Nooks & Crannies, Winter 2012-13

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

The Spice House, Geneva

The Spice House

577 S. 3rd St., Geneva, (630) 262-1777,

From ajowan seed to za’atar, hundreds of spices are sold in this shop.

“We grind a majority of our spices in-house,” says John Cirpinski, partner. “We receive 100-pound burlap sacks and grind it as we need it.”

And we’re not talking run-of-the-mill. Seven varieties of cinnamon. Cocoa powder and roasted cacao nibs. Seven types of whole peppercorns; Spanish, Hungarian and California paprika, sweet smoked or spicy; juniper berries; citrus extracts and peels; three types of Spanish saffron; even 17 types and blends of salt. Spices are packaged to order, in glass jars or plastic bags, for each customer.

Also available are gift boxes: pepper, salt and curry; blends for poultry, fish, barbecue and chili; baker’s assortments. Three gift boxes contain signature “Ethnic Chicago” blends, like Bronzeville Rib Rub, Greektown “Billy Goat” Seasoning and Pilsen Latino Seasoning.

“We’ve been creating proprietary blends for 55 years,” says Cirpinski, who co-owns the business with wife Ann Keen, Kevin Bozis, and Tom and Patty Erd. Patty’s parents, Ruth and Bill Penzey Sr., started the business in 1957 in Milwaukee.

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

Blue Moon Bikes, Sycamore

Blue Moon Bikes

211 W. State St., Sycamore, (815) 899-3100,

The experts at this full-service bicycle shop not only repair new bikes but specialize in classic and antique bikes, restoration and repair. They also buy and trade old bikes.

Owner Rod Griffis is an antique bicycle collector specializing in the Schwinn Sting-Ray Krate series. On the main floor is everything for today’s cyclists, from parts and accessories to a full line of bicycles from companies like Schwinn, Raleigh and Redline. Repairs, tune-ups and customizing are available for all brands of bikes.

The second floor holds classic bikes and reproductions for sale or trade, and even has new (never used) old stock parts available.

The third floor showcases Griffis’ extensive collection of antique and classic bikes. Here are some rare models like a high-wheel rider and original advertising, but most are Schwinn Sting-Rays. Visitors are welcome to visit the museum any time during store hours, Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Smooch Boutique, Algonquin

Smooch Boutique

1956 S. Randall Road, Algonquin, (847) 658-7107,

With the upscale, stylish clothing and accessories offered in this trendy shop, fashionistas of all ages can create their own signature looks.

“We shop the Merchandise Mart and travel to places like Vegas and L.A. for our lines,” says Gina Gerardi, who owns the store with partner Audra Whitesell. “We find independent designers with boutique lines, things that aren’t available around here. Then, we buy only six or eight of one item, so when a customer buys it, she’s guaranteed a unique look that she won’t see on anyone else.”

Styles range from everyday casual to out-on-the-town chic. Denim and cotton to silk and gauze. Cardigans and sweater dresses. Boots to stilettos. Evening bags and clutches to satchels and totes. Military-style caps, floppy hats and cloches. Accessorize your look with scarves, custom jewelry – some from local artisans – sequined hair pieces and more.

Expect highly personal service. “We’re your own personal shoppers,” Gerardi says.

Longtime neighbors Gerardi and Whitesell were known for co-hosting home parties to sell things like candles, jewelry and purses. “We started adding scarves, hats and other items, until our friends said, ‘Why don’t you two just open a store?’” Gerardi says.

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

Harmony Skateshop, McHenry

Harmony Skateshop

1259 N. Green St., McHenry, (815) 344-1730,

Whether you’re a shredder, thrasher or skater, this is the store for you. Skaters can customize their boards, from wheels and trucks to deck, with top brands like Toy Machine, Baker, Anti Hero and Almost Haslam. Brands like Lakai, Volcom, RVCA, Quiksilver, VANS, Toms, Enjoi and Emerica also make this the place to find the latest in urban fashion.

Also find accessories like hats, gloves, sunglasses and backpacks, and the shop just received a big shipment of fashion socks from Stance in time for the holidays.

In March 2012, new owner Ashley Jakiela opened Harmony Skateshop in the former location of The Trend Cellar, where she had worked for 12 years. After earning a degree in graphic design, she had planned on heading to California to work in a sport-related field. But when the chance arose to buy the shop, she couldn’t pass it up.

“I changed the name so that the store could establish its own identity,” Jakiela says. “McHenry is a big skate town, and we want to get more involved in the community, with things like DVD nights.”

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