It’s all in a name
The name “Somkit” translates to English as “Wish Fulfillment." After 14 years in the business, a Thai and sushi bar in downtown Dixon has achieved its wishes and more.
The beginning of a successful business
The restaurant business was started in May of 2007 by the current owners' family, Jack Treerawat and Aim Pitawan Yindeeroop. Jack’s parents, Sam and Udi Somkit, moved to Dixon in 2007 and saw an opportunity for a small restaurant in the heart of downtown Dixon. They started their first restaurant, Touch of Thai, at 221 W. First St. Wings & More now occupies this space. It featured a full Thai menu. Within a short time, the community showed overwhelming love and support. In 2008, the owners saw the need for expanding the menu by adding sushi. At the same time, they remodeled and updated the interior to accommodate the new sushi bar with a modern design style.
Touch of Thai became even more successful with the help of their son, Jack, and his wife, Aim. Raised in Thailand, they moved to the states to pursue their careers. In 2005, Aim attended college in Chicago to study business and communications, where she met her husband, Jack. They married in 2008. Jack and Aim commuted from Chicago and Dixon to work in their careers and help the family. Eventually, they moved to Dixon full-time to be a vital part of the family business.
New name and address in 2017
In 2017, after ten years at the 221 W. First St. location as “Touch of Thai,” the owners decided to relocate across the street to 214 W. First St. The business also rebranded and reestablished under the name Somkit to honor the late Sam Somkit. It was easy to continue to be inspired through this new location by all of the hard work Sam and Udi had put into developing the restaurant concept, the menu, and the loyal client base. Continuing to honor his name and legacy was their biggest drive for the new brand and address.
An added feature at the new location is a drive-up window on the alley-side of the restaurant. Pick up a great evening's meal on the way home from work.
Upon walking in, I was in awe of the beautiful design and touches of the space. Exposed brick walls with floating shelves displaying various alcohol choices, a glass drink rack suspended from the ceiling above the homemade bar, black ceilings with exposed pipes and hanging lights made it the perfect mix of industrial and modern space. A large canvas photo hangs boldly in the bar of the original curator and chef that started it all - Sam Somkit.
Unique cocktails for every taste
We were seated near the middle of the restaurant and started looking over the drink menu. The matcha drinks immediately caught my eye. The Matcha Lemonade struck my fancy. It is a mixture of Tanqueray gin, mint matcha powder, and pineapple and lemon juices. The drink menu also featured creative drinks such as the Tiki Blossom, Rendezvous Punch, The Alamo, Lychee Martini, Manhattans, and plenty more. Fresh ingredients are used in each cocktail. We started with a deep-fried spicy tuna roll, Matcha Lemonade, and a martini.
The menu is the star of the show
The menu is expansive, with over 20 starters of soup, salad, and many sushi rolls. Then onto the entrees, makimonos, chef’s specials, sashimi and nigiri, Japanese entrees, and bento boxes. We were overwhelmed in the best way possible, reading each food description and trying to make our choices. We chose the Green Turtle roll--consisting of a delicious mix of tempura shrimp, salmon, spicy mayo, wasabi tobiko shrimp--and an entree of Salmon Teriyaki.
Leftovers? Not a chance.
We admired the rest of the clean and vibrant space as we sipped on our cocktails and waited for the food to arrive. Our first set of sushi appetizers came out quickly and were better than we could imagine. After downing the first round of sushi rolls, out came our dinner. The Salmon Teriyaki was cooked to perfection and displayed neatly over white rice. Other entrees included Chicken Teriyaki, Beef Teriyaki, and Shrimp Tempura. The food was excellent and cooked to perfection. Because of this, we didn’t have any leftovers to take home--just full and happy bellies.
Not only was the food top-notch, but so was the staff. From the bartenders, sushi chefs, wait staff, and hosts, you can tell they enjoy their work.
Explore downtown Dixon
We explored Dixon's downtown by stopping at cute boutiques and antique shops along First Street. We weren't disappointed in our finds.
If you're looking for weekend plans or a day trip for some amazing food, head to Somkit and Discover Dixon!
214 W. First Street
Dixon, IL 61021
Tuesday through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Drive-in movie theaters made a comeback
In the wake of a pandemic, modern indoor cinemas became ghost towns. Not true for the Midway Drive-in located on 91 Palmyra Road--between Dixon and Sterling.
With the weather getting nicer, Midway announced their season re-opening date of Friday, May 7. I know I'm ready for a cozy date night. So, I'm excited to load up the car with fuzzy blankets and snacks to watch a double feature at this nostalgic drive-in theater.
