Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Common Grounds Coffee, Tea & Smoothies
2180 Oakland Dr., Unit B, Sycamore, commongroundsdekalb.com
Throughout history, coffee shops have been more than just places to relax and recharge. They have also served as hubs of community engagement. At Common Grounds, Jeff Foster is continuing this tradition.
“Prior to this, I was a graphic designer for small businesses and nonprofits,” says Foster. “So, naturally, I was hanging out in coffee shops.”
After getting married and starting a family, Jeff wanted to make a career change and do something “that would touch lives.”
After working with at-risk youth in several capacities, Foster recognized a need for a place where people in Sycamore could connect – just like they do at the coffee shop. In 2016, Common Grounds Coffee, Tea & Smoothies was born.
The menu highlights 100% organic coffee, tea and add-ons that are fair and ethically sourced. The menu also includes bakery items, breakfast items to-go and delicious smoothies made on-site.
More than just a coffee shop, Common Grounds provides space for local artists to display their works. Books line shelves and windowsills, and they’re available to borrow. A bulletin board announces local organizations’ events.
“Artists come in every shape, size and color,” Foster says. “Diversity is key, and I want this to be a place where people can share thoughts and ideas.”
Hours: Mon.-Wed. 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Thur.-Sat. 9 a.m-5 p.m.
Upstairs Downstairs Shoppe
43W407 U.S. Route 20, Hampshire, (847) 683-7308
To simply call this an antique store is doing it a disservice. Vintage items, books, curios and music all happily coexist in this unique store located just west of the intersection of U.S. Route 20 and Illinois Route 47.
“People who come in here have fun,” says Jennie Hallberg, an employee for over 20 years. “Even if they don’t buy anything, they just like walking around and looking at the nostalgia.”
And there’s plenty of it, spread across two levels, on shelves that stretch from floor to ceiling. Merchandise is provided by more than 20 vendors who display everything from jewelry and glassware to coins and vintage albums.
“All of the dealers are wonderful,” says Hallberg. “They all get along with each other.”
This feeling of goodwill can be felt the instant one steps into Upstairs Downstairs Shoppe. It’s something that’s as carefully curated as the items themselves.
“We do a lot of fundraising here,” says Hallberg, citing the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall, the local animal shelter and a local food pantry as charities that have directly benefited from their philanthropy.
“Part of our mission is to give back what we get,” she adds. “I think that’s why we’re so blessed.”
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. noon-4 p.m.
104 Cass St., Woodstock, (815) 338-5651, thoughtfulnessshop.com
For a while it looked as if a beloved icon of Woodstock’s Historic Square would disappear forever, but fate and Janice Ricci Wilcox intervened.
Longtime owners Ken and Ceal Schroeder had planned to close the doors of their longtime gift shop when Ricci Wilcox reached out. Since 2019, she had been running a home-based business hand-making children’s clothing.
When Ricci Wilcox discovered the original owners of Thoughtfulness Shoppe were retiring after more than 50 years in business, she decided to keep the beloved store running while also supporting her own growing venture.
Since taking over in 2020, Ricci Wilcox has remodeled the space and kept her predecessors’ tradition of carrying gift items like Nora Fleming, Vera Bradley, Chala handbags and Department 56 villages and accessories. Ricci Wilcox has also expanded upon her ability to create custom apparel,
“People will come in and show us a photo on their phone and say, ‘Can you put it on a T-shirt?’ And now we can,” she says.
Thoughtfulness Shoppe is a one-stop shop for all gift-giving needs. If they don’t have it, They can make it. Failing that, they sell gift cards, too.
Hours: Tue.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.