Check out these original and inventive shops in our area.
Bristle & Timber
6140 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., (779) 970-6804, bristleandtimber.com
This DIY art studio is predominantly a wood and paint workshop, offering hands-on classes on how to create custom wood signs, charcuterie boards, s’mores boxes and more. It’s also a popular spot for private events such as bachelorette parties and children’s or adults’ birthday parties.
The studio hosts group workshops that are typically centered around a common theme, whether it’s a pick-your-own-project event, a trivia night or a specialty workshop with themes like “Game of Thrones,” “Stranger Things” and “Harry Potter.”
Owner Ryan Pearson enjoys watching people take a break from everyday life and do something that’s not only fun but gets their creative juices flowing.
“It’s fun to see the creative process for somebody,” says Pearson, who launched the store in May 2019. “Sometimes they come in with self-doubt like, ‘Oh, mine’s not going to look as good as the one on the wall’ and then when they’re done, it’s fun for me to see the flipside and that sense of accomplishment they have.”
Hours: Mon.-Wed. 1-5 p.m., Th.-Sat. 3-10 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
720 Main St., Lake Geneva, (262) 248-6500, allisonwonderland.com
Since 1972, this store has stood the test of time by offering a wide selection of affordable, quality toys. In 2020, owners Mike and Julie Springer sold the business to their son, Chris Springer, who returned to Lake Geneva to continue that legacy.
“We have been in business for so long we’re seeing third generations of families,” Chris says. “For decades, people have supported us and continue to support us, so there was a feeling that we need to stick around for them.”
One of the oldest toy stores in the area, Allison Wonderland has a second location at 472 N. Pine St. in Burlington, Wis. At either store, customers will find everything from plush dolls and puzzles to arts and crafts kits, board games, educational toys, retro toys and more.
For Chris, the greatest reward is seeing the relationships his family has built over the years.
“When customers come in, it literally will be three generations of a family right there that talk about ‘Oh, when we were little,’ and they all kind of go down memory lane,” he says. “That is a meaningful aspect of what we do.”
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sat. to 6 p.m., Sun. to 5 p.m.
Chalet Cheese Cooperative
N4858 County Hwy. N, Monroe, Wis., (608) 325-4343, chaletcheesecoop.com
If Wisconsin cheese is your guilty pleasure, this is your kind of store. Founded in 1885 by five dairy farmers, this cheese shop is one of the nation’s oldest cheese cooperatives.
The co-op produces several varieties of cheeses, though it specializes in Baby Swiss, Limburger and Wisconsin Brick, with smoked versions also available. This is also the only U.S. producer of Limburger – a spicy and aromatic cheese with undertones of sweetness and a reputation as being one of the smelliest cheeses in the world.
The co-op’s products have netted more than 100 awards in regional, state, national and international competitions.
The co-op is currently owned by 14 local dairy farmers who supply fresh milk daily. A team of cheesemakers boast decades of experience in their craft.
There’s plenty to see at the Monroe shop, but cheese lovers can also order online during the colder months – just in time for Christmas.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-noon.