Midway Drive-In opened in 1950 and has been in continuous operation ever since. In the early 1950s, there were more than 120 drive-in movie theaters throughout the state, but Midway has become a historical landmark as it is home to the oldest standing drive-In screen. It is now only one of the 20 remaining drive-in theaters left in Illinois.
This single screen, old-fashioned outdoor movie theater still strives to provide the American tradition of the drive-in theater experience. From the retro spaceship-styled ticket booth to the full-service concession stand, a trip to Midway is like entering a time capsule to the 1950s. The good news is that they plan on keeping it that way and are dedicated to preserving this historical landmark.
This historic landmark features state-of-the-art digital projection and sound and classic mid-20th-century architecture. The enormous screen presents double features of first-run family films, classic films, classic movies, and even puts on a Horrorfest every fall.
The complete nostalgic American drive-In experience
The Midway strives to recreate the majesty and charm of the classic drive-in era. Classic oldies tunes will play prior to the start of the film. The film presentation starts with the national anthem, which will play on film. Classic coming attractions, short subjects, cartoons, and nostalgic drive-In announcements play before the start of the first feature. At intermission, the classic animated “Dancing Hot Dog” short and other nostalgic vintage concession ads play.
One thing has changed at the Midway--the sound format. Gone are the old in-car speakers. Now the sound is transmitted to your car via FM stereo. Just tune your car or portable radio to 91.3 FM and you will receive the sound in dynamic FM stereo!
Best seats in the House
It’s not hard to find a spot at Midway, as their spacious lot can hold up to 500 cars. The Midway screen spans a giant 90 feet across, giving a massive film presentation. You can pack up your vehicle with blankets and pillows and be in ultimate cozy comfort as you enjoy the film, or go old-school and set up a fort in the back of a truck bed.
There is nothing better than watching a film under the stars. The open air provides a better movie-going experience as you can enjoy the weather and find the major star constellations in between eating handfuls of popcorn.
New Policies regarding COVID-19
As Willy Wonka said, “So shines a good deed in a weary world." The Midway appreciates that patrons honor their COVID policies. Please wear your face coverings in order to create an atmosphere where everyone will feel safe and secure. GO TO --> Covid-19 Policies in detail.
Reserve tickets online
All tickets are to be purchased online in advance. Tickets are not sold at the box office at this time. Have your printed ticket or smart device with the QR code to be scanned at the Box Office at the time of entry. They can scan a cell phone or a paper printout of the email.
Order your advance tickets and Food Permit online HERE. Everyone can pay in advance online for their tickets and Food Permit using a PayPal account or credit card.
Bring your own food and beverages
The Midway Concession stand is closed until further notice due to the pandemic. Everyone may bring their own food and drinks. The purchase of a $10.00 Food Permit per vehicle per visit (and admission tickets) is required to enter the Midway.
Check out the upcoming blockbuster movie features.
- The new James Bond film, NO TIME TO DIE
- A QUIET PLACE PART 2
- Marvel - BLACK WIDOW
- FAST AND FURIOUS 9
- GODZILLA VS. KONG
- GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE
- MINIONS 2: THE RISE OF GRU
- Disney Pixar’s – LUCA
- Disney’s CRUELLA
- HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 4
- TOP GUN 2: MAVERICK
- Disney’s THE JUNGLE CRUISE
- Marvel’s SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS
- THE SUICIDE SQUAD
- Michael Myers is back in HALLOWEEN KILLS
- The annual Dusk to Dawn Horrorfest
Midway Drive-In Theatre
91 Palmyra Road Located between Dixon and Sterling
IL Old Route 2
Sterling, IL 61081
BUY TICKETS NOW
Phone Numbers: Main Office - (847) 647-3124
Recording for Show Times, etc. - (847) 647-3124
Theatre (during operating hours) - (815) 622-2900
The Midway Drive-In
P.O. Box 480715
Niles, IL 60714
If these walls could talk--oh, the stories they would tell
Since 1976 the Brandywine Banquet and Event Center is a staple for large and small events in northwest Illinois. Located on Route 2 between Dixon and Sterling sits one of the area's top event venues. Known for its elegant atmosphere, friendly staff, delicious menu options, and ample space--it’s the perfect space for any type of celebration or milestone.
Built to resemble the wayside inns of Old England, the massive 100-year-old timbers, bricks, steel, glass, and other rustic building materials salvaged from old buildings and hotels emphasize its charming design.
