Galena, Illinois
Share this story
Making It

Making It

read more

Area artisans showcase excellence and ingenuity

By Mary Bergin

Area artisans showcase excellence and ingenuity

By Mary Bergin

Artists and artisans migrate to Jo Daviess County because the area provides the perfect backdrop for exquisite work. The beautiful landscape invigorates and inspires.

That means small-batch and one-of-a-kind souvenirs are not difficult to find. It doesn’t matter if your preference is fine art, earthy crafts, potent libations or the canned goodness of perfectly preserved fruits and vegetables. You can find it all in Galena Country.

Galena Canning Company in Galena, Illinois
Galena Brewing Company in Galena, Illinois
Craft beer flight at Galena Brewing Company in Galena, Illinois

Blaum Bros. Distilling Company

Blaum Bros. Distilling Company turns grain grown by local farmers into award-winning whiskey, gin and other spirits. Brothers Matt and Mike Blaum quit their day jobs—Matt in nuclear pharmacy and Mike at the Department of Defense—and began their distilling work after years of research but no formal education.

Tour, sample and linger with a neat whiskey or one of their specialty cocktails while on comfy seating in the roomy bar right on Highway 20. Bartenders will offer up cocktail suggestions, but you can’t go wrong with a chocolate martini made with their habanero-, jalapeño- and black pepper-infused Hellfyre vodka or an Old Fashioned served with their signature ice ball.

Galena Canning Company

Chef Ivo Puidak makes a hot and tasty impact at two Main Street spots that are across from each other. One location of his Galena Canning Company is devoted to hot salsas and sauces. The other sells sweet and savory fare: jams, pestos, pickled veggies and soup mixes.

The work began as a sideline, introducing Baja Salsa and Chunky Garden Vegetable Pasta Sauce. Now Puidak creates and sells hundreds of products. On the chef’s résumé are national awards, Culinary Institute training in New York and Paris, and culinary work for U.S. presidents and visiting dignitaries. He moved to Galena to simplify life and got noticed because of county fair blue ribbons and brisk farmers market sales. Now the Food Network® finds its way to Galena, again and again, to feature his work.

Galena Brewing Company

Among the best spots to enjoy a craft beer and live music is Galena Brewing Company. Its Farmer’s Blonde Ale, Anna Belle’s IPA and Fevre River Hefeweizen are all gold medalists. Thank brewery owners Warren and Kathy Bell for those winning ways.

On the business logo are nine stars representing the number of Galena breweries in operation during the 1800s. Pair one of the dozen hometown draughts with a one-pound pretzel, delivered with beer-cheese sauce for dipping.

Boss Woman

#BossLadies

Women-run businesses thrive in Galena Country. Discover some of the great work these ladies are doing at visitgalena.org/galena-guide.

Galena Clay Works in Galena, Illinois
The Spoon Carver Cottage in Galena, Illinois
Clay works in Galena, Illinois
Galena Roasters in Galena, Illinois
Fun Fact beer icon

Fun Fact

Red Stripe Beer was originally brewed in Galena at the first Galena Brewing Company.

River Bend Gallery

Within a bustling block of south Main Street is River Bend Gallery, with its featured artist who is a 24-year-old, award-winning photographer with a deep love of nature. Geoffrey Mikol’s work is doubly amazing because he was born with Down syndrome.

A stroll through the works will reveal images that capture the area’s natural beauty—ordinary scenes made extraordinary by perfectly timed lighting and keen composition. Purchase a framed print, note cards or a 275-piece jigsaw puzzle.

The Spoon Carver Cottage

Housed in artist Paul Pendola’s private residence, The Spoon Carver Cottage, Artisan Studio & Gallery is where Pendola practices his craft as a self-taught spoon carver. The Chicago transplant is a culinary school grad who works with wood that he finds or is given.

He makes cutting boards and serving trays from wood, too. By chance or appointment, visitors to his charming hilltop cottage enjoy chatting with Pendola as he works from his deck overlooking Galena. Pendola also has a “maker’s table” for other artisans to demonstrate their work while interacting with the public.

River Bend Gallery in Galena, Illinois
Skidmore Art Gallery in Galena, Illinois
Cheese

From Maker to Magnate

Visit nonprofit Stockton Heritage Museum, the careful keeper of local history, to learn how a food industry giant got its start as a local maker in Jo Daviess County.

J. L. Kraft and Bros., known today as Kraft Foods, opened its first cheese factory in Stockton because of the area’s abundance of dairy farms and proximity to railroad lines. By the end of 1914, at least 30 kinds of cheese were produced there and sold throughout the country.

Galena Clay Works

Much but certainly not all of the city’s creative flair fills downtown boutiques. In Galena Clay Works, potter Kent Henderson says he creates artifacts for the future—one of his college majors was anthropology.

Look for his studio/shop inside a weathered building painted with a rendition of the American flag. Decorative, whimsical and functional works are all part of the repertoire. That means a fun and unpredictable mix of earthenware and sculpture. Pottery with personality.

Galena Roasters

If you like your “cuppa” brewed from something special, head to The Grateful Gourmet Company for a bag of beans from Galena Roasters. Specializing in single-origin beans, Galena Roasters’ Earl Thompson roasts his craft coffees twice a week on the third floor of the building.

Signature products include the Grateful Blend, a medium roast of beans from Peru and Sumatra. Buy it by the whole-bean or just-ground pound.

Skidmore Art Gallery

Artist Mark Skidmore moved to Galena in 2006 and has since earned global attention for his paintings featuring landscapes and cityscapes, wildlife and celebrity musicians. His Skidmore Art Gallery also showcases the work of others whose artistic techniques and materials differ from his: Think fused glass, bronze castings and wood carvings.

If all that sparks your own creativity, sign up for a two-hour Skidmore art class in soft pastels or acrylic painting. The artist works with all ages.

Beer icon More Makers
Close icon

Beer icon More Makers