Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
Whatnots & Whimsies
211 E. Chicago St., Elgin, (224) 402-8715, whatnotsandwhimsies.com
Fran Nesbitt curates memories.
As a child she marveled at antiques in her grandmother’s basement and pondered their origins. After leaving corporate accounting to spend more time with her three sons, Nesbitt embraced her passion for history and opened a storefront on Water Street in South Elgin in 1999.
The store is now located on Elgin’s Chicago Street, but the mission remains the same: find new homes for sentimental items. Big band music plays while ten themed rooms offer Elgin memorabilia, vintage kitchen items, jewelry from yesteryear and many other curiosities.
Offerings date from the 1800s to today and include Elgin watches, mid-century Jonalia chairs, Pioneer record players, leather Harley-Davidson jackets, Etch A Sketches, cast-iron gargoyles and Peanuts lunchboxes. Merchandise arrives daily from more than 1,000 loyal consigners. Nesbitt also curates several events, including seasonal vintage fashion shows, vintage shop hop and a Valentine’s Jewelry Show set for Feb. 10.
“I’m a history buff, so I want to know everyone’s name and where an item came from so when the next person buys it, I can tell them its history,” says Nesbitt. “That gives the family solace that someone is going to love it and it’s not going to end up in the dump.”
Hours: Tue.-Sat. noon-5 p.m. and Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Lulu’s Wiggin Out
63 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake, (815) 356-9900, luluswigginoutboutique.com
This boutique’s chic women’s fashion and one-of-a-kind accessories belie a heartfelt mission at play.
Breast cancer survivor Luann Bauer opened the store in Algonquin in 2001 as a full-service wig salon for women affected by illness. By 2009, she had opened a second location, in downtown Crystal Lake, where she combined a clothing boutique and wig salon into one store.
When the two locations merged in 2012, Lulu’s became a destination for women’s clothing, accessories such as handbags and jewelry, and a distinctive collection of wigs for both women and men. From jean jackets, pajamas and slippers to vintage-inspired flasks and wall art, the inventory remains as varied as it is unique.
The store features private fitting rooms, wig specialists and an array of wig options, including synthetic, heat-friendly and human hair. The shop offers custom orders, solutions for hair thinning, hats with hair, extensions, sleep caps, turbans, scarves and wig liners.
Adding an unexpected twist to the shopping adventure, a boat sits in center of the store – a whimsical touch that mirrors Bauer’s creative spirit and serves as a metaphor for her dedication to crafting a warm and inviting haven for those navigating challenging times.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Farmer’s Daughter on Main
303 S. Main St., Sandwich, (630) 212-3748, facebook.com
This beloved destination has been stocking handmade delights for more than four decades. The store emanates a distinct warmth and charm with products like handcrafted farmhouse furniture, hand-poured candles, vintage antiques and an ever-changing array of seasonal items.
With eight vendors selling their wares, every nook is adorned with unique creations that mirror artistry and passion. Their emphasis on local craftsmanship and American-made products has also earned this store accolades as one of the best antique stores in the area.
The store originally opened in 1980 and occupied the entire building on Sandwich’s Main Street. In 2023, the owner sold the building to the Spotted Sparrow Boutique, and Farmer’s Daughter became a single room within this historic building.
Visitors today will find a consolidation of this business’ best offerings, including caramel corn, northern pine candles, and farmhouse-style chairs and tables. Vintage black-and-white greeting cards, birdhouses, antique kitchen scales and coffee tins, plush sewn pillows, table mats, colorful valances, acorn wreaths and candle holders are just a sample of the treasures waiting inside.
Some vendors will even make custom items upon request.
Hours: Tue.-Sat. 1-4 p.m.