Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
4 N. Island Ave., Batavia, (630) 482-3729, bataviacreamery.com
Ice cream is a way of life for Kirk Jansons. When he was 9 years old, his family began operating a Baskin-Robbins franchise in Naperville, and at 21, he opened his own Baskin-Robbins. Jansons ran that business for 15 years, until he decided to go his own way and launch Batavia Creamery in 2006.
“I wanted to create great-quality ice cream with lots of variety,” Jansons says. “It brings back good memories, and it puts you in a better mood.”
The business carries 44 flavors on any given day, with 10-15 choices rotating weekly. The ice cream comes from Midwestern dairies that help Jansons to craft some 150 flavors. Besides common choices like vanilla, Jansons serves up unique offerings like bubble gum and oatmeal cookie.
Customers can order scoops, sundaes, shakes, malts and smoothies, and they can find cakes, pies and iced coffees.
The first thing that grabs your attention, as you enter the shop, is a sweet aroma.
“The smell comes from the waffle cones that we bake,” Jansons says. “Nothing’s better than a fresh-baked waffle cone with fresh ice cream.”
Summer hours: Sun.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. to 11 p.m.
400 S. Lageshulte St., Barrington, (847) 382-8872, nortonsusa.com
“General store” is a pretty appropriate description for this business, which carries a wide variety of items including housewares, bakeware, barbecue equipment, children’s toys and garden tools.
And the best part? Every single item is made in America.
Norton’s U.S.A., which recently celebrated its 11th anniversary, also carries locally sourced food products, including honey, sauces and jams.
Before she opened the business, owner Deborah Leydig was an actor. In 2003, she played the role of Barbara Ehrenreich in the stage play of Ehrenreich’s book, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.”
“I played a part that made me do research on lower wages and why so many jobs were lost,” Leydig says. “It was because people wanted cheap goods and we started making everything offshore. I did some research to see what was still made in America, and I thought, ‘what better way to help American workers than to open a store that sells consumer products that Americans make?’”
And just like the general stores of yesteryear, Leydig has created a destination where shoppers can feel right at home.
“We make people laugh when they visit, and we give them a hug if they need one,” she says.
Hours: Wed., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Hours are extended during the holiday season.
230 W. Northwest Hwy., Crystal Lake, (779) 994-4168
After spending 40 years in the jewelry industry, Richard Roberts was ready for a change.
So, he created Knife Experience, which sells a variety of fine knives for the kitchen and outdoors.
“I was looking for something to move forward with in a different industry,” says Roberts. “I’ve always had a high level of appreciation for the artistic craftsmanship that goes into creating something like a piece of jewelry or a high-quality knife.”
And there’s a practical side, too, as a knife is always handy when you’re fishing, camping or working in a kitchen.
“A knife is a tool that can be used by anyone, whether you carry it every day or just use it to open an envelope,” Roberts says. “Not only do knives have artistic appeal, like a painting or sculpture would have, but you can use it in a utilitarian way.”
Roberts also sells a handful of items from the popular Chris Reeve Knives collection.
“These are some of the best folding knives in the world,” Roberts says.
Opened in late 2017, Knife Experience now offers knife-sharpening services, as well, and Roberts wants to introduce additional services in time.
“Our long-term goal is to add demonstrations where people can use the knives in-store,” he says.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Angelus Home, Garden, Lifestyle
325 Kensoha St., Walworth, Wis., (414) 815-6638 angeluslife.com
If you haven’t been to Angelus lately, you’re in for a surprise. The shop has expanded exponentially since sisters Jeannene Clark and Theresa La Londe Horvath opened it in 2011. Today there’s room after charming room of artfully displayed, on-trend inventory, from urban chic and lake cottage to rustic farmhouse home décor, garden ware and furniture, much of it repurposed. There’s also a good deal of artwork, a full line of chalk paint, specialty clothing, jewelry, Bible-inspired items, candles, scents, greeting cards and other paper goods. Amazingly, it all co-exists peacefully in rooms that invite you to roam.
“We fill a niche for a shop that’s a little more affordable, but still very stylish, with an emphasis on re-purposed items,” says Clark. “We just hate seeing things go into the dump.”
The self-proclaimed “junksta sisters” offer workshops on chalk painting, glazing and other restoration techniques as well as many forms of crafting. ‘Angelus’ is both the name of a Catholic prayer and the title of a painting by French artist Jean-Francois Millet. The painting depicts two peasants in a field bowing their heads in prayer and is a favorite of the shopkeeper sisters, who grew up with 10 brothers and two more sisters.
“We were each in a different location when the idea for the name ‘Angelus’ came to both of us on the same day,” says Clark. “It just seemed like it was meant to be.”
Hours: Sun. & Mon. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.