Nooks & Crannies, Spring 2012

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

Norton's USA, Barrington

Norton’s U.S.A.

400 Lageschulte St., Barrington, (847) 382-8872,

This “Uniquely American General Store,” as owner Deborah Leydig describes it, carries nothing but products made in the U.S.A. – not such an easy goal nowadays. But Leydig is gaining ground. Norton’s will celebrate it fifth anniversary in June, and in that time, the number of vendors has swelled from 20 to 380.

“Every time we make a sale, I tell the customer, ‘You’re helping 380 American businesses keep their doors open,’” Leydig says.

Merchandise categories include soaps, lotions and bath products; clothing for men, women, babies and children; paper goods, including Leydig’s own hand-screened wrapping paper; housewares; toys; cleaning products; home goods, including furniture; tools, hardware and garden items; and jewelry.

A professional actress, Leydig was inspired to open the store while researching her role as Barbara Ehrenreich in a stage adaptation of Nickel And Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, at Steppenwolf in Chicago in 2003. “I became angry about how many jobs were being lost overseas,” she says.

Located in a 1900-era livery barn, Norton’s is named for Leydig’s dog, now gone, a shepherd/terrier mix. “Norton was a unique pet, and the store is unique, so it just fit,” she says.

Hours: Tues.-Wed., Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thu., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Ax in Hand, DeKalb

Ax in Hand

817 W. Lincoln Hwy. Ste. B, DeKalb, (815) 758-8898,

In 1964, LaSalle County, Ill., native and NIU graduate Larry Henrikson opened the Larry Henrikson Guitar School in DeKalb. An avid guitar collector, he later changed the name to Ax in Hand, selling new and vintage equipment and providing expert repair and maintenance, in addition to giving lessons.

He became respected worldwide as an expert in vintage guitars; Henrikson actually provided the examples of the 1957 and 1962 Fender models used by Dan Smith to design his famous 1982 Stratocaster.

Henrikson passed away in 2000, but his three sons now run Ax in Hand, a staple in this college town. (FYI: “Ax” is musician slang for “guitar.”)

After 48 years, it remains the place to go for all things guitar. The shop still specializes in vintage models, although in smaller numbers than it once did. It also has a wide selection of new and used electric and acoustic guitars, amplifiers, parts and accessories, along with expert repair and custom-built guitars. You can even sell your used guitars and amps here.

The store also offers guitar lessons from professional musicians, and the three Henrikson boys, who know about rock ‘n’ roll, treat every customer like a friend. They also have a location in Schaumburg.

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. ❚

The Cottage Stamper, St. Charles

The Cottage Stamper

211 S. Third St., St. Charles, (630) 584-1329,

This quaint shop in an 1800-era stone house is a stamper’s and scrapbooker’s dream. “We’ve got a whole room of stamps, and we try to carry what the big-box stores don’t,” says owner Nancy Noble.

Her 21 stamp brands include Tim Holtz and Wendy Vecchi. She also stocks anything to do with stamping. Paper lines include Graphic 45, BoBunny and Hanko. Get Dreamweaver stencils and paste, Claudine Helmuth acrylic paints, 96 colors of Copic markers and more.

Noble purchased the store two years ago from her former employers, who after opening in April 2004 were going to close. “I just couldn’t bear to see it go out of business,” she says.

Noble and her staff offer expert advice and personal service. “Some know exactly what they want, and others want advice on almost everything,” Noble says. “We’ll help however we can.” In fact, Noble’s hands are splotched with red, blue and yellow ink. “I was just showing a lady who’s new to stamping how to blend her inks,” she explains.

Classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The store is open Mon., Wed., Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tues., Thurs. to 6:30 p.m. ❚

Aspire Boutique, Wauconda

Aspire Boutique

118 S. Main St., Wauconda, (847) 865-5142,

The merchandise here is a potpourri of frills and lace, sentiment and romance, indulgences and essentials. Find purses, tote bags, knit hats, hair accessories, gift cards and wrap, home décor, clothing, even refurbished furniture.

Lines include Bella Ink stationary; Gabriel John soy candles; Lucy B. Cosmetics; LAT tops; Popochos watches; and Sloane Ranger fashion.
Owners Sara Carlson and Amy Saunoris Bulmash opened what they call their “girly” boutique in 2011. The two friends share a passion for shopping and everything feminine, especially vintage-style clothing, fashion accessories and distinctive jewelry.

Because their daughters dance at the Academy Ballet Wauconda, the store also carries dance and cheer items. Find Capezio shoes, tights and slippers, tutus, leotards, snoods, bun covers, embellished hairclips, ponytail holders, sequined midriffs, satin briefs, leg warmers and more.

Hours: Tues.-Thurs., 10:15 a.m.-6:15 p.m.; Fri. to 5 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. ❚