Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
883 W. Main St., Lake Geneva, (262) 683-8604, InspiredCoffee.org
Opened in June, this business is a labor of love from Inspired Ministries, a 70-year-old nonprofit in Walworth, Wis., devoted to people with cognitive and physical disabilities.
While excellent coffee, tasty baked goods and a cozy atmosphere delight customers, the business exists to give disabled adults the hard and soft-skill job training they need to find successful employment. “Even pre-COVID, their unemployment rate was 15 percent,” says Merik Fell, director of development at Inspired Coffee. “We’ve spoken to many local employers who’d like to hire more disabled adults but don’t have the capacity to invest in the specialized training needed. We’re filling that need.”
The shop sells Bon Kafe Roast, a sustainable Arabica coffee that directly profits the Haitian farmers who grow it, and Geneva National Foundation Roast, a Columbian bean roasted by Boxed and Burlap Coffee and Roastery in Delavan, Wis.
A wide variety of hot and iced teas are on the menu, along with hot chocolate and dozens of espresso, frappe and latte varieties, plus cold brew and nitro cold-brew coffee. Baked goods include scones, cookies, muffins and coffee cakes made locally by Hummingbird Bake Shop; many are gluten-free.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
216 James St., Geneva, (630) 232-2991, harveystales.com
After teaching middle school for 32 years, Chuck Osborne wanted to pursue something meaningful and fun in his retirement.
“We’ve always just loved bookstores and reading,” says Osborne. “Every time we go on vacation, we kind of search out the local indie bookstores to hit up. I think we were walking out of one in Seattle called Elliot Bay when we thought we could do something like this.”
The store, set in a beautifully maintained 1862 home in downtown Geneva, sells most all genres, including fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, fantasy, sociology and current events/politics. Tucked into the old home’s little nooks are additional finds such as a children’s section, greeting cards, literature-themed gifts and puzzles.
Bringing the store to life was a family affair. Osborne’s wife, Roxanne, is a former commercial real estate senior vice president, and she searched for the perfect location. The couple’s son, Zack, is an architect and designed the interior. The store is named for the family’s late Bernese Mountain dog.
A coffee bar at the heart of the store carries espresso drinks including lattes and Chai. Each week baristas also create a “drink of the week.”
“We just try to provide a warm, welcoming community space, and people have been very receptive,” Osbourne says.
Hours: Tues. & Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Wed.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Casting Whimsy Tea
203 Main St., Woodstock, (815) 342-2630, castingwhimsy.com
Paula and Randy Aitken were looking for a fun date night when they took a restaurant tour in 2009. A tea shop on the tour didn’t impress, because the couple didn’t have much interest in teas. Until it was time to sample a cup.
They were so impressed with their drinks that they later returned to the shop and kept coming back. Eventually, the couple began joking they should open their own place. “Now we have a tea shop,” Paula says with a laugh.
Casting Whimsy carries a multitude of teas, from herbal and rooibos blends to green and black teas. Each is blended in-house, in small batches made from ingredients sourced around the world. Fair-trade products, available seasonally, are at the core of every tea. “We have one blend that has papaya, cinnamon, vanilla and jalapeno. My husband thought of all the ingredients,” explains Paula. “It was around two years ago around Mexican Independence Day, and they did a parade on the Woodstock Square. He wanted something with Mexican-inspired ingredients.”
A complement of baked goods are also served in-house, but the one staple on the menu is the snicket, a plain shortbread cookie. Look for other goodies on the menu, like traditional English scones.
“We try to say we’re not your grandma’s tea shop,” Paula says. “We try to make it fun and not too overwhelming.”
Hours: Tues. 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Wed.-Thurs. noon-4 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sat. 9 a.m.-4 p.m.