Nooks & Crannies

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

The Black Orchid Boutique

1226 N. Green St., McHenry, (815) 322-2624

Owner Carol Chrisman is no stranger to retail. Before opening her upscale women’s boutique three years ago, the mother of three active boys had run The Trend Cellar, a busy skate and apparel shop just down the street.

“Once they grew up, I decided to follow my real passion, which is fashion,” Chrisman says. Instead of skate decks and graphic grinder tees, she now stocks stylish dresses, handbags, footwear and jewelry.

Brands come from boutique designers in California, New York, London and Florida. “I order only three or four pieces of each, so you won’t see anyone else with your look,” says Chrisman. Some styles go up to 3X. She and fashion coordinator Daphne Reese help customers to put together a personal look. “Daphne will come to your house and create fresh looks with things in your closet,” says Chrisman.

She also carries handmade jewelry, Lakehouse soy candles and soaps, and treats from T’s Toffee. Her displays, such as a 1950s telephone table, are refurbished items from Richmond Reclamation, and they are for sale.

Hours: M-F 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (if car show, open M to 7 p.m.), Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m.


Bit-n-Bridle Saddlery

2240 Irving Park Road, Hanover Park (630) 837-8070,

This family-run business has been serving the area’s horse community for nearly 130 years. “Our great-grandfather was a harness maker who came from Ireland and opened a shop in Chicago in 1885, and it’s been in the family ever since,” says Bob McCarty, who operates the business with father Jim and brother Bill. Each generation has learned at the elbows of their elders, and they repair harnesses, bridles, boots, saddles, reins, chaps and more.

“We work with leather and synthetic, Western or English, and we can customize or modify tack and equipment to fit the rider,” McCarty says. They also clean and repair horse blankets and complete all work in about a week – sooner if needed.

A 1,500-square-foot retail space has English and Western riding equipment, English riding clothes for women and children, whips, stirrups, boots, helmets, blankets, grooming supplies and more, from manufacturers like Dahner, Centaur, Weave and Ovation. A variety of used saddles are typically in stock, English and Western.

“We want people to find what they’re looking for, at a reasonable price,” says McCarty.

Hours: M-W, F 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Th to 6:30 p.m., Sat to 5 p.m., Sun. by chance.


All Spoked Up

3 Webster St., Batavia (630) 326-9624,

Matt Knowles has loved tinkering with bicycles since he was a youngster, and he’s made it his vocation. In 2004, he founded Norway Bicycle Co., designing and building Category 1 and 2 racing frames. Three years ago, he opened this sales and repair shop with business partner Scott Jessup.

Knowles and crew sell and repair all kinds of bikes, from recreational and fixed gear to BMX and road, and carry a wide range of brands that include Norway, Schwinn, Kona, GT and KHS. But their specialty is mountain bikes.

Knowles himself races competitively, mostly in the Wisconsin Off Road Series, the largest mountain bike racing series in the U.S., and his 13-year-old son, Nate, is ranked nationally. The focus at All Spoked Up is on customer service, and Knowles’ experienced staff can assist in repairs, custom-fitting and any bicycle-related questions. The shop also carries shoes, clothing, helmets and cycling accessories like pedals and calipers, along with skateboard decks, wheels and accessories.

All Spoked Up is located right along the Fox River Trail, and Knowles encourages trail users to stop in for a tire check and air, and to feel comfortable at the store. Hours: M-W, F-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Th to 7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.


Offbeat Music

3 S. Old Rand Road, Lake Zurich (847) 550-1361,

This is a music lover’s mecca. In addition to instruments, music accessories and instruction books, owner Jim Betsios sells vintage turntables and stereo equipment, vinyl records, printed T-shirts and unique gift items. He also offers lessons and provides repair services.

Betsios majored in music, with an emphasis on classical percussion. When he finished college, he was looking for a way to share his passion on a more personal level than performance, and he opened his store in 1998. “This seemed like the best way to connect one-on-one,” he says.

Along with the usual, Betsios tries to carry unique instruments that can’t be found in other music stores, like timpani and conga drums, cowbells, xylophones, harmonicas, mandolins and ukuleles. “We also import items like Murat Diril cymbals from Turkey, all handmade with new copper,” he says. Other brands include Martin strings, Breedlove acoustic guitars, Boso bamboo drumsticks and Mike Balter drum mallets. Find music-themed gifts, like a drumstick pen and necklaces made from guitar picks.

About a dozen instructors give lessons in guitar, piano, percussion and uke to more than 200 students. Store manager Andy Dreyer handles repairs, and even creates music-themed art from old guitar strings. Find amps, effects pedals, tuning pegs, sliders, knobs and more. “If we don’t have it, we’ll order it,” says Betsios.

Hours: M-F 1-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.