Nooks & Crannies: Spring Edition

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

Hoarders Trading Post

1301 E. Main St., St. Charles, (630) 549-0177,

For Russell Martens Jr., collecting isn’t a hobby. It’s a way of life.

He’s been a collector since he was young, with interests ranging from vintage bicycles and video games to bourbon. In 2019 he took his passion for possessions to the next level and opened a vintage record store on Main Street in St. Charles.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill record store. Hoarders Trading Post is a treasure trove of music-related paraphernalia, from cassette players and turntables to CDs, vintage posters and action figures. And then, of course, there’s the records. Martens’ collection includes some of the most sought-after classics from the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Neil Young. And, he carries plenty of more recent releases like Taylor Swift and Metallica.

The store’s electronics room boasts a stunning selection of vintage amplifiers, receivers and record players from top brands like Kenwood, Pioneer and Yamaha. Martens happily welcomes trades from fellow enthusiasts.

“I’m more of a buyer than a seller,” he says. “That’s what gets me excited.”

Hours: Tue.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Made Just For You Gifts

338 W. State St., Sycamore, Ill., (815) 895-8122,,

Ken and Marcia Elliott were at a transition point in 1993. Ken had just shifted from teaching ROTC to leading business classes at Northern Illinois University (NIU). The gift shop where Marcia had been working and selling her crafts was about to be sold. So, the pair combined their strengths and bought the downtown Sycamore shop.

Three decades later, their gift shop is still drawing people who want to find unique items made mostly by local and Midwestern artists. The front of the store features seasonal items, Sycamore postcards and souvenirs, greeting cards, calendars, framed art, pottery, and jewelry, among other items. The rest of the store is organized into themes like candles, bathroom, kitchen, pets, Americana and sports. Most everything is American made.

Because most items are made locally, customers can request customized products such as sewn items, wood planks, towels and baby items.

For the Elliotts, offering hard-to-find gifts is a service they’re happy to provide.

“This is important because people are looking for something unique, something you can’t find everywhere,” says Ken, who retired from NIU in 2018. “I love interacting with customers, getting to know them and finding out what they like.”

Hours: Mon.-Thu. 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Fri.-Sat. to 5 p.m.

Pots and Pies Bakery

67 E. Woodstock St., Crystal Lake, (815) 354-9934,

When Auriane Ugalde wants to do something, she goes for it – and that’s how she ended up running a sought-after bakery in Crystal Lake.

Ugalde’s passion for cooking started as a child near Reno, Nev., where she learned from her grandmothers and studied Julia Child. Her culinary journey began in earnest when she travelled to Spain and apprenticed at some of the nation’s top restaurants. She then became an executive chef in Chicago and oversaw numerous flavors and cultural dishes.

When the pandemic hit, Ugalde pivoted to food sales, knowing it might lead to a new understanding of the industry. She opened Pots and Pies Bakery in October 2022 and now specializes in made-from-scratch pies that are handcrafted with quality ingredients.

The bakery offers a variety of pies, including the savory Italian beef short rib pie made with braised short rib, onions, sweet peppers, mozzarella and a side of giardiniera. Sweet pies include the apple tart with fire-roasted apples, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Pies come in individual sizes and can be prepared in a 9-inch size with gluten-free crusts and flourless fillings. The bakery doesn’t have indoor seating, but there’s a public park with seats across the street.

For Ugalde, the proof is in the filling. “That’s what makes the pie,” she says. “It’s not open a can, dump in the pie filling and call it a pie; you’re getting special ingredients here.”

Hours: Tue.-Sat. 7 a.m.-3 p.m.