Nooks & Crannies: Fall Edition

Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.

Three Bees Honey Shop

217 S. State St., Marengo, (262) 233-2677,

When Konni Vukelic gets stung by a bee, she gives thanks.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. She recognizes the medicinal properties in these tiny pollinators.

The Streamwood native’s life took a turn in 2013 when she sought out local beekeeper Dennis Bukala for help with inflammation issues. Serving as his apprentice for six years, Vukelic started three beehives of her own on Bukala’s apiary her first year and received all his equipment, hives and business from his family following his death in 2019.

Today, she owns 37 honeybee colonies at farms in Marengo, Union, Huntley and Streamwood. She also owns Three Bees Honey Shop, a holistic haven that offers locally cultivated honey and hive-derived products. Offerings include healing salves made with herbal-infused oils, anti-acne toner with witch hazel and aloe and, of course, pure raw honey.

The “you take my breath away” propolis breath spray, derived from honeybees’ propolis – a tree sap-infused resin mixture used to protect and repair hives – has more than 2,000 clinical trials that show its effectiveness in killing bacteria and reducing the symptoms of COVID, Vukelic says.

Vukelic also advocates and educates others about beekeeping and its associated medicinal properties. Currently, she offers beekeeping classes through a partnership with Elgin Community College. She envisions someday offering other avenues to learn about beekeeping.

“My youngest student this year is six,” says Vukelic. “I try to introduce them to the fact that honey is great, but honey is a medicine. Everything in the hive can be used to our benefit.”

Hours: Mon., Tue. & Thu. 2-6 p.m., Fri. & Sun. noon-6 p.m.

Blumen Gardens

403 Edward St., Sycamore, (815) 895-3737,

Opened in 1989 as a landscaping company, this business now combines a nursery, a retail shop, an event space and a wedding venue on a single 4.5-acre property.

The warehouse had been a factory since 1869 and was abandoned when Jill Mandeville’s parents, Joel and Joan Barczak, purchased it in 1999. After countless renovations, it now features a wide selection of homegrown plants, garden supplies, home and garden décor, clothing and gift items.
The company began hosting weddings and events in 2008 and currently offers a full-time event coordinator, a bridal suite and multiple reception areas.

Through regular workshops and gatherings like a holiday artist and maker market on Nov. 19, the event space brings people together to create, learn and connect.
Mandeville continues to expand while staying true to her roots. She loves that her business defies easy labels.

“I love that we’re not held down to only being a garden center,” says Mandeville. “If we want to bring in cards or something different like baby clothes, we can experiment and see what people like. It makes it fun that we’re not held into a box.”

Hours: Mon.-Thu. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Fri.-Sun. 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Banbury Fair

211 W. Railroad Ave., Ste. 4427, Bartlett, (630) 837-1727,

Bruce Suffern is a simple man. His business is not.

Growing up on the south side of Chicago working to support his widowed mother, he dreamt of someday owning a house with a large oak tree and a barn. That dream came true in 1987 when he and his wife, Jan, purchased a historic homestead and barn in downtown Bartlett.

The well-preserved 1882 home now includes a coffee shop, a restaurant and a store with women’s clothing and accessories like scarves, sunglasses and jewelry. A baby section offers clothing, stuffed animals and books. The back features re-purposed furniture including dressers, nightstands, tables, chairs and lamps.

Wall signs and paintings hang over string light bottles, clocks and teapots. There’s also an assortment of lavender products including soap bars, pillow mists and essential oils from Purple Prairie Lavender Farm, in Good Hope.

In one corner of the home, D^licious coffee bar whips up coffee and breakfast grub like cinnamon rolls and egg sandwiches. The historic barn outside is home to Le P’tit Resto, Bar and Tapas, which serves dishes like baked goat cheese, seafood paella and fall-off-the-bone-ribs.

A 40th anniversary celebration is scheduled for Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, promising complimentary food and drinks, giveaways and games. At 73 years old, Suffern is in no hurry to retire.

“If someone made us an offer, we probably wouldn’t say no, but we both enjoy what we’re doing,” says Suffern. “We enjoy getting up, coming to work and interacting with the community every day.”
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m.