Check out these unusual and inventive stores around our area.
238 N. Main St., Elizabeth, Ill., (815) 858-2327, eshelmanpottery.com
Paul and Laurel Eshelman have been making lovely, functional pottery since 1988. It’s not unusual to find them with dirty hands, hard at work in their studio and gallery in the heart of downtown Elizabeth.
“Our style is very contemporary, and our pieces are meant to be used,” says Laurel.
The bodies of their wares are made from red stoneware that’s microwave- and dishwasher-safe; the casserole dishes are oven-safe. Paul is known for his clean and clever modern designs that contrast glazed and unglazed surfaces. Eshelman pottery is sold from select shops and fairs across the U.S. (including in nearby Galena, Ill.) and from their website.
Paul earned his Master’s of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. Lauren’s degree is in biology, “but there wasn’t much need for a biology major in Elizabeth,” so she learned to work alongside Paul. The couple has reared three children, who also worked in the shop before leaving the nest.
The Eshelmans’ on-site pottery studio is open to the public, and although the gallery maintains regular business hours, you’d best call ahead, in case these artists are working at a fair or art show.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Country at Heart Quilt & Gift Shop
1910 E. Fourth St., Sterling, Ill. 1910 E. Fourth St., Sterling, Ill. (815) 625-7484
When she was 9 or 10 years old, Jan Sierens learned to sew and quilt as her grandmother taught her to do. “At the time, I wondered why on earth I needed to know these skills,” she says.
But Jan’s passion for working with her hands grew, as did a desire to own her own shop. So, 15 years ago, when her children were out of high school, she said, “Now it’s my turn.” Husband Dale was fully supportive.
Today, Jan’s shop is a hub of activity for all ages, from novices learning to quilt or sew in Jan’s classes, to experts purchasing fabric, notions, patterns and Phaff brand sewing machines. The 5,000-square-foot shop also sells antique and primitive furniture, Bowe pottery, candles, quilts, doilies, framed art, country-style gifts and accessories.
“There continues to be a very strong interest in learning to sew and quilt, at least in our area,” says Jan. “It’s all about coming back to the simplicity of life. I think my grandmother is smiling down on me every day.”
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Extended times during the holidays.
Frame ‘n Color
1119 16th Ave., Monroe, Wis., (608) 325-4135
If you drop into this fun store on Monroe’s downtown square, you might get the urge to change your home with new paint, wall art and accessories.
“We can help people with all of that. We’re just good at putting things together,” says Denise Baker, a longtime employee of the store owned by Chuck Radke. Frame ‘n Color carries interior and exterior paint, wall art, vases, lamps, gifts and loads of unique home decor. It offers home color consultation services, as well as framing services.
“We do a lot of really cool things with framing, such as creating shadow boxes with personal items from a special trip, making collages, all sorts of things,” says Baker. Radke attends large shows around the nation and selects inventory that’s on-trend and unique.
The shop’s roots run deep in the Monroe area; Chuck’s late parents, Wally and Ruby Radke, once ran the store under the name Wing ‘n Pond.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-4 p.m.
102 Orth Road, Loves Park, Ill., (815) 885-1765, genslergardens.com
Sure, we all think of Gensler Gardens as the place to buy live plants and hanging baskets, but did you know the Loves Park location is open until Dec. 31 each year? The temperature-controlled greenhouses are bulging with fresh evergreen products like wreaths, garlands, evergreen hanging baskets, boughs, deluxe arrangements, door swags, table centerpieces, porch pots, cemetery pots, grave blankets, poinsettias, pine cones and accessories like tree stands, easels and handmade bows.
If you need something made up ahead of time, just call to place an order.
There’s a forest of fresh-cut trees with all the decorative trimmings, plus gift items like fruit butters, jams and preserves; soups, salad dressings, salsas and sauces; dessert toppings, pickles, mushrooms and dip mixes.
“We take a lot of pride in making up beautiful, no-fuss evergreen porch pots,” says Scott Gensler. “In Janurary, people just take out the holiday decorations and these fresh arrangements still look great on your doorstep until March.”
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.