If the walls within the Brandywine could talk, they would tell the history of how it was built and the real stories about the celebrations and gatherings. Those walls would also tell stories about family reunions, weddings, life milestones, corporate meetings, birthdays, and the many events where friends, family, and business associates share a good time or new beginnings.
A new story began in 2018
The 42-year-old building on the hill was bought in 2018 by Matt Prescott, the owner of Candlelight Inn restaurants, and business partner Tim Kendrick. "It's one of the most iconic properties in our area," Prescott said in an interview with Shaw Media, "You can't build a property like that anymore."
They currently offer a Grand Ballroom, Main Ballroom, and Brick Room for all types of gatherings. The venue boasts:
- Three large wooden dance floors
- building-wide PA system with wireless microphones
- Free Wi-Fi
- Projectors and screens
- Two full-service bars
- Floor-to-ceiling room dividers
- Dimmable lighting
Aside from all the historic space, Brandywine also has three event coordinators on staff to help make any celebration perfect. The coordinator helps plan every step of an event, leaving patrons the time and energy to enjoy the moment instead of worrying about the details.
“At Brandywine Banquet & Event Center, we take a proactive approach to helping you plan each detail. Start by choosing one of our three main banquet areas. Then we’ll work together on your menu, setup, and each part of your event. Our event coordinators will even be in contact with your vendors for setup requirements,” said Prescott. “Meanwhile, you can sit back and rest assured that everything will come together perfectly.”
Why Choose the Brandywine?
Be sure to visit the Brandywine’s website for its top-of-the-line cuisine and fully customizable menu. The menu includes meals served either plated or buffet-style. Working with their flexible and friendly staff makes any event stress-free and enjoyable.
The welcoming ambiance sets off events on the right foot. There is the opportunity to get into the venue early for setup and decorating.
“Here's a tribute to this old gal on the hill and the many more memories that she'll be a part of. The Brandywine Banquet and Event Center has been a part of these communities for a long time and will be here to help celebrate & build the future.”
Start planning your gathering at the Brandywine.
Brandywine Banquet & Event Center
441 IL Route 2
Dixon, IL 61021
An urban farmhouse kitchen in historic downtown Savanna
Circa 1888 opened its doors in 2018 and has been a popular staple for gourmet dining with a modern culinary twist. Savanna mayor, Chris Lain, and husband, Jube, own the historic building. At the time, they already owned The Savanna Marketplace and Ecology Inn down the street. When this building became available for purchase, they took a leap and purchased it with an idea for a farmhouse kitchen. With neither of them ever being in the restaurant business before this, they weren’t sure where they were heading. Fortunately, their business and creative direction backgrounds gave them the confidence to go full speed ahead.
The building wasn’t in great shape upon purchase with a few leaks and floors that needed refinishing, as well as a full kitchen install. Their vision came to life as they started the renovation. Chris and Jube preserved the building’s original features--exposed the brick walls, ornate ceiling tiles, vintage molding, and original floors.
Upon walking in the door, the natural light from the giant front windows beams off the historic brick walls. The walls display local and fun artwork, the gathering tables offer plenty of seating, the homemade bar made out of old doors makes a perfect spot for ordering a specialty cocktail. The specialty drinks rotate along with the menu options ensuring a new item to try each time you return.
The patio is an added bonus
The building’s interior is beautiful but Circa 1888 has a unique feature, unlike other restaurants downtown, with an outdoor patio overlooking the Mississippi River. The beautiful patio features multiple tables with stunning views of the river. It’s a place where friends and families can gather together in a casual atmosphere- indoors or outside on the patio.
The unique menu allows a fun culinary visit
The menu is diverse and full of homemade dishes with modern twists. Shrimp Poutine (Wisconsin cheese curds, fries, and Cajun Cream Sauce) and Thai Chicken Flatbread with Peanut Sauce are just two mouth-watering choices. Circa 1888 also offers gluten-free options for a majority of the menu. The menu selection rotates, but the most requested dishes remain--chicken wings, the classic Cubano sandwich, grass-fed burgers, and steak dinners.
We sat down and had a hard time choosing - everything looked incredible! We started by ordering the Goat Cheese Croquettes with a mango chutney dipping sauce. They were unbelievably good. We moved on to a 100% grass-fed beef burger and Sirloin Steak for our main course. The burgers are sourced from local Wisconsin-raised and processed beef and served to your liking on a brioche bun, topped with your choice of fixings. Our meals arrived expertly presented on our plates. Both the burger and sirloins were cooked perfectly with fresh vegetables and a loaded baked potato on the side.
