JANESVILLE—If I were to estimate, I think 75 percent of the items I have bought in my life were bought second-hand.

When I was younger, it was embarrassing to buy clothes at thrift stores. Now I embrace it as I flaunt my $4 Kate Spade purse or $2 work pants.

So it seemed natural to send me and fellow vintage-loving reporter Catherine Idzerda on a mission to seek out a route for the fifth annual Vintage Shop Hop on Friday-Saturday, March 2-3. The event is a self-guided tour of vintage and consignment stores, according to a news release.

Vintage Shop Hop includes more than 400 stores spanning across southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, according to the release. It has more than doubled in size since the first event was held in 2013.

Each store on the hop will offer a special promotion. Some will have treats, others sales or gifts for shoppers, according to the release.

For shoppers in the Janesville-Beloit area, we found a trip along Highway 51 had a lot to offer. We started at Vintage Bliss in Beloit, traveled north to Janesville, then stopped at shops downtown.

Along the way we met Holly Enk, owner of Vintage Junkies, 152 S. Franklin St., Janesville.

Enk opened her store days before Thanksgiving, she said. The quaint house used to be the location of Crandall Chiropractic offices.

The boutique offers themed rooms with displays of refurbished vintage items. The shop is clean, organized and smelled faintly of cinnamon.

Enk and her husband, Steve, had hoped to open the shop last summer, she said. The project was delayed after Enk fell off a ladder and injured her leg.

Surgeries postponed work to the building’s exterior, Enk said. She hopes to spruce up the outside in spring to make it stand out among other similar buildings.

Our trip proved to have something to offer almost anybody ranging from the casual shopper to the bargain buster or hobbyist.

Stores in order of visit:

Vintage Bliss

What: Market with vintage vendors selling refurbished and as-is items.

Where: 3100 S. Riverside Drive, Beloit.

Pros: Unique items, clean store, lots of room to browse.

Cons: Items fall on the pricier side.

Standout feature: Readers Digest books cut into decorative letters and shapes.

Shoppers looking for Pinterest-inspired items they can’t quite create themselves will enjoy this shop.

Best of Janesville

What: Vintage shop and antique mall with refurbished and as-is items.

Where: 3138 S. Highway 51, Janesville.

Pros: Reasonably priced, lots of items in a variety of categories.

Cons: Tight spaces to walk through, limited parking.

Standout feature: A book nook with hundreds of books at low prices.

This shop is suited for the experienced vintage shopper who doesn’t mind digging through lots of items to find treasure.

J & B Outlet and Hobbies

What: Hobby and vintage shop

Where: 2342 Center Ave., Janesville.

Pros: Large selection, staff willing to help and negotiate prices.

Cons: Cramped spaces, faint musty smell of cigarette smoke.

Standout feature: Two buildings filled front to back with items.

This store best suits game enthusiasts, toy collectors and hobbyists.

Carousel Consignments

What: Consignment and vintage store.

Where: 31 S. Main St., Janesville.

Pros: Wide variety of items, great bargains, friendly staff.

Cons: Some tight spaces.

Standout feature: There is something to look at in every nook and cranny of the store.

This store is a Janesville staple, and it has been voted the city’s best antique store many years. Good for an experienced vintage shopper but welcoming for newcomers.

Angie’s on Main

What: Women’s boutique and gift shop.

Where: 37 S. Main St., Janesville.

Pros: Clean store, friendly staff, uniquely-crafted items.

Cons: Items fall on the pricier side.

Standout feature: Themed rooms upstairs make it easy to look for specific items.

This store is tailored for people looking for new or gently-used items with a modern flair.

Cathy and I spent two and a half hours on this trip, looking at each corner of every store. We recommend bringing snacks or stopping for lunch along the way, as we started running out of steam on empty stomachs.

The unique nature of the stores and items gave the two of us quite a few laughs and ideas for gifts and craft projects. Nothing brings co-workers together like sharing a chuckle over a set of antique salt shakers.

Reporter - Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health

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