Nooks & Crannies: Fall Edition

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

Cocoa Bean Fine Desserts

11 S. Seventh St., Geneva, (630) 845-2990,

After spending about a decade at prestigious restaurants and hotels in Chicago and Dallas, pastry chef Paul Saucedo wanted to branch out on his own. So he set up shop in Geneva.

Now, 14 years later, Saucedo’s French bakery is a go-to option for pastries.

The baker offers between 150 to 175 items daily, including cookies, brownies, muffins, croissants and cakes.
“People love our almond croissants,” Saucedo says. “We flavor them with almond cream on the inside, and they’re really good.”

Cocoa Bean also sells coffee, tea and homemade hot chocolate to accompany the variety of baked goods.
And, it also specializes in wedding and custom cakes.

“The wedding cakes are really popular,” Saucedo says. “We’ve gone as far as Michigan and Milwaukee just to drop off our cakes.”

Cocoa Bean continues to grow each year, and the numbers prove it. Saucedo says the bakery has seen an 8 to 10 percent growth in sales each year.

“We make everything in house and we don’t use any shortening or preservatives,” he says. “That’s one of the things that makes us unique.”

Hours: Tues.-Fri. 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. to noon.

Mama Lee’s Gourmet Popcorn

20 S. Spring St., Elgin; 1484 Spring Hill Mall, West Dundee; (847) 789-6084,

One of Christopher Sumner’s most cherished childhood memories is eating his mother’s homemade caramel popcorn.

The Elgin native loved it so much that he mastered the recipe – and then used it as the basis for his own business, Mama Lee’s Gourmet Popcorn. The colorful shop has drawn a loyal following to its locations in downtown Elgin and West Dundee’s Spring Hill mall.

Popped fresh daily, Mama Lee’s popcorn comes in more than 40 flavors, including choices like banana split, buffalo cheddar, birthday cake and caramel apple. Flavors are rotated each week. Samples, of course, are always available.

The staff at Mama Lee’s likes to have fun, as evidenced by their telling customers to have a “poptastic day,” and their fun online videos like the catchy “Popcorn Song.”

Sumner wants his customers to feel the love inside every batch.

“We like to think of ourselves as an extension of your family,” Sumner says on the company’s website.
Elgin hours: Wed.-Thurs. noon-6 p.m., Fri.-Sat. to 7 p.m. West Dundee hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m.

Apple Creek

209 N. Throop St., Woodstock, (815) 338-2255,,

This locally owned neighborhood gift boutique and floral design studio has been in business for more than 38 years.

Co-owners Lynn Nattress and Wendy Legare took over the shop in 2016; they’re the fifth owners.

Apple Creek carries unique home decor and gift items that are hard to find elsewhere, with many of the products made in the U.S. Flowers are purchased from local growers and the chocolate is from Ethereal Confections, located just across the street.

“We pride ourselves in making unique floral arrangements to our customers’ specifications,” says Nattress, who has been in the field for more than 35 years.

Legare, a third-generation florist, has a unique love for all things floral, especially weddings.

The duo has helped Apple Creek become a sought-after wedding florist. It was named Best of Weddings by The Knot for the past five years.

Hours: Tues., Wed., Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat. to 2 p.m.