Nooks & Crannies, Summer 2012

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

Material Girl, Crystal Lake

Material Girl
21 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake, (815) 459-2084,

his space has been a fabric store since 1959, carrying decorator fabrics and sewing machines, and then, for the past five years, quilting fabrics and supplies. Millie Gieseke owned and operated The Fabric Shop up until her retirement, at the age of 92. That’s when the scissors were passed, so to speak, to Susie Fox.

“I’m an interior designer, and I’ve always shopped here,” she explains. “I came in with a client one day, and Millie said her children were worried about her working too hard, so she was going to close.”

Fox went home and told her husband that she’d been to the fabric store, which usually meant an array of fabrics to view.
“He asked me what I’d bought, and I said, ‘I think I’m going to buy the store,’” she says with a laugh. “I didn’t want it to close, so I bought it, basically to keep it open. But I love it.”

Fox took a few months to revamp, reopening in March 2010 as Material Girl, a full-service fabric store, including quilting and designer fabrics and denim, and offering sewing classes for adults and kids. Fox also stocks accesseries like zippers, buttons, books, patterns, rotary cutters and cutting boards, and offers expert advice.

“I really love when someone comes in to decorate a room, especially a nursery,” she says.

Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thurs. to 7 p.m.


Learning Express Toys, Algonquin

Learning Express Toys
117 S. Randall Road, Algonquin, (847) 458-4701,

Prior to opening the store, owners John and Sarah Flanagan were the quintessential 21st-century family; she worked at Honeywell and he was a stay-at-home dad for their two sons, now in first and third grades.

“John always wanted to run his own business, and with our two children, this seemed like a perfect fit,” says Sarah. “It’s worked really well for us.”

The store carries toys, books, pens and pencils, games for indoors and out, stuffed animals, party favors, jewelry, customizable gifts, worm farms and more. Right now, find seasonal items like children’s gardening supplies, unique sprinklers, bubbles and bubble blowers, slushy and snow-cone makers, jump ropes and kites.

Also, with merchandise like original Silly Putty, balsa wood gliders, Slinkys and Gyro Wheels, the store appeals not just to our kids, but to our inner kids as well.

The Flanagans have brought in products based on customer suggestions, even researching availability in other stores for tough-to-find items.

“Ultimately, we want our customers to be happy,” says Sarah.

Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.


All Things Woof … Meow, Too, Roselle

All Things Woof … Meow Too, Inc.
29 E. Main St., Roselle, (630) 529-9663,

First-time business owners Rob and Kathy Wolff opened their store just three years ago, a retail source for holistic and raw foods, a full-service grooming facility and a self-serve pet spa.

Owners can schedule a complete grooming, which includes shampoo, conditioner, nail trim and ear cleaning, topped off with an aroma therapy spritz. Or they can take advantage of the self-serve spa, offering three waist-high spa tubs with professional sprayers, a choice of eight shampoos and conditioners, along with a mango or blueberry facial, towels and no-heat dryers.

All food is corn-, wheat- and soy-free. Along with normal pet items, find raw diet choices, healthy treats and hard-to-find specialty products, like Earth Heart calming mists and the Thundershirt, a calming garment.

The Wolffs also focus on owner education, bringing in experts to teach about pet nutrition, taking your pet’s pulse or giving a pet CPR.

“My parents started it out of a love of dogs, and the desire to offer healthy, nutritional alternative food and snacks for people’s pets,” says son Damien.

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.


At the Green Bench, Wauconda

At the Green Bench
115 S. Main, Wauconda, (847) 526-5649,

This shop’s apt motto: “A style for every taste. A price for every purse.”

Owner Diane Calabrese has been dealing in vintage and antique pieces for more than 20 years. She’s been in her current location for two years, having relocated from a space in McHenry. Prior to that, she operated out of Antioch.

The eclectic mix of antique, estate, vintage and new vintage includes clothing, jewelry, lots of hats, paintings, photographs, home décor, lamps, smaller pieces of furniture, small trinkets including some doll house items, even old paper and vintage almanacs.

Most belongs to Calabrese, although she does accept some consignments and artisan jewelry, and merchandise changes regularly.

Hours: Tues.-Wed.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thurs. noon-7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.