Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Elgin Community Bikes
119 S. Grove Ave., Elgin, (224) 407-2124, elgincommunitybikes.org
On the outside, it looks like a typical bike shop. On the inside, it’s anything but. Elgin Community Bikes is dedicated to getting all people on two wheels, regardless of where they came from.
The full-service shop offers repairs, tune-ups and adjustments, and it also carries a wide variety of components, replacement parts and accessories for bikes of all kinds.
Elgin Community Bikes operates as a nonprofit. Its business plan includes a bike match program where customers pay what they can. Purchases can be deeply subsidized or discounted, or in some cases, free depending on the client’s needs. Most of the inventory is donated to the store.
“We just have the conversation about what do you need and what’s your budget, and then we figure out a good bicycle, regardless of ability to pay,” says Parker Thompson, shop manager of Elgin Community Bikes. Thompson also serves as the board chair for the nonprofit behind the bike shop.
Elgin Community Bikes began by holding group bike rides in 2017. Eventually, it led to the founding of a nonprofit shop in 2020.
“We’re a check point for many different people,” says Thompson. “We’re even a check point for some of the unhoused and their bikes, and we can make sure they’re OK.”
Hours: Tue. 6-8 p.m., Fri. 3-6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
720 Main St., Lake Geneva, (262) 248-6500, allisonwonderland.com
Since 1972, this store has stood the test of time by offering a wide selection of affordable, quality toys. In 2020, owners Mike and Julie Springer sold the business to their son, Chris Springer, who returned to Lake Geneva to continue that legacy.
“We have been in business for so long, we’re seeing third generations of families,” Chris says. “For decades, people have supported us and continue to support us, so there was a feeling that we need to stick around.”
One of the oldest toy stores in the area, Allison Wonderland has a second location at 472 N. Pine St. in Burlington, Wis. At either store, customers will find everything from plush dolls and puzzles to arts and crafts kits, board games, educational toys, retro toys and more.
To Chris Springer, the greatest reward is seeing the relationships his family has built over the years.
“When customers come in, it literally will be three generations of a family right there that talk about ‘Oh, when we were little,’ and they all kind of go down memory lane,” he says. “That is a meaningful aspect of what we do.”
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sat. to 6 p.m., Sun. to 5 p.m.
Main Street Wellness & Skincare
118 S. Main St., Ste. 8, Wauconda, (331) 336-6444, mainstwellnessskincare.com
This spa offers a plethora of services, including therapeutic massage therapy, Reiki, prenatal massages and coaching services that cover life, health and fitness. Skincare services include facials, waxing, full-body waxing and peels. The spa also carries skincare and wellness products such as Skinscript Skincare and Pure Love Essence fragrance oils.
Co-owners Dana Bartolotta and Dawn Tellez worked together at a beauty salon in their teenage years and went on to start their own, separate wellness and skincare business. They teamed up again in June 2020 to create this new company, in the process bringing two decades of skincare and massage therapy.
Bartolotta, a licensed health and life coach, handles the wellness side of things, offering therapeutic massages and focusing on healing through self-love. Tellez serves as the skincare specialist, particularly when it comes to anti-aging and acne. Bartolotta says she has witnessed Tellez “work miracles” and transform people. For Tellez, that’s what it’s all about.
“It feels really good to help people make themselves better and feel better about themselves,” she says. “It’s what I’m meant to do. It’s my purpose.”
Spa Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-2 p.m.