creativity through play. The shelves are stacked with educational toys, board games, sensory toys, musical instruments and toys that encourage pretend play.
“The empty store lot just called for a toy store,” says Siegenthaler. “I became a grandmother and I realized there was nowhere in town to get all those special little books and toys you want to have on hand.”
By filling that void, Siengenthaler was able to not only provide kids in New Glarus a destination of their own. She’s also reliving her fond memories of working the toy section in her father’s store, watching children excitedly search for something to love. Siengenthaler has found she’s not alone.
“A lot of parents come in and say, ‘I remember shopping here when I was a child,’” she says. “It makes everyone smile and I’m really proud to have it.”
Hours: Tue-Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Paw Lickin’ Good
2684 DeKalb Ave., Sycamore, Ill., (815) 758-8300, pawlickingoodtreats.com
This bakery has been helping pet owners provide happiness and well-being for their dogs and cats for more than 15 years.
The pet store opened in 2006 with the goal of selling pet food that doesn’t contain wheat, corn, soy, byproducts or fillers.
“We carry a wide variety of holistic foods for dogs and cats – mostly brands that are only available in independent stores,” says Jody Meerdink, co-owner with Carol Dean.
Some of the food comes from the in-house bakery. Toys, leashes, collars and grooming products are also sold here. You’ll also find special supplements for body and dental care, such as injury aids and digestion support products.
“Everyone on our staff is a pet parent and very knowledgeable about our products and ready to discuss foods and treats for just about any situation you can imagine,” Meerdink says.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. to 5 p.m.