This article was written by Peggysue Wells and originally appeared in Input Fort Wayne
If you’re looking to shop local, you’ll have to make a day of it in northeast Indiana’s Kosciusko County.
This region of lakes just northwest of Fort Wayne offers a wide range of unique local shopping experiences.
From high-fashion to handcrafted goods, there’s something for people of all budgets and tastes. Better yet is the experience of getting to know the hardworking locals behind the counter.
Introduce yourself to the staff at these quaint, small-town stops where the owners had you in mind when they established their businesses. Swap stories with them, and tell them what you are looking for.
Chances are, you’ll find something just right at one of these 11 captivating local shops.
Michelle Smith LeDrew worked her way up through the ranks in corporate retail doing modeling, fashion events, and personal styling for the wives of America’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and the First Lady of the Marine Corp.
In 2014, she returned to her hometown, and opened her boutique, Glam, in downtown Warsaw.
“My passion is working with, and empowering, women,” Smith LeDrew says. “Shopping at Glam is about an experience from the minute our customers walk in. Glam is relationship-driven. We love our clients from the inside. They leave feeling better about themselves after spending time dressing up.”
At Glam, customers will find items ranging from a $35 top to a $350 dress. The shop also offers a Glambox subscription program for customers to step up their fashion game every month with outfits tailored to their tastes by Smith LeDrew, including her personal styling tips on how to wear each piece.
“We get small quantity shipments nearly every day,” Smith LeDrew notes. “Our products are fresh with something for everyone from size 2 to 22.”
Shopping at Glam benefits the surrounding community, as well. Glam is an active member of the Warsaw Community Development Corporation and gives back to the community through donations, sponsorships, scholarships, and participation in community events such as CASA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Bailey Moore Foundation, and The Cancer Care Fund.
Every November, Glam hosts an upscale art, food, and fashion gala complete with a New York DJ and high-fashion items to benefit the Smithstrong Foundation.
Smith LeDrew says a large motivator behind her passion for community service is carrying on the legacies of her brother and father who died in a plane crash a few years ago.
“As an attorney and football coach who was both a city councilman and Man of the Year, they were active in the community, and this community makes it easy to want to give back,” she says. “We are a close-knit family, and carrying on with the projects they loved is part of my continuing grief work, but also an opportunity for our story to help others.”
Situated among the charming shops of downtown Pierceton, Beyond the Barn is a local favorite for home decor and gifts.
The venture began on the family farm where Dawn Boggs’s husband cultivates corn, beans, hay, and cattle on more than 1,000 acres. Each year, farmers come to compare the corn grown on the test plot and place their order for the following year.
“The wives were probably bored, so I set up crafts for them in a pole barn,” Boggs recalls.
A talented seamstress and artist, Boggs’s sister invited her to join her at craft shows. Soon, she was displaying her sister’s work and finding other pieces she wanted to share. That’s when she opened Beyond the Barn.
“Pierceton is my dad’s hometown,” Boggs says. “I’ve grown up around the community. The merchants have been welcoming and inviting from the moment I came into town. I wanted a permanent place, and this has always felt like home. There is good traffic here and a hometown feel.”
Along with her location, Boggs is particular about the products she carries.
“The products I fall in love with are the ones I carry,” she explains. “I wanted to showcase my sister’s items because she is an extremely talented seamstress, and her work flies off my shelves.”
From her sister, customers find handsewn soft fabric pumpkins, snowmen, rabbits, sheep, and the ever-popular feed sack pigs. Most surprising to Boggs is the response of her customers.
“Regulars return almost weekly and compliment how nice the shop is,” she says. “I have a number of customers who come from Chicago, Iowa, Indianapolis, and of course, the area lakers.”
Customers stop in to browse locally and artistically made cabinetry, jewelry, candles, and select antiques.
Giving back to the Pierceton community is also an important part of Boggs’s mission. Beyond the Barn is an active member of the Pierceton Chamber of Commerce, where Boggs volunteers on the annual Tomato Festival committee.