Don’t skip dessert
Dessert is my weakness. I’ll take half of my food home for leftovers before skipping an excellent dessert menu. This evening’s menu featured cheesecake with sour cream topping, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, lemon cake with baked fruits, and chocolate pots de creme. How do you choose? So as anyone would do, we decided on three different desserts to take home with us. Each one was equally amazing.
Enjoy a walk around Savanna after dinner
Savanna is full of history, live entertainment, local dives, and eccentric shops and restaurants to choose from for your exploration. Take a stroll on their historic Main Street to shop and admire the buildings dating back to the 1800s. You're probably hungry by now, so I won't keep you any longer. Make a trip to Savanna and dine at Circa 1888 for a fantastic meal.
305 Main Street
Savanna, IL 61074
Hours may change seasonally.
Thursday: 4:00PM - 8:00PM
Friday: Noon - 8:00PM
Saturday: 11:00AM - 9:00PM
Sunday: 11:00AM - 7:00PM
A wild idea
It all started with a wild idea. A historic vacant building sat empty in downtown Oregon, Illinois’ Main Street, waiting for someone to give it a new life.
Jason and Carrie O'Neil had never run a business, let alone a bar, so the opportunity was exhilarating. In 2017 they were ready to move forward with their plan. After purchasing the building, they updated the space with hardwood floors and matte black fixtures throughout the property. Simultaneously, the O'Neil's maintained historical integrity by saving the exposed brick walls and tin ceilings. The brick wall features local art representing the Black Hawk region and Indian Head history.
The O'Neil's hired staff, learned the POS system, and created their branding and social media presence in just two short months. Thankfully, Jason is a graphic designer and brought the concept to life fairly quickly and continues to do so.
I asked how they came up with the business name, “That was a long ideation,” joked Jason. They tossed around different names for a while. Nothing clicked until one night, Carrie put together a variety of bar and drink keywords. The two descriptive words that describe their business came together--Cork & Tap.
More than a wine bar
Cork & Tap originated as a wine bar, but as time passed, they expanded drink options to include unique cocktails, martinis, and several Moscow Mule varieties. The O'Neils are continually updating their menus, drink specialties, beers on tap, and seasonal drinks.
The bar offers over 30 different wines regionally and nationally, 14 rotating tap beers, and menu pages full of Moscow Mule varieties, specialty drinks, and martini options. The specialty cocktails include fun names such as the Mermaid Water, Gummy Bear Margarita, Blueberry Whiskey Buck, Lavender Lemonade, and Funfetti Cake Batter Martini.
As I sifted through the multiple-page menu, I joked that I’d bring a driver with me next time to try out some of their tempting drinks. The Pomegranate Mule, Cherry Cheesecake Martini, and Peachy Bellini are just three unique cocktails offered.
Cork & Tap's seating areas are welcoming with expansive bar seating, large tables with ample seating for 6, and loft space couch seating with a dining table overlooking the main bar. The staff is always warm and welcoming, in addition to being able to make some fantastic cocktails.
Cork & Tap holds public events like tap bar takeovers, wine tastings, guest food vendors, painting classes, and holiday events.
Pandemic requires ingenuity
During the pandemic, the Cork & Tap came up with drink kits and growlers for patrons to take home and enjoy. The business had to cancel events during the pandemic, but as restrictions start to loosen, they’re eager to hosting more events soon.
It’s an event space
Cork & Tap also has three event spaces it rents out for weddings, baby and wedding showers, receptions, reunions, birthday parties, and corporate events. The main floor event room is divided from the main bar and seats 45 people. The third-floor space is expansive with a mix of hardwood floors, carpet, brick, and exposed rafters. There are two spaces on the top floor that are rented together or separately. The entire top floor seats up to 150 people.
“Our big thing has always been to focus on being an open and inviting place for people to enjoy. It’s a space to entertain guests and keep them coming back,” said Jason. “Providing a gathering place is the most important aspect of our business.”
Cork & Tap
305 W Washington St.
Oregon, IL, 61061
Wed-Thurs: 3-9 pm
Fri: 3-10 pm
Sat: 12-10 pm
Sun: 12-6 pm
Built in 1874 as a home for a bride
The brick Italianate Victorian home was built in 1874 for William Judd Mix as a wedding gift to his third wife. The Mix family owned a brick factory and were considered one of the wealthiest people in Ogle County.
