Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Kamala’s Own Magickal and Mundane Perfumery
125 E. Main St., Barrington, (877) 424-1963, kamala.com
Though she celebrated the grand opening for her new perfumery this past January, Dana Brown has been selling handmade aromatherapy blends, perfumes, soaps, diffusers, incense, and essential and fragrance oils for more than 35 years.
“I had started experimenting with oils and aromas in college,” says Brown. “When I decided that this was what I wanted to do, it just snowballed.”
The Harvard graduate originally set out to be a diplomat, but after a trip abroad left her feeling disillusioned, Brown returned to her childhood love of scents, blending them to create unique and personalized perfumes for her loved ones. Before long, Brown found herself selling her wares at Renaissance fairs.
“That was the fertilizer that helped my business to grow,” she says.
Kamala’s Own is now in bloom in downtown Barrington, enticing customers with Brown’s wares and the shop’s unique look, whisking visitors back to an old-fashioned apothecary shoppe. While the store has hundreds of products to choose from, Brown also works closely with customers who are seeking their own, personal scents.
“One of our great strengths is that we’re willing to customize anything,” she says. “We can blend right there, at the counter in our shop.”
Hours: Tue.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m.
Stitching on State
290 S. State St., Hampshire, (847) 683-4739, stitchingonstate.com
On the outside, this store sits in a stately 100-year-old farmhouse in Hampshire.
Inside, the knowledgeable staff boasts more than 100 years of combined experience in sewing and quilting.
“I’m the newbie around here,” laughs owner Pat Krenz, who purchased the shop about a year ago.
In addition to more than 2,000 bolts of fabric and supplies lining the walls, Stitching on State also sells sewing machines, and it’s an authorized dealer for Pfaff, a line of German-engineered machines that have been around since 1862.
The store is also known and loved for its classes, which are aimed for quilters and sewers of all levels.
“Our Learn How to Quilt class, for example, teaches beginners everything from how to use a rotary cutter to how to put a binding on a quilt,” says Krenz. “We’ll teach whatever the customer wants. Whatever they request, we’ll put out there.”
It’s all part of this store’s mission to help customers perfect their skill sets in a supportive and relaxed environment.
“I took my first quilting class here, and now I’m the owner,” laughs Krenz. “Once you take that first class, you’ll be done for.”
Hours: Tue.-Fri. 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat. to 4 p.m.
327 Franklin St., Geneva, (630) 454-5714, stringworks.com
This store’s violin, viola and cello showrooms are rich, warm and filled with instruments waiting to be played. With such an atmosphere, it’s almost a shame that most of its customers are internet-based.
“I started the business right at the start of websites,” says Todd French, president of StringWorks. “Purely by chance, we were the first business to sell musical instruments online.”
The shop, based in a historic home in downtown Geneva, is still an important destination for local musicians and many who are willing to travel.
Beginner, intermediate and professional musicians all seek out the high-quality cellos, violins and violas that are lovingly handcrafted. Testing them is also a pleasure, thanks to the building’s incredible acoustics.
“The resonance here is fantastic,” says French. “It’s like a mini concert hall.”
StringWorks owes at least some of its success to its proximity to several top-notch chamber and symphony orchestras. “We’re fortunate to be located in Chicagoland,” says Evan Lowery, StringWorks’ vice president. “We ship all over the world, but we’re also surrounded by strong string programs.”
The store’s niche status and large online customer base don’t prevent walk-up traffic from people who are curious about the unique and stunningly beautiful wares.
“A lot of people find us,” says Lowery. “We’re like a hidden gem.”
Hours: Tue.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., Mon., & Thur. evening by appointment.