“I love helping people find that special piece for their home or gift, and I love being with people,” Boggs says. “I’m getting to know and becoming attached to customers.”
Situated lakeside in the scenic Village at Winona—a shopping destination in itself—is a rare find. The Beaded Peacock is one of only a handful of bead stores in the state of Indiana.
“We provide a haven for people to explore their creativity and have a lot of fun with beads,” says the owner, Lauren Peacock.
Inside, the shop is a veritable smorgasbord of colors and textures. Beads the size of birdseed to larger feature pieces, and those made from organic materials, including glass and lava.
Shop handmade jewelry, fine art, and handcrafted works from local and Midwest artisans. The friendly and knowledgeable staff can help you choose and create your own jewelry from scratch or remake an heirloom into something fresh and wearable.
Schedule your next outing to include a jewelry making lesson, sign up for a class, or plan a birthday or bridal event where each participant leaves with a piece in their own unique style.
Presently, more than 100 of their unique products are available in catalogs, hardware stores, kitchen stores, and museum giftshops. Their carefully crafted historical reproductions are used in living history museums across the nation. But the best place to shop for the handmade pieces produced specifically for the everyday cook is at the Whetstone Woodenware store.
Feel the comfort and balance of locally produced wooden kitchen tools, smell the rich wood and oil, talk to the craftsmen, and shop for lasting, handmade quality for yourself and those on your gift list.
Winner of the International French Rolling pin competition, Whetstone Woodenware is sure to inspire your culinary arts. Tours are available. Call ahead at 574-598-3041.
A give-back store, Belove offers an exclusive and timeless line of artisan jewelry and functional Mudlove pottery. Shoppers who make purchases at Belove have the added assurance that the profits benefit the world near and far. Partnering with shoppers, Belove provides water through Water for Good, places children in families through Show Hope for adoption aid grants, and frees women from sex trafficking through Destiny Rescue.
127 South Main Street
North Webster IN 46555
Family-owned Pilcher’s Shoes is a destination shop for anyone with hard-to-fit feet, or for those looking for a hard-to-find brand. Helping hurting feet for 70 years, Pilcher’s stocks women’s sizes 4-13, men’s sizes 6-22, and widths ranging from 4A to 14E.
Shortly after World War II, Doug Pilcher founded the store in 1947 in uptown Syracuse. The shop relocated several times until 1990 when Doug’s son, Bob, moved the business to its current North Webster address. Regular customers travel from miles away to find their best-fitting shoes in favorite styles.
Located in Syracuse, home to Indiana’s largest natural lake, is the small Gift Shop at Wawasee. Here, you can shop a constantly rotating inventory of specially selected gift and household items. The work of more than 40 artisans is featured in the shop or can be ordered online through their catalog.
In the spirit of explorers Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus, Spice Merchants travels the world to bring home fragrant, fresh, high-quality herbs and spices for your kitchen. Shop gluten-free, salt-free, and organic, and specialty blends. Choose from all-natural soup mixes, rice flavors, grains, and pastas.
Additionally, Spice Merchants offers extracts, chocolate, and naturally flavored sugars. Shop imported coffee, hot cocoa, and 120 loose teas. Enhance menus with recipes from Spice Merchants for appetizers, sides, salads, entrees, snacks, soups, desserts, and beverages.
For all things lake, Absolutely Apparel & Gifts is your stop. Shop for lake apparel, accessories, and jewelry for women, as well as lake-themed décor.
Retrospect carries a specialized collection of antiques, vintage, and industrial pieces, one-of-a-kind items, furniture, and collectibles in repurposed, handmade, and new styles.
Visit this old-time pharmacy and experience the soda fountain with the luncheonette just like the ones grandma and grandpa frequented in the good ole’ days. The grill serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Browse a wide range of unique gift items as well as the usual items you look for at the drug store.