Check out these original and inventive shops in our area.
Orange Kitten Yarns
1613 10th St., Monroe, Wis., (608) 328-4140
Jocelyn Kline spent more than two decades serving local senior citizens, but she spent much of that time dreaming of fulfilling a different need.
The dream became a reality in 2012 when Kline opened a yarn store on Monroe’s downtown square. Today, this craft store offers a variety of locally produced fibers from the likes of Shetland sheep, alpaca, peacock feathers and more. Patrons can purchase fibers for their own projects or pick up handmade items like socks, beanies, gloves and scarves made by local artisans from local fibers.
The shop also carries related accessories like knitting needles, crochet hooks and assorted notions, various kits for experienced knitters along with beginning-to-knit kits for newer knitters. Also offered in the shop are locally produced lotions and soaps, some made from goat milk.
Kline offers flexible one-on-one classes and hosts open knitting sessions every Thursday afternoon for those who want to knit and chat.
“I invite people to come in and knit in the yarn shop,” she says. “My mission is to provide a service to the community. People can come hang out in a warm atmosphere where we talk about almost anything.”
Hours: Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
107 Buchanan St., Belvidere, (815) 519-7287, ekcakery.com
Erica Simmons became intrigued with food when she was a teenager and the Food Network exploded onto televisions everywhere.
She started her career as a caterer, a hostess and a barista before studying at the French Pastry School in downtown Chicago. She worked other jobs before launching her own bakery in 2017. Now, Simmons specializes in high-quality wedding cakes made from scratch, but she also sells handmade and hand-decorated treats in a new retail space next door.
Baked goods range in design, size and flavor, featuring items such as the chocolate birthday cupcake made with rich yellow butter cake, chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, chocolate pastry cream and sprinkles. Decorated vanilla bean and chocolate-flavored sugar cookies can have up to four designs per dozen.
Cupcakes, decorated sugar cookies, mini cookies, dessert bars and macarons can be ordered individually or by the dozen. The PB&J desert bars – made with a peanut butter cookie base, homemade raspberry jam and crunchy peanuts – is one of the more popular sellers, Simmons says.
Hours: Sat. 10 a.m.-1 p.m., or by appointment.
18 W. Stephenson St., Freeport, (815) 616-8934
Kim McIver is anything but a quiet soul, yet her charming downtown Freeport store hearkens back to a simpler time long ago in our nation’s history.
Opened in May 2022, this store celebrates the arts and culture of America’s indigenous tribes with a variety of American Indian-inspired gifts and other treasures from the earth, including handmade drums and flutes, beaded leather work, handmade knives, crystals, air plants embedded into gemstone rocks, local artwork and T-shirts. Many items are made by local artists of American Indian ancestry.
The store also serves as a classroom, with McIver hosting free monthly classes that cover aspects of American Indian culture – something McIver says was an integral part of launching the business. The store also takes part in February’s annual Arctic Ale and Art Walk in downtown Freeport, as the classroom becomes a gallery for artists with American Indian heritage to display their works. This is just one way McIver works to transform the store into a cultural center for people to gather and take in information.
A former journalist, McIver has published 13 fiction and nonfiction books about American Indians and spent six years traveling the Midwest as an Illinois Humanities Road Scholar. The Minneapolis native has spoken at colleges and museums throughout the Midwest.
“My purpose in opening the store was to be able to educate people on Native culture and to give Native people a place to showcase their craft,” she says. “So, we have a lot of consigners who make drums, leatherwork, beadwork and things like that.”
Hours: Tues.-Fri. noon-6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.