I must confess a shameful secret: I love Chicago best in the cold.
– Erik Larson, American author, from The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
I had a quick business trip to Chicago this week and luckily the weather cooperated in that it was cold – appropriately so, which made for a festive holiday season – but not frigid and the fog and bit of rain did not create any delays either entering or departing the Windy City. Actually on Wednesday it was in the upper 50s and I was too warm in my toasty coat. But on Thursday it was 34 degrees and windy. I would not have wanted it any other way.
After my harried but delightful and fruitful foray into Chicago’s vintage shop cluster in Wicker Park, I vowed that upon my return I would seek other shops. I didn’t have time to do much research, however, and I enjoyed my time in the hipster neighborhood so much that I didn’t mind going back. It was not unlike returning to visit a friend whose friendship was forged at the first meeting.
Vintage Underground: pure poetry, literally
I love poring over the display cases literally dripping with vintage costume and designer-signed jewelry at Vintage Underground (1834 W. North Avenue, Chicago, 60622, 773.252.4559). Upon first blush, one can be overwhelmed by the inventory, but the shop is well organized and most of the pieces are beautiful and of nice quality. Carlos, the owner, was there and after I explained to one of the sales associates that I had talked to him in June, she pulled him away from a business discussion to reintroduce him to me. He remembered me, and I told him that while my blog following is modest, the blog post that was inspired by talking with him back in June has been the most consistently viewed post. We talked about the quote from Cuban national hero and poet Jose Martí that he had shared with me in June. And then Carlos recited in Spanish a beautiful poem by Martí. It was great to see him and his staff, who were just as warm this time around as they were when I first ventured into the shop. I also hopped over a few blocks over to the “other” Vintage Underground shop on N. Milwaukee Avenue, which is a curated vintage boutique-style shop. One word: beautiful.
I Have a White Rose to Tend (Verse XXXIX)
Here’s the poem I believe Carlos recited so beautifully:
I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.
And for the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a white rose.
And the Spanish translation – truly a Romantic language:
Cultivo Una Rosa Blanca… (Verso XXXIX)
Cultivo una rosa blanca,
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.
Y para el cruel que me arranca
El corazón con que vivo,
Cardo ni oruga cultivo:
Cultivo la rosa blanca.
(Carlos, let me know if I didn’t get the right poem! My Spanish – college Spanish, that is – is rusty, but I remembered colors, the heart, and Carlos’s gesture as he recited the poem, as if he were giving a gift to me, which he did!)
Eskell: supporting local jewelry designers and more
The other shop that I visited last June was Eskell (1509 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, 60622, 773.486.0830), which is where I discovered the jewelry of Laura Lombardi, a local designer, whose esthetics embrace reclaimed vintage and a modern industrial and architectural sensibility. When I came in on Wednesday, I was warmly greeted by Kelly Whitesell, founder and designer, who guided me through the store’s jewelry collections. Other local designers featured include Cities in Dust and Leah Ball, as well as Eskell’s own line. Other nonlocal designers include In God We Trust (one of my favorites from NYC), House of Harlow (Nicole Richie’s line) (I was smitten with a pair of rhinestone safety-pin earrings), A Peace Treaty, and a few others whose works I admired (but can’t remember their names, which means next time I need to whip out pen and paper to record).
As you can see by the pictures, Eskell is a beautiful little shop with a distinct point of view. I was so enamored of the jewelry that I confess I didn’t look at anything else, but next time I will check out the other goods. What I like about Eskell is the warm greeting and personal service you get. Extra points were gained when one of the sales girls remembered me from my June trip and my mention of my blog. And another round of points were given for the adorable dog, whose name I should have asked for but didn’t, sleeping on the sofa.
Kelly gave some great advice about the next cluster of vintage shops I need to check out when I am in town again – on Chicago Avenue. One thing is for sure, I’ll still be making return trips to Wicker Park and my “regular” local shops. Definitely make a point of spending time in this great neighborhood should you visit Chicago. Following my theme from Tuesday’s blog, shop small, shop local when in Chicago. As for me, I’ll be back!