“The weirder the better.”
Tisha Erdman tells me this with a smile, shortly after I wander into the Lake Geneva store on a bitterly cold day in January. It could easily be the shop’s tagline or motto.
Occupying three stories of a hard-to-miss black and purple building in the downtown of this charming town of just under 8,000, I Love Funky’s moved in two years ago after a 12-year stint in Fort Atkinson. What started as strictly an antiques operation has since evolved and grown to include everything from women’s clothing to locally made chocolates, off-the-beaten-path gifts, new furniture, and an impressive array of home-design oddities.
Erdman grew up in Madison and was a hairdresser in the city for 20 years before changing course to become a fulltime antiques hunter and reseller. She and her husband spend countless hours on the road each year, in fact, searching for the perfect pieces to bring back to the shop.
“We don’t really do anything else,” she explains. “It takes an unbelievable amount of time because there is so much garbage out there to sort through.”
They travel the country looking for the perfect items to bring back and sell, and have developed a keen eye for the truly worthwhile selections. Only the most interesting items, then, make it into the Funky’s collection. Browsing the antiques section on the top floor can feel more like touring a particularly eccentric museum collection. There’s a restored 1953 Whizzer motorbike nestled in one corner alongside a fully functional Wheel of Love machine and an incredible old jukebox. Nearby, an entire roulette wheel setup gleams under the lights.
Along one wall you’ll find the full length of a 1920s soda fountain tile countertop and leather swivel seats. There’s an enormous marble 1890s urinal pulled from a Masonic Temple. Ornate window frames, shutters, chandeliers, and lamps hang from the ceiling, over four-poster bedframes and cozy-looking couches. Inside a glass case there’s a complete set of antique eyeglass lenses and optometrists’ kit. Here and there, a few taxidermied creatures keep a watchful eye over the entire tableau.
Down in the basement, greeted by the sweet smell of new leather, one can find an array of new furniture to choose from. And on the main floor, gifts of every variety line the walls and shelves, including hats, fascinators, locally made art and postcards, clothing, jewelry, and more.
Erdman notes that while the store used to draw a lot of the upscale Chicago vacationer crowd, the downturn in the economy has brought a more local crowd through her doors. “People are taking more ‘staycations’ now,” she says. “But the community has been, overall, very supportive of the business.”
They moved the store to Lake Geneva hoping that it would see more foot traffic, including visitors from nearby Madison. With a variety of local restaurants and the waterfront close by, the town makes for an excellent day or weekend trip.
A stop at I Love Funky’s is well worth the time, too. Erdman prides herself on offering a wide range of items for sale, with a special eye toward those people who might be looking to deck their halls with something a little more unique and unusual.
Erdman’s passion for finding hidden treasures and interesting gifts is clear in every inch of the store.