Since the early 90s, the Pinehill Inn has run as a bed & breakfast. The current owners, Ken and Chris Williams, purchased the property in 2005. The inn, sold empty of any furnishings, left 5,000 square feet of space to design and fill. Chris was excited about the “decorator” task. Over the years, even though the couple added their personal touches and modernized portions of the home, Pinehill has maintained its historic integrity.
History and charm go hand in hand
The historic inn sits on two acres of beautifully maintained land with the bed and breakfast, outdoor porch and veranda, and a carriage house used for special events. Pinehill is on the National Register of Historic Homes.
There is only one guest room on the main floor, but it may be one of the most sentimental rooms of all. The room, named “Captains Quarters,” is a nautical-themed room with beautiful handmade ships belonging to Ken’s father.
As you start walking up the 147-year-old grand staircase, the beautiful custom-made silk French wallpaper and “coffin corner” nooks in the wall catch your eye. The second floor is home to five more guest rooms, all with private bathrooms and themes such as the “Somerset Room” and “Rose Room.” The latter is named after the 60-year-old wallpaper that Chris and Ken left untouched. Chris decorated all the rooms. She picked a fine piece of art and designed the space around it. With the perfect mix of luxury and country charm, each spacious room is sure to take you back in time while providing modern amenities.
The home boasts 75 windows, seven different marble fireplaces, and layered wallpaper from France. The home’s original owners hosted famous visitors such as English writer and dramatist W. Somerset Maugham during 1919 - 1948. There's even a room named after him. Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft, who created the Blackhawk statue overlooking the Rock River, often visited Pinehill.
Putting the “B” in Bed and Breakfast
Pinehill serves two styles of breakfast, available upon request at the time of booking. Two formal dining parlors provide plenty of space for Pinehill’s delicious and healthy breakfasts cooked by Chris. During my tour, she took me into her kitchen, where she whips up breakfast every morning, and to my surprise, it was the most modernized room in the house. Chris takes pride in cooking breakfast for her guests. She jokes that she has “two of everything” in her kitchen. Pinehill also has a 24-hour butler’s pantry with a full selection of complimentary snacks and beverages.
Each of the six unique guests rooms come equipped with plenty of amenities and special touches, including:
- Complimentary WiFi
- High ceilings
- Fireplaces in some rooms
- Complimentary snacks and beverages
- Memory-foam bedding
- Plush robes
- Cable TV
More than overnight accommodations
The mansion has plenty of room for a romantic getaway or social gathering. Still, Pinehill also offers multiple venues to host special events and small weddings.
The Mansion, Carriage House, and 2 acres of property all provide a secluded and refined environment to host any event. The carriage contains rustic charm and is the perfect gathering space for small parties.
The inn also offers space for corporate meetings and events. Clients may use the inn’s catering services or an option to bring their food in.
The inn offers a B&B College
Have you ever dreamed of running a bed and breakfast?
Owning and operating a bed and breakfast takes passion, persistence, and knowledge. The Williams started offering their own B&B College by teaching the ins and outs of being a bed and breakfast owner and innkeeper, going over everything from acquiring guests, proper marketing, and how to manage the business.
The cost is $485 per couple, plus the special room rate of $99 a night. Included is a reception the evening before, breakfast and lunch on the first day, and breakfast on the second day. Students receive a 100+ page notebook with all teaching materials and a CD with sample forms and budgeting spreadsheet templates.
Register by calling or emailing:
- Call: 1-815-732-2067
- Bed & Breakfast College page
Pinehill Inn Bed & Breakfast
400 Mix Street
Oregon, Illinois, 61061-1113
Phone: (815) 732-2067
Cheers in Milledgeville
Everybody’s got one they love.... that place where you come as you are, relax, and enjoy time with friends. In the small town of Milledgeville – a population of 1,032 – sits just the place. After opening in 2017, Pub 225 has grown to become a popular spot and even a destination for something that may be hard to find in the rest of Carroll County – martinis.
Jamie Emmert and her husband, Jason Schmidt, saw a need for something different in Jason’s hometown of Milledgeville. A vacant beauty shop at the corner of 310 Main Street came up for sale and they knew what they had to do. The building needed a lot of work but they had a vision and started peeling off layers of the interior which revealed the old building's tin ceilings and walls.
It's all about the martinis
They wanted a name that would reflect the history of Jason’s beloved hometown and decided to incorporate the first three numbers of the village's telephone system “225." They opened up with the simple motto of “Come in as strangers, leave as friends” with your standard beer and shot offerings but knew they needed something more. They started with five martinis on the menu and surprisingly, within the first year, they sold more martinis to men than women.
