Shopping in Woodstock

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So established is Circle K that even brand-new vehicles recognize what its red-and-white logo stands for?fuel, snacks, and everything else a car might need to keep powering down the road with its driver. Circle K's story starts back in 1951, when Fred Hervey bought three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas. Under his guidance, these three little shops grew into the more than 3,000 convenience stores that crouch on our nation's street corners today.

After rolling up to a Circle K, drivers can pump their faithful roadsters full of high-octane fuel and send them skipping through a car wash to experience the cleansing touch of Blue Coral Beyond Green and Rain-X products. Then it's time to step inside the air-conditioned shop for a peek at the provisions. Rows of sodas hibernate behind glass doors, and snacks, candy, and their ATM guardians stand boldly out in the open. Some Circle Ks also offer the Take Away Fresh Caf?, which presents an appetizing lineup of healthy road fare including sandwiches, fruit cups, and fresh-cut vegetables. Drivers can gear up for a long drive with premium coffees or enjoy a cold Polar Pop, whose specially formulated cup keeps drinks colder thanks to the family of tiny snowmen trapped in its foam walls.

155 S Eastwood Dr
Woodstock,
IL
US

In 1883, inventor Henry Ferris garnered plenty of attention for his new creation: the hay carrier. Perhaps most of the atttention came from Harvard, IL hardware store owners Charles Hunt and Nathan Helm, who urged him to move into their shop. The store became the Starline Factory, and in the following decades, the trio thrived on patents for cutting-edge farm equipment. Even so, their venture couldn't last forever. Around the turn of the 21st century, the building was abandoned and slated for demolition. That is, until a similarly minded entrepreneur, Orrin Kinney, intervened. Since then, Kinney has given the old, four block-wide building new life as a series of art studios and exhibition spaces. Now the creative home for more than 20 artists, the Gallery hosts regular events such as public paint-and-draw sessions, 4th Fridays open houses, and sleepovers where artists can gossip about the hottest new paints. An open floor plan allows for lavish events?from corporate parties to weddings?for up to 500 guests.

400 W. Front Street
Harvard,
IL
US

Handmade Amish blankets and local delicacies call to Tammy Herrara. On a trip to Wisconsin, she visited an Amish market and fell in love with the concept of selling natural goods in bulk to help keep community members healthy. With help from friends, she soon discovered a perfect location in her hometown to sell a slowly expanding inventory of gluten-free and homemade foods. Today, her market sells everything from Michigan blueberries and freshly ground peanut butter to Mystic Monk coffee—the proceeds of which go toward rebuilding the Carmelite monks’ rectory in Wyoming. Patrons can also stop in for a quick cappuccino and one of Tammy’s turtle brownies, or they can peruse handmade Amish wicker baskets from northern Wisconsin. With its wood laminate flooring, local radio tunes, and on-call phrenologist, Friend's Country Market harks back to neighborhood shops and general stores of yesteryear. A recipe board even sits on the store’s wall, inviting visitors to paste their favorite recipes for other customers to try at home.

19 North Ayer Street
Harvard,
IL
US

Sleepy's is the American dream. It all started when Louis Acker landed on Ellis Island in the late 1920s. In 1931, he opened a mattress store in Brooklyn, where he and his son, Harry, tied knots and stitched mattresses by hand. After Louis passed away, Harry carried on the family business, eventually transforming it into Sleepy's, whose first store opened in 1957. There, he built the company's foundation upon quality products and an expert staff of Mattress Professionals.

Today, those Mattress Professionals share their wisdom at more than 1,000 showrooms across the United States, helping people figure out which sleep system is best for their body and wallet and for discouraging squatting by assorted boogeymen. The modern-day version of Sleepy's has grown into customers' source for the industry's top brands, including Simmons, Serta, Sealy, and Tempur-Pedic. Sleepy's also carries a wide range of other specialty sleep products, from pillows and mattress pads to sheets, blankets, and headboards.

4801 Northwest Hwy.
Crystal Lake,
IL
US

Dolphin Swim Club’s faculty of professional First Aid– and CPR-certified lifeguards help children aged 2 and older learn how to swim in a safe and encouraging environment. They lead lessons within a pool comfortably heated to 89 degrees, keeping class sizes small to ensure individual attention. After trainers assess each child’s ability, they’ll place them in one of nine levels, which they can progress through in accordance with their budding skills. Very young splashers might learn bubble blowing and breath control in Level A, while older and more experienced children in Level 7 might refine stroke mechanics, build up endurance, or learn how to properly evade pool-dwelling Venetian merchants.

Dolphin Swim Club stresses child safety above all other concerns. Its founder, Tyler Brewer, was a founding board member of the Swim For Life Foundation, which stresses the Safer 3—Safer Kids, Safer Water, and Safer Response—to prevent children from drowning.

825 Munshaw Ln
Crystal Lake,
IL
US

Inside the kitchens of Crystal Lake Rib House, chef David Faccone takes a methodical, multistep approach to making his baby back ribs: he covers them with dry rub, smokes them, and finally chargrills them before brushing over the final product with housemade barbecue sauce. His work has paid off?his tender baby back slabs earned the restaurant a 2012 Best of the Fox Award for Barbecue from Planit Northwest, as well as praise from Pat Bruno of the Chicago Sun-Times, who called them "a gift from the Gods of barbecue." In addition to ribs, the cooks also chargrill half-pound burgers, topping them with lettuce and tomato or a meaty pile of pulled pork and melted cheddar. The kitchen?s old-fashioned attention to smoked flavor is reflected in the building itself, an old house whose wooden front porch is adorned with wagon wheels. Inside, rustic hardwood floors support tables topped with white-and-red-checkered cloths, where patrons dip their spoons into hearty chili and sip domestic and imported brews.

Crystal Lake Rib House also arranges catering services for office gatherings, family reunions, and pool parties near bubbling barbecue-sauce springs. They have even catered for celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Randy Travis, and Illinois governors, according to staff.

540 East Terra Cotta Avenue
Crystal Lake,
IL
US