Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Viking Ski & Patio
131 W. Northwest Hwy., Barrington, (847) 381-1188, vikingskishop.com
Since 1966, Bob and Carol Olson’s ski shop at 3422 Fullerton Ave. in Chicago has been a mainstay, selling ski and snowboarding equipment, clothing and accessories. When they saw a chance to expand in 2008, Bob and Carol’s son, company vice president Steve Olson, opened a second location in Barrington. The store is constantly changing with the seasons.
“We change over to patio furniture in mid-April, then back to ski and snowboard equipment in October,” says Steve. “The seasons don’t overlap very much, so it’s a smooth transition.”
During patio season, the store carries a large inventory of furniture, dining sets and fire pits from top outdoor patio furniture brands like Tropitone, Homecrest and Jensen Leisure. There are plenty of styles and materials to choose from, but Steve notes that recycled furniture from Berlin Gardens is trending high.
“Most of them are made out of recycled milk jugs,” he says. “It’s not your typical plastic furniture. It looks like wood but is easy to curve and shape.” For first-time buyers – of patio furniture or ski equipment – Steve recommends showing up armed with knowledge, to help the store’s staff find the right product.
“It’s best to measure your patio before coming in,” Olson says. “Photos are helpful, too.”
Hours: Mon.-Tue., Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thur. to 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. to 5 p.m.
Barb City Bagels
118 E. Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, Ill., (815) 754-5211, barbcitybagels.com
DeKalb’s downtown has so much to offer that day trippers can really work up an appetite. Luckily, Barb City Bagels is there to provide some fuel.
Owners Tim and Bobbi Hays embarked on their bagel adventure in 2014 after serving as missionaries, then educators. Their longtime dream of owning a business came true when they bought the Chesapeake Bagel Bakery, eventually relocating the business and changing the name to Barb City Bagels, a nod to DeKalb’s connection with the inventors of barbed wire. The Hayses have also maintained a kiosk in the law building at Northern Illinois University (NIU), which reopens to the public this fall.
“We bring in our gluten-free bagels for the safety of our gluten-free customers,” says Bobbi Hays. “Every other bagel we have is made by us, from scratch, using fresh ingredients.”
There are 17 bagel flavors to choose from and more than a dozen hand-blended cream cheese flavors. The Hayses boil and bake their bagels, making them in the classic New York style.
“Some of the highest compliments we’ve received are from NIU students from New York,” says Bobbi. “They try our bagels and say, ‘This tastes like a bagel from home.’”
Hours: Daily 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
57 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake, (815) 893-6705, itwaskismet.com
Bernadine Hansen has always dabbled in handmade art and envisioned in her future a shop that sold handmade items.
“This is my retirement baby,” says Hansen, a former language arts teacher at Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake.
While visiting Lake Geneva in July of 2011, Hansen and her husband, Bob, happened upon a store that sold handmade items by local artists. And the owner was looking to sell.
“I thought, at the time, that I’d keep teaching for a few years,” says Hansen. “But everything fell into place.”
In November of 2018, the couple moved the store to downtown Crystal Lake. The way everything came together became the inspiration for their new store’s name.
“Kismet means ‘fate or destiny,’” says Hansen.
She enjoys seeing first-time visitors react when they step inside. The store carries hundreds of items made by artists who are as unique as the items she sells – home decor, jewelry, holiday decorations, handmade cards, soaps, figurines, baby items and more. Hansen says her most popular items, at the moment, are the handcrafted gnomes.
“When we bought the store, there were about 40 artists,” says Hansen. “Now, I work with around 175. It’s a dream come true.”
Hours: Thur.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. to 3 p.m.