Nooks & Crannies

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

Piece-A-Cake Bakery

304 N. River St., East Dundee (847) 836-6703,

Diane Ahrens has always loved the sweet things in life. “I grew up cooking and my mom always cooked and baked,” says the owner of Piece-A-Cake Bakery in East Dundee.

Ahrens spent many years in restaurants and bakeries until just before Christmas 1994, when some friends encouraged her to open her own shop. Now going 20 years strong, Ahrens’ business offers custom cookies and cakes, including tiered cakes and specialty sculpted cakes. The shop’s glass cases hold cinnamon rolls, muffins, scones, pies and potpies.

Ahrens has twice appeared on television’s “Ultimate Cake Off” (on TLC), and she’s placed second in a Food Network Chicago challenge.

“I like to compete,” she says. “It challenges me to do something I normally wouldn’t do – I’m always wanting to do something new and bigger.”

Ahrens sells thousands of decorated cookies each week, and constantly creates new themes.

“I enjoy decorating, but I also enjoy baking and trying new recipes,” she says. “I’m blessed to be able to do all of that.”

Piece-A-Cake Bakery welcomes specialty orders and can order decorating supplies such as fondant, tools and molds.

Hours: Tues.-Fri. 6 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.-3 p.m.


212 S. Third St., Geneva (630) 232-8340,

A peek inside Cocoon will quickly explain the store’s unique name. “I wanted something that evoked comfort, and warmth and fuzziness,” says owner Sherie McGowan, who opened the business 20 years ago.

Inside are two floors of everything from “sofas to soap,” says McGowan. The store’s ever-changing array of items includes primarily home furnishings and gifts. It’s the perfect place to find seasonal decor, custom furniture, jewelry, scarves, candles and more.

“I love surprising people,” says McGowan. “Every day we have new things and are finding awesome products.”

The store’s staff members each have a specialty that makes shopping a unique experience. “Their favorite thing is when someone comes in and says, ‘I’m not quite sure what I’m looking for,’” says McGowan. “They’ll show you their favorites.”

The shop frequently hosts special events such as Magical Mystery Nights, when a group of women is whisked away to another location in Geneva to learn about a restaurant and another local store.

Hours: Mon.-Wed., Fri. 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thur. to 8 p.m.; Sat. to 5:30 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Marcel’s Culinary Experience

490 N. Main Street, Glen Ellyn (630) 790-8500,

M arcel’s, which opened in 2011, has a special meaning to owner Jill Foucré. It’s named for her grandfather, who was a chef in France, and who, along with Foucré’s parents, instilled in her a love of cooking. Marcel’s has become a place to share that passion.

“People come to Marcel’s for the experience,” says Foucré. “Our staff members really love to cook and entertain. That’s a prerequisite for the job.”

Marcel’s offers cookware, kitchenware, tableware, linens and tools, along with fresh gourmet foods. There’s also a recreational cooking school. “Our classes are really geared to all levels, adults and children,” says Fucré. “We have a staff of seven chefs.”

Just now beginning its fourth year on Main Street, Marcel’s has been awarded The Gourmet Retailer magazine’s Kitchenware Retailer of the Year award and the International Housewares Association’s independent housewares award.

“I love the business of cooking and entertaining,” says Foucré. “Food is an area people feel good about – we want to make it a happy experience.”

Hours: Mon.-Wed., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thur. to 8 p.m.; Sun. 12 p.m.-5 p.m.

Nelson Upholstery Studio

60 Cary St., Cary, (847) 639-8200,

As a young man, Nelson Paiz got a job as a delivery person for an upholstery company. “They were very cautious to teach me things, because they were afraid I would take their place,” says Paiz.

“After a few years, they actually started letting me take staples out and I became a shop helper,” he adds. “Little by little, I just kept watching what the other guys did.”

He eventually moved to a furniture manufacturer in Chicago, where he learned the standards of production. Almost 20 years ago, he started his own business.

Nelson Upholstery Studio offers furniture upholstery and repairs, as well as antique restoration and wood repair and refinishing.

“I pretty much do it all,” says Paiz. “Cutting, sewing, upholstery – I even answer the phone.”

A personal connection with his customers has served Paiz well. He has become well-known for quality work and craftsmanship, and even invites customers into the work room, to see their projects.

“I love working with the different fabrics,” he says. “Each project is unique – we never do two identical things. Even if we’re doing two wingback chairs, they can be entirely different. But with everything we do, we want to do our very best.”

Hours: Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Call ahead for an appointment.