As the martinis took off, so did the number of suggestions and ideas for new flavors from their devoted customers. They started incorporating new creations such as the “Missile” named after Milledgeville’s school mascot and seasonal martinis like the Drunken Pumpkin, Sugar Cookie with Frosting and Sugar, Jack Frost with a coconut rim, and even a Dill Pickle Martini substituting an olive for a pickle. At only $5 each, the martini’s are a steal and their martini menu includes over 30 different creations such as lemon drop (my favorite), cherry blossom, cucumber citrus, gummy bear, salted caramel, coconut cream, pineapple upside-down, just peachy, appletini, sour apple jolly rancher, and more.
Their smooth martini recipes are what make Pub 225 so popular, bringing people from all over the area and even nearby cities to visit the unique pub in this small village. Jamie and Jason are pretty good at “shaking things up” but that’s not a title they take lightly. Jamie took online classes and is now a certified mixologist. To earn this certification you have to have an understanding of different types of liquors, flavor profiles, and how to adjust them to create that perfect balance.
Jason and Jamie are extroverts and as we walked in we were greeted with big smiles. As Jason handed us the menu and pointed out his favorites, I asked if he was the professional mixologist to which he laughed and said that Jamie was the master mixologist. We decided on Caramel Apple and Chocolate Covered Strawberry martinis for our first round – you won’t be able to have just one. When I order a martini I'm always a little nervous to take that first sip because many times it can be a mouth full of strong liquor taste, but to my surprise, it wasn’t that at all. The ones I sampled were smooth without a strong, overpowering alcohol taste.
Not a martini fan? Pub 225 carries bottled beer, mixed drinks of all kinds, and soft drinks.
Enjoy the patio during warm weather
Even in the midst of the pandemic, Jamie and Jason continue to expand the services offered by Pub 225 and they now own a mobile bar service that provides their famous martinis & other drinks at weddings, receptions, and other offsite events. Pub 225 doesn't have a kitchen but they offer snacks & bar food such as mozzarella sticks, pizza, BBQ pulled pork bites, tater tots, and a few other finger foods. In the summertime, they offer amazing outdoor seating on their patio where they can also fire up the grill.
A new business has planted its roots in Fulton’s downtown district.
Rooted Boutique has been branching out to their customers since February 2020. Jackie Wilkin was a stay-at-home mom with a marketing degree and a passion for clothing. Wilkin started Rooted Boutique online out of her basement so she could help others choose clothing that makes them feel beautiful and confident. Being involved in local activities has always been important to Jackie and her husband, Drew. They have been in Fulton for 14 years. With the growing success of her online business, it made sense to invest in the community by opening a storefront for her boutique business. This in turn would attract others to Fulton’s historic downtown.
While the storefront was being renovated, Jackie and her sister-in-law, Kayla Wilkin, started hosting live Facebook videos every Wednesday night to a VIP group called the "Get Rooted Tribe " to show off their inventory. This proved to be a wise strategy because as the pandemic quarantine shut down other retail businesses, they continued to build their customer base offering shipping or contactless, local pick up. When renovations were complete in late August, they were ready to welcome their large customer base in person. Since then it has grown thanks to a strong social media campaign, large inventory, and great customer service. Jackie’s goal to attract others to her community has worked because she has customers from all over--including the neighboring state of Iowa.
Something for Everyone
Rooted Boutique is located on the corner of 4th and 11th Streets in Fulton’s downtown. The trendy window displays entice you to stop in and see what it has to offer. Upon walking in, I was surprised by how spacious the store was. The showroom is large, with sections of women’s, youth, and baby clothing, shoes, a line of candles, and even drinkware and home decorating items. Each section of the store displays clothing for every occasion from cozy sweaters and trendy jeans to leopard vests and adorable baby stuff. I walked through the store and admired the wide variety of clothing hand-selected by Jackie and Kayla. With fashions that vary in different styles and range in size from small to 3XL, there is something for everyone. The store also carries jewelry, a wall featuring a variety of shoe styles, purses, and the Copper Pearl brand of baby accessories.
For now, they are focusing on their storefront and expanding their regional clientele while continuing to grow their online customer base through their website and live Facebook videos every Wednesday night. Down the road, Jackie's ambition is to expand and add other locations.
Root for your customers and watch them glow
To Jackie, Rooted Boutique is more than a boutique. She takes pride in getting to know her customers and building relationships with them. Assisting her customers to pick out flattering pieces and even offering personal shopping appointments makes her unique in the world of retail. She strives to offer something for every age, body, and budget. She takes pride in helping customers add to their wardrobe or find the perfect gift.
