Nooks & Crannies, Fall Edition

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

Marvin’s Toy Store

64 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake, (779) 220-4179,

Years ago, when Kate McConville went toy shopping for her young children, she searched for fun, eco-friendly toys that would encourage imagination and active play. They weren’t easy to find.

“There’s so much throw-away junk out there in the mass market,” she laments. So when her environmentally responsible mom, Lori McConville, opened her own toy store, Kate jumped onboard as the enthusiastic researcher of toys, games and all things fun.

“We consider ourselves to be toy specialists, but we’re also affordable,” she says of the hands-on store where play is encouraged. So who’s Marvin? “He’s a shy, very likeable stuffed elephant who was the beloved mascot in my mom’s classroom, over the years,” says Kate. “Now he lives here at the store with us.”

Turns out, Lori McConville taught K-5 in Crystal Lake schools and knows a thing or two about young minds.

Hours: Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Mon.-Wed. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Bee Attitudes Antiques

Route 31 and Wilson Street, Batavia, (630) 761-0813,

Owned by a co-op of dealers, this sprawling shop is located inside an 1886 Queen Anne mansion in an area of Batavia known as Gammon Corner, which has several shops, eateries and a pub.

Bee Attitudes not only brims with antiques and collectibles, but also vintage clothing and jewelry, newer home decor and hard-to-find items of yore, reflecting styles from Victorian to Hollywood Regency.

“Our customers are from all walks of life and interests,” says dealer Hollie Flora-Holmquist. “You can spend an entire day here going through all of the rooms.”

There’s furniture, lighting, glassware, artwork, jewelry, linens, garden fixtures and more. Each piece tells a unique story, unlike the boring mass-produced items found at a big-box store. “The inventory changes often because we’re a small, but very active, group of dealers,” says Flora-Holmquist.

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

Red Foxes Boutique

314 W. Main St., St. Charles, (630) 549-3073

Longtime friends Cheryl Wiersema and Karen Justiniano share a passion for fashion and home decor. So when they opened a boutique together in downtown St. Charles this summer, it wasn’t difficult for the pair to envision the kind of inventory they wanted, and the atmosphere they wanted to create.

“We like to upcycle older furniture and bring it back to life using chalk paint or glazes, for example,” says Justiniano. “In fact, we mix our own paints.”

The non-furniture inventory is new merchandise, and includes handpicked women’s clothing and jewelry lines that attract all ages.

“We often see mothers and daughters shopping here, together, and it’s pretty unique to attract all generations,” says Wiersema. The duo also takes pride in offering wares that won’t be found in other local stores.

The friends met more than 30 years ago, through their husbands, who were high school chums. They have a keen understanding of what women enjoy, and frequently host “girls’ night out” events. Along with fashion and furniture, the boutique offers home decor and gifts like clocks and candles, as well as quirky, fun items like insulated wine purses.

Hours vary, so call ahead.

Green Box Boutique

108 N. Benton St., Woodstock, (815) 337-7303,

This boutique on Woodstock Square reflects the beliefs of its owner, Connie Citarelli, who buys locally made inventory when possible. She only carries items that that are eco-friendly, that support fair trade practices, and won’t threaten good health.

The perception that responsible products are more expensive is false, she says. “For example, a sweater sold here costs $45 to $95, and it’s hand-knitted by a real person who used non-toxic yarns and eco-friendly, health-friendly dyes. And, that person was paid a fair wage.”

Citarelli has been acting on her beliefs since the 1970s, advocating, for example, for toxin-free children’s clothing. She opened Green Box Boutique in 2009, and offers gourmet goodies, wine, beer, coffee, tea and teaware; women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories; soy candles, artwork and other home decor; and healthful body and bath products. There are purses made locally from the pockets of old blue jeans; locally hand-knit baby sweater sets; Wind Ridge Herb Farm organic dips, dressings and cheeses, to name a few items. She keeps prices low.

“Everyone should be able to afford being green,” she says. “After all, the more that people live green, the more sustainable our world is.”

Hours: Tues. & Sat. 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., Wed.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.