Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Down 2 Earth
107 E. Van Buren St., Woodstock, (815) 527-5300 shopatdown2earth.com.
This store on Woodstock’s Historic Square carries Native American jewelry and pottery, artwork, crystals, fossils, beadwork and curios, with more than a few surprises inside.
“I was born and raised right here in Woodstock,” says owner Nina Huffman. “When it came to where I wanted to open my business, it was definitely Woodstock and definitely in the Historic Square.”
A presence on the Square for the past seven years, Down 2 Earth focuses on natural and handmade items, with a little bit of myth and fantasy thrown in for good measure. The eclectic collection has been carefully curated by Huffman.
“Essentially, it’s all stuff that I love,” she laughs. “You’ve got to be passionate about what you sell.”
Huffman taps into the local art scene for jewelry and home decor while also working with vendors across the country. A couple of contributors in the southwest deal directly with Native American artists and help to bring some unique pieces into the store.
“It can be a one-off that I never see again, or something popular that the artist makes multiple times,” she says. “It’s fun because you never know what’s coming from the artists.”
For customers who can’t make it into Woodstock, Huffman has started an online store that carries many of the same items.
“We are a family-run, family-focused business,” says Huffman. “We try to provide a comforting, relaxing, but still fun shopping experience for everyone.”
Hours: Mon.-Sat 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Robin’s Nest Bookshoppe
218 E. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, (779) 255-1191, robinsnestdekalb.com
From the time she was 8 years old, Bobbi Hays wanted to own a bookshop. That dream came true when, after years of preparation and planning, a location became available in downtown DeKalb.
“This has been a long time coming,” says Hays, who opened Robin’s Nest Bookshoppe with her husband, Tim, this past April. “DeKalb didn’t have a regular bookstore when we came along. The community has been great about welcoming us.”
Opening a new business is challenging in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic, but through community engagement, Robin’s Nest Bookshoppe has already become a beloved stop.
“We intentionally started with a very light inventory,” says Hays. “We told customers ‘We want to know what you want.’”
That inventory includes best-selling titles, books that are trending in the market, children’s books and more. To stay on top of customer requests, Hays put a list next to the cash register. That list is still being used today.
“Every time I put an order in, I take a look at the list,” says Hays. “We also look at the best sellers and what’s hot in the market, but that request list takes priority.”
As Robin’s Nest Bookshoppe approaches its first anniversary, Hays plans to continue relying on customer input to stay plugged into the community.
“If I request a book and you pick that book up, we’ve made a connection,” she says. “We may never meet face-to-face, but we begin to understand each other. I think that’s important.”
Hours: Tue. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wed.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 12:30 p.m.-4 p.m.
The Curious Fox
215 E. Main St., St. Charles, (630) 584-6967, stcmuseum.org.
If you’re looking for a way to remember your time in St. Charles, the Curious Fox is the place to go. This gift shop at the St. Charles History Museum is chock-full of T-shirts, coffee mugs, decorative pillows and souvenirs, all proudly bearing the city’s name.
The shop is run by longtime volunteer Sue Villanova.
“I started volunteering in 2009 as part of the fundraising committee,” says Villanova. “In 2020, I was asked to take over the gift shop.”
Villanova born and raised in St. Charles, and her family has lived here since 1875. She remembers when the museum’s current location was a Texaco gas station.
“I used to come here with my dad, when I was a kid,” she says. “I’ve been in retail for 45 years and I thought, ‘We need more St. Charles stuff.’”
The gift shop is a perfect complement to the museum, where visitors can learn more about the rich history of St. Charles and the surrounding area. The shop offers a chance to deepen one’s knowledge through books, CDs and DVDs by local historians, musicians and filmmakers.
The most important thing, for Villanova, is that people have something to remember their time in the city.
“A lot of customers say, ‘Mom and Dad moved away, and I just want to send them something,’” says Villanova. “Or, the moms and dads come in because their kids moved away, and they want something that reminds them of home.”
Hours: Tue.-Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.