“Being rooted in my faith, family, friends, and fashion has gotten me here. So I boldly encourage you all to Get Rooted! What’s YOUR passion? Find what you love, plant those roots deep and let us help you look great along the way!” remarks Wilkin.
Fulton has a lot to offer
While visiting downtown Fulton, make sure to check out other local businesses such as Country Orchids, a full-service floral shop providing fresh, silk, and dried flowers, and Sweet Woodruff, a woman's boutique with unique gifts, artisan items, purses, jewelry, and clothing along with home decor, candles, linens, and seasonal gifts. Krumpets is a great spot for lunch where they not only offer quiche, homemade soups, and specialty sandwiches, but pastries and desserts to die for. When the pandemic is over make sure to stroll Fulton's riverfront and check out the iconic De Immigrant Windmill, which was built to honor Fulton’s Dutch heritage, and the beautiful Windmill Cultural Center & Museum.
1021 4th Street Fulton, IL 61252
Phone: (815) 208-7370
Opened November 2020
Mount Carroll’s Historic Downtown has a new storefront, and people are lining up to get their hands on everything they have to offer. Big Miniature Farms (BMF) opened their doors in early November of 2020. They are overwhelmed by the demand for their homemade creations.
BMF was unofficially formed in the summer of 2019 by Travis and Cami Yenney when, due to an over-zealous crop of organic produce, they started selling it along with their signature horseradish jam at the local farmer's market. Even though they have backgrounds in finance, culinary school, and manual labor, Cami and Travis never intended to turn BMF into a commercial venture.
It's all about the jam
The horseradish jam was originally created by Travis to use on pork loin, but they realized it was too good to keep to themselves. When they brought their produce and jams to the area farmer’s markets, the jam always sold out and soon became a regional favorite. This enticed them to create more flavors. They experimented with using surplus jalapenos and cucumbers to create more jam flavors. Flavors named Carolina Rhubarb, Sweet Rhubarb, and Jalapeno and Cucumber Marmalade soon joined their product list.
BMF doesn’t use pesticide sprays or chemicals on their farm. This means they spend hours and hours pulling weeds and maintaining the plots. They start all plants from seed and seasonally offer a variety of peppers, beans, tomatoes, ground cherries, purple cauliflower, and zucchini.
Operating under the “Cottage Law” at local farmers' markets, they were only allowed to make certain foods in their own home to sell at markets and small fairs, but they wanted to expand their reach. It became clear that in order for them to sell commercially to restaurants they needed to have a certified commercial kitchen. After speaking with their farm loan manager, they found their small farm qualified as a specialty grower and within a few months, Big Miniature Farms was designated as a Certified Specialty Grower with the USDA.
Cami and Travis love the people of Mount Carroll and the Farmer’s Market where it all started. When they saw that the old laundromat in the heart of Mount Carroll’s historic downtown was for sale, they knew it was perfect. The three apartments upstairs helped the investment with offsetting any costs for the business. In April of 2020, they purchased the property located at 120 West Market Street. After seven months of hard labor, a few setbacks, and many late nights, the commercial kitchen space and remodeled apartments were finished and ready.
A walk-up window for excellent service
Now that the commercial kitchen is open, they are looking at commercial outlets for their cheesecakes and jams. They are now in the process of remodeling the basement of the building in order to grow microgreens and salad greens year-round. Because they are a commercial kitchen they are not able to offer indoor seating. However, with the placement of doors in the building they were able to add a window and counter for walk-up service. Since opening, they have had an overwhelming response and a steady stream of customers.
Not your ordinary jams & cheesecakes
Horseradish Jam – Their #1 seller, is sweet and offers all the horseradish flavor without the heat. It's great on pork or any meat and their vegan friends love it on vegetables. They have customers who put it in meatloaf and even on cold sandwiches.
Jalapeno Jam - This jam is all about the jalapeno flavor and is slightly spicy. Nothing is added to make it hotter; the heat comes from the jalapenos.
Cucumber Marmalade - The cucumber and lime marmalade is excellent on graham crackers or warmed up and drizzled over ice cream. It is also a great addition to hot dogs or brats as a sweet relish.
Carolina Rhubarb Jam - This jam is made with Carolina Reapers (an extremely hot chile pepper) and rhubarb. It is HOT. Customers love it on chicken, over cream cheese, and even as a topping on their cheesecake.
