Family patriarch Nordy Rockler opened the doors of his first store in 1954 to supply his fellow craftsmen with knowledge, friendly advice, and a large selection of tools for at-home woodworking projects. Now, the chain of retail outlets brims with more than 20,000 tools and specialized woodworking equipment. Next to a steely rainbow of hinges, casters, and screws, a supply of lumber and exotic hardwoods provides planks for building tree houses or just leaving around as a warning to uncooperative trees. The tenor buzz of power tools operated by newly knowledgeable guests drifts from educational sessions on operating equipment and woodworking.
For more than four decades, Weed Man's licensed and trained lawn-beautifying experts have tended to local lawns with custom blends of fertilizer, environmentally sound pest-control solutions, and knowledge gleaned from both living and working in the community. Created exclusively for Weed Man, the slow-release granular fertilizer nurtures lawns over a period of several weeks, and seeding and aeration promote continued green growth. Advice that aims to assist with local lawn problems helps to inform patrons online, illuminating seasonal troubles, gardening trends, and the astrological signs of various plants.
Amid the July heat of 1955, four brothers—Arnold, Horace, Howard, and Oreon Wesche—took ownership of the existing Overland Hardware, working tirelessly to keep their store well oiled until 1975 when the next generation of Wesches grabbed the reigns. Dedicated to upholding their forbearers' rigorous standards of friendly and personalized service, current owners Gregg Wesche and Don Burkhardt maintain the store’s old-fashioned sensibilities of customer service. The knowledgeable staff spends time explaining tools and their uses to shoppers before carrying out purchases to customers’ horses tied up out front. The affable crew stocks shelves with seasonal supplies for all manner of projects, from large-scale home repairs to garden hobbies. Champions of speedy yet meticulous workmanship, Overland Hardware’s jack-of-all-trades staff also performs multifarious in-store and on-location services, from cutting chip keys for cars to repairing screens smashed by thieves attempting to steal cooling pies off of windowsills.
True Value traces its origins back to 1910, and now boasts 4,500 independent retailers across the country—one of which perches locally on Hampton Avenue, ready to outfit DIYers, gardeners, and homeowners with the supplies their projects demand. Should the store's generously stocked shelves leave a specific screwdriver or grass seed to be desired, a staffer can order items from True Value's densely packed catalog at no extra charge. In addition to equipping jacks-of-all-trades, the skilled technicians at Southside True Value Hardware can be called upon to repair household items, such as lawn mowers that have lost their faith in the tenets of a neatly trimmed yard.
Each day, as the sun rises over the Illinois River Valley, light spills across Kickapoo Creek Winery's 14 acres of vineyards. Dr. David Conner originally began planting these vines in 2001. Now joined by his son, Rory, Dr. Connor creates rich, fruit-forward wines using locally sourced grapes in addition to the family's own grape harvests. Each wine brings its own melange of flavors and aromas, whether it's the tropical and citrus notes of the vignoles-seyval blanc blend or the norton's subtle spice and hints of ripe plum. The Connor family also makes wines infused with the luscious fruit flavors of everything from cranberries to peaches; and the selection of dessert wines includes bottles infused with chocolate.
Although the tasting room's samples lure many visitors, Kickapoo Creek Winery also provides guests with opportunities to explore its picturesque grounds. Walking trails can guide visitors past rows of trellised grapevines, a bubbling fountain, and even a bridge overlooking Lake Elizabeth. The grounds also include a handful of places for guests to stop and rest for a spell, such as the partially shaded Ruby Glow Garden with its miniature waterfall of grape juice.
In 1910, fourth-generation German immigrant Alvin O. Eckert set up a small produce stand on a roadside in Belleville, Illinois. More than 100 years later, that roadside stand has flourished into the expansive Belleville plot of Eckert's Farm: a pastoral acreage where orchards surround a country-style restaurant, bakery, and handmade-custard shop. The Eckert family's sixth and seventh generations ensure this farm remains a true family affair. Sixth-generation member Jim Eckert is the chief horticulturist, and his cousin-once-removed, Chris, oversees retail operations and the sale of the farm's homegrown produce and spare scarecrow parts. Chris's sister Jill helms the food program, and his wife Angie oversees the Country Store and colorful Garden Center.
Throughout the year, visitors arrive on the Belleville farm's grounds for a range of seasonal activities, including peach-, apple-, and pumpkin-picking. During the summer, a concert series features live outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights, and in the fall, staff lead bonfires and evening hayrides through the orchards. Inside the farm building, instructors teach cooking classes for adults and children, as well as a wine-pairing class.
Family-friendly activities also abound at the Eckert family's other two farms. The Grafton farm, where public apple-picking began in 1964, offers daily animal feeding and miniature golf. The seasonal Millstadt farm is home to a workshop, haunted hayrides, and an array of warm-weather children's attractions—including a 70-foot underground slide.