The year in shop
The recession brought some store closings in 2009, but we also saw openings and relocations.
Five great openings
Zara (700 N Michigan Ave, 312-750-0780)
Yes, this Spanish chain has outposts all around the world (and even one in Skokie), but it finally debuted in the city in October. And it was worth the wait: The Mag Mile location can claim bragging rights as the biggest Zara in the United States (the three-story store is 34,000 square feet). The latest runway trends hits Zara shelves at record paces (new products arrive weekly and inventory changes biweekly), which keeps us coming back for more. A second downtown location opened in Block 37 (see below) in December.
Block 37 (108 N State St, 312-220-0037)
This State Street mall had more on-again, off-agains than Lindsay Lohen and Samantha Ronson, but it survived threats of foreclosure and officially opened for business in November. Zara, Puma and Steve Madden are a few of the national retailers represented. But we’re really happy that Block 37 is also the new home for local shops including Michelle Tan, Bleeding Heart Bakery, Comic Vault, Alternatives Shoes and another outpost of Claudia Kleiner Malabar Collection.
Brimfield (5219 N Clark St, 773-271-3501)
In a neighborhood full of home-goods shops, this Andersonville newcomer stands out for its focus on one particular pattern: plaid. Owner Julie Fernstrom describes her shop as “Ralph Lauren meets a Paris flea market.” Repurposed and found objects for every budget range from pipe stands to coffee cans to checkered blankets. As if that’s not enough, Fernstrom also offers custom reupholstering.
Barneys New York (15 E Oak St, 312-587-1700)
The old Barneys at Rush and Oak Streets was nice, but its new building (which opened in April) across the street is, well, fabulous. The 90,000-square-foot, six-floor building is brimming with designer goods (such as selections from Alexander Wang, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent) and includes one of our favorite features in a department store: an in-store restaurant (Fred’s). We bet even New Yorkers are jealous of our sleeker version.
Workshop (818 W 18th St, 312-226-9000)
Pilsen just keeps getting cooler, and this year Annie Novotny of Frei Designs gets some of the credit. She transformed the front half of her studio space in Pilsen into a storefront that features her own garments as well as accessories by a rotating cast of other eco-minded designers, such as Tania Bowers’s necklaces and Gina Pannorfi’s scarves, and a handful of housewares such as Chicago Honey Co-Op’s beeswax candles. Novotny also uses Workshop as a community space and offers one-day and multiweek courses on everything from sewing 101 to ornament making.
Five stores we were sorry to see go
When Heiji Choy Black’s boutique opened in 2006, she not only stepped up the Chicago fashion scene by showcasing an array of fashion front-runners (Vena Cava, Alexander Wang and Martin Margiela to name a few), but she also offered her space as a gallery for art installations, local furniture designers and a small but finely curated selection of art books.
Bess & Loie
Named after her two bubbies, Ally Holleb’s West Loop handbag boutique had a short but sweet run of selling an eclectic selection of handbags. The saving grace: In addition to maintaining an online presence (bessandloie.com), Holleb is setting up shop inside other existing storefronts. Currently you can find her wares at Erin Gallagher.
Amy Doehla’s Ukrainian Village shop introduced us to countless boutique home-wares and accessories designers, from Sarah Cihat’s Rehabilitated Dishware to Art School Girl’s paper goods. Thankfully, we can still see what this tastemaker is coveting at her sizable online shop, shopwillow.net.
From the get-go, we admired Jessa Brinkmeyer’s moxie for launching the first eco-boutique in the city. In addition to featuring everything from ecofriendly alarm clocks to bamboo attire, the fresh-out-of-college entrepreneur hosted multiple events over the years in an effort to educate and excite the public about sustainable style. We’re looking to see what this gal does next and following her efforts online at pivotboutique.com.
Given Wicker Park’s general lack of home-wares boutiques, it was especially disappointing to learn that Trisha London’s shop, which sold quirky items like chaise lounges in the shape of shopping carts as well as art on consignment, was going out of business at the end of December. We can’t say we’re too surprised; sadly, home stores are some of the first to go in a crappy economy.