Sweet Rhubarb Jam - This jam was created because an older gentleman was looking for a rhubarb jam similar to what his deceased wife used to make for him. His sweet request touched Trent and Cami and the sweet rhubarb jam was born. Good news - he absolutely loved it and so did everyone else. It is one of their best sellers!
Cheesecakes - They make mini cheesecakes and 10" cheesecakes. Specialty orders are taken on request and are willing to entertain any flavor idea--except peanuts. They are a peanut-free kitchen due to their son, Brandon, having a severe peanut allergy. Not surprisingly, their cheesecakes are a best seller.
Hours & Location
120 West Market Street
Mount Carroll Historic District, IL 61053, US
Monday: 2 PM - 7 PM
Wednesday: 2 PM - 7 PM
Saturday: 10 AM - 2 PM
Sweet Revival is worth the trip
Sweet Revival is located in the unincorporated town of Kings, in Ogle County on Rt. 64. This beautiful former church is full of treasures, delicious gourmet coffee, and chocolate treats. Open for 5-1/2 years, Sweet Revival Antiques is a unique shop featuring antiques, collectibles, vintage finds, and gifts, as well as a gourmet coffee bar and chocolate counter. Upon arriving in Kings -- population 215 -- Sweet Revival would be hard to miss. The 1862 Greek Revival Church, with an addition added in 1915, stands tall with sage siding, ivory windows, and a welcoming front entrance. The sign reads, “Coffee, Sweets, Antiques," where you will find all of these elements inside.
The church building was moved from its original site in 1887 when the town's founder believed the community needed a church. The current building remains much as it was in 1915. However, the woodwork, floors, stained glass windows, and tin ceiling in the basement are all original from 1862.
From a church to coffee, sweets, and antiques
The current owner, Laura Fitch, bought the building in 2009. She saw an opportunity to give new life to a wonderful piece of history. A former teacher and mother of five, her goal is to offer a gathering place where people can enjoy great coffee while browsing through an eclectic mix of antiques and unique treasures.
Entering the historic building, you can immediately smell the gourmet coffee bar. Espresso and the scent of chocolate fill the air. Distracted from the antiques, I headed to the coffee bar to grab a latte before I started hunting for treasures.
Laura greets us with a smile as we stare at the chalkboard menu, listing all of the specialty drinks. Featured drinks such as S’mores Latte, Peppermint Mocha, Pumpkin Pie Latte, and fruit smoothies are neatly written across the board. Two house-favorite drinks are a caramel turmeric latte made with turmeric elixir, a touch of caramel syrup, and steamed milk. The other is a breve -- espresso with steamed half and half. We order our drinks and admire the church as the sun shines through the arched stained glass windows reflecting multi-colored hues onto the 150-year-old original hardwood floors. A gathering area features a couch and fireplace, the perfect place to enjoy coffee with friends.
“I believe that this building was meant to be shared and bring joy to people, and I hope to do that every day,” said Fitch.
We take our time walking through the main level and the historic church's basement, hand selecting a few one-of-a-kinds finds to take home with us. The owners rent space to a few vendors who have specialty items to contribute, but they primarily pick their own treasures, so the shop reflects their style and passion for the unique. They currently have plenty of Christmas decor and those perfect gifts you need for the holidays.
Finding Sweet Revival (when GPS fails you)
If you are trying to find this shop for the first time, your GPS may not recognize Kings. Never fear!
If you are coming from the east, take Illinois Hwy 64 approximately 30 minutes west from Sycamore or come from the west, drive 15 minutes east from Oregon until you see a railroad crossing. They are in the old church building right on the highway. If you're coming from Rockford, take I-39 or Illinois Rt 251 south to Hwy 64. Turn right and travel until you see a small group of houses. You've reached Kings. There they are - right next to the tracks.
Take a road trip on Rt. 64
While there isn't much else in the town of Kings, Sweet Revival is a wonderful stop as part of a day spent antiquing in this part of northern Illinois. If you stay on Illinois Rt 64, you'll discover other unique shops in Oregon, Lanark, Mt Carroll, and Savanna. When you need a fun day out or a weekend trip, our area of NW Illinois has plenty of antique shops to choose from!
Holiday Hours May Vary. Please call for details.
Wednesday: 10:00 AM - 05:00 PM
Thursday: 10:00 AM - 05:00 PM
Friday: 10:00 AM - 05:00 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM - 05:00 PM
Sweet Revival Antiques
12554 E. IL Route 64
Kings, IL 61068