Check out these original and inventive shops in our area.
Voigt Music Center
2152 W. U.S. 14, Janesville, (608) 756-0081, voigtmusic.com
What began as a Hawaiian guitar studio in 1939 has blossomed into a full-service music specialty store. This full-line retailer features an intimate showroom with instruments and accessories from guitars and keyboards to amplifiers, violins and saxophones. Offering repairs on any instrument, service technicians have nearly four decades of combined experience.
In addition to providing purchases and rentals to adults, the store helps schools in Beloit, Oregon, Wis., and Roscoe, Ill., among other area communities. Weekly one-on-one private lessons can be reserved online.
In the 1960s, Tony Farrell Sr., who owned a music shop in Janesville, began helping Clinton Voigt, founder of Voigt Music Center, to cultivate relationships with area schools.
The Farrell family bought out Voigt in 2000, and Farrell’s son, Tony Jr., took ownership in 2009.
For Tony Jr., the most crucial thing is keeping people involved in music.
“It’s such an important part of our culture, and it’s like a universal language; anybody in the world can appreciate music,” says the Janesville native. “If we don’t continue that education and teach people how to make music, that’s going to go away, so it’s very important to us.”
Hours: Mon.-Fri. noon-6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Headon’s Fine Meats
103 N. Main St., Creston, Ill., (815) 384-3620, headons2go.com
When Mark Hibshman moved to Creston, Ill., in 2007 he had no idea he would eventually own and operate one of the village’s long-standing businesses.
Lyle Headon, who owned Headon’s Fine Meats, was ready to retire but hadn’t yet found someone to carry on the name, the recipes and the traditions of his fine meat shop. Until Hibshman showed up.
Today, Hibshman and his son, Justin, own this old-fashioned butcher shop opened in 1970.
The father-and-son duo carry a vast selection of quality meats from butterfly chops to filet mignon.
Voted the best brat in Ogle County the past two years, the shop offers more than 60 flavors of brats with favorites like jalapeño cheddar or prime rib in addition to more obscure flavors like bacon Oreo.
The deli side of the shop offers daily lunch specials like steak sandwiches as well as fresh-baked bread, salads and smoked beef sticks.
For the Hibshmans, the loyalty of their customer base and their team of 23 dedicated employees are what matter most.
“All the employees here get along great,” says Mark. “One of them in the back, my granddaughter calls Uncle Bruce. And nobody just sticks to one job, either. Everyone helps each other.”
Hours: Tue.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sat. to 4 p.m.
716 N. Madison St., Rockford, & 2202 Rural St., Rockford, (815) 985-9918, urbanfarmgirl.com
Mary Gulbrantson can’t simply sit around. It’s not in her blood.
When a car accident in 2000 left the Stillman Valley, Ill., native unable to work, she began making picture frames out of old window trim and sold them at the Kane County Flea Market in St. Charles, Ill.
More than two decades later, she’s now the proprietor of a Rockford home goods store with two locations, an annual street market with nearly 200 vendors and a quaint farmstead Airbnb where she grew up.
The company’s warehouse on Madison Street, which originally opened as a logistics center in 2017, boasts a 7,000-square-foot showroom filled with an eclectic mix of mostly new and vintage items from dressers, tables, rugs and lamps to small, decorative items like vases, dishware and baskets.
Meanwhile, the flagship store, opened in 2012, is housed in a former corner grocery store on Rural Street. With home decor and gift items similar to what you’d find in the Madison Street warehouse, the location is set for a grand re-opening in July after COVID forced it to close.
The stores are only open on certain dates so Gulbrantson and her staff of 22 can conduct a complete restyle. The team alters nearly every inch of the stores, adding new paint and layers of merchandise.
For Gulbrantson, this isn’t her job. It’s her life.
“This isn’t some corporate thing where you close the door and shut it off when you go home – this is 24/7,” she says. “I’m not some girl with a store. I’m an Urban Farmgirl.”
Hours: July 6-8, July-20-22 and Aug. 3-5: Thu. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.