Check out these original and inventive shops in our area.
Made Just For You Gifts
338 W. State St., Sycamore, Ill., (815) 895-8122, madejustforyougifts.com, facebook.com/madejustforyougifts
Ken and Marcia Elliott were at a transition point in 1993. Ken had just shifted from teaching ROTC to leading business classes at Northern Illinois University (NIU). For Marcia, the gift shop where she’d been working and selling her crafts was about to be sold. So, the husband and wife combined their strengths and bought the downtown Sycamore shop.
Three decades later, their gift shop is still drawing people who want to find unique items made mostly by local and Midwestern artists. The front of the store features seasonal items, Sycamore postcards and souvenirs, greeting cards, calendars, framed art, pottery, and jewelry among other items. The rest of the store is organized into themes like candles, bathroom, kitchen, pets, Americana and sports. With few exceptions, everything is handcrafted in America.
Because most items are made locally, customers can request customized products such as sewn items, wood planks, towels and baby items.
For the Elliotts, offering hard-to-find gifts is a service they’re happy to provide.
“This is important because people are looking for something unique, something you can’t find everywhere,” says Ken, who retired from NIU in 2018. “I love interacting with customers, getting to know them and finding out what they like.”
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Fri.-Sat. to 5 p.m.
The Artists’ Garden
407 Lincoln Hwy., Rochelle, Ill., (815) 275-1217, artistsgardenbeyondcanvas.com
Like many small-town kids, Teresa Petry couldn’t wait to leave her hometown of Rochelle, Ill., to experience the city life and pursue her dreams. But after three decades of chasing the dream, fate called her home.
She returned in 2012 and six years later took a leap of faith to pursue a new dream: opening a home decor shop and painting studio downtown.
The home decor side of Petry’s business carries local goods including handcrafted soaps, candles, wax melts, artisan jewelry, home decor, sauces, jams and pickled vegetables. Among her vendors are local favorites like Oregon Soap Shoppe, 1803 Candles and Bushel & Peck.
Petry also offers private and public painting classes inside a yellow shed she built into the shop. While they work, artists are invited to enjoy glasses of beer or wine from Acres Bistro, a restaurant on the backside of the store that’s also owned by Petry. Painting sessions are aimed at novice and experienced painters alike and focus on a particular theme, such as flowers or a famous artist’s style. People may paint on site or “carry out” their materials and paint at home.
The store’s dual mission reflects the deep passion of its owner. “This is where I like to be,” Petry says. “It’s the culmination of all my creativity under one roof.”
Hours: Tue. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Wed.-Sat. to 8 p.m.
Nine Bells and Cat Tails
421 E. Grand Ave., Beloit, (626) 537-5329, ninebellsandcattails.com
Karen Koyama had wanted to own a storefront since she was a child, so when the opportunity came to rent a vacant building in downtown Beloit, she didn’t hesitate.
That storefront, opened in May 2018, offers an eclectic assortment of new, vintage and antique items with an emphasis on the metaphysical. Displays include handmade crystal bracelets, silverware and glassware, and American Indian ceramics. Homemade candles and herbs like white sage, cedar and lavender sell the most.
Raised a Buddhist and currently studying under an Ifa priest, Koyama blends her experiences while teaching classes on crystals, divining with pendulums and household magic. She also offers tarot and energy readings.
For Koyama, who’s also a concert pianist, a music teacher and an Army veteran, the store is a place to help others better understand the spiritual practices of other cultures.
“My family lived in a Buddhist temple in Japan for 46 generations, and every summer I went back to visit,” says Koyama, who also owns the Dolce Music Academy located inside the same building. “So, for me, the most important thing is for people to see that an ‘occult shop’ is not what they think and these other practices and symbols some may fear are really about honoring the Earth and respecting its natural rhythms, so that we live more spiritually mindful in our daily actions.”
Hours: Wed. 4-7 p.m., Thu. 2-7 p.m., Fri. noon-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.