WICKER PARK — So many wigs, so many shops!
It’s almost Halloween and that means it’s time to check out the three wig shops located along the same block in Wicker Park, which are open all year long but see their busiest days just before the holiday.
Wigs & Plus
There is so much besides wigs to be found at Wigs & Plus that its owner, Don Song, added “plus” to the name.
“I used the word to mean plus something else,” said Song, a familiar face behind the counter of the Polish Triangle store he’s operated for several years. He estimates it opened in the early 1980s.
Besides hundreds of wigs in all imaginable styles and hues, the smorgasbord store at 1221 N. Milwaukee Ave. sells lottery tickets, lingerie, fanny packs, keychains, purses, costume jewelry, hair care products and accessories, makeup, ballerina flats and many more random things.
One Yelp reviewer describes Wigs & Plus as “most definitely an excellent stop in a Halloween hunting mission.”
Prices for wigs start at around $20 and can go up to several hundreds of dollars.
Song could not recall any specific wig style that’s emerged as a bestseller this season, but he said in general people are eager to find wigs that will make them “look like celebrities.”
Six years ago, Wigs & Plus had its own brush with stardom when Lady Gaga popped in to shop, ultimately selecting a long-haired straight brown or black wig, Song said.
Lady Gaga’s 2012 visits to Mojo Spa and Store B Vintage along Milwaukee Avenue were well-documented — but her stop at Wigs & Plus was not reported at the time. One blog noted that Lady Gaga appeared to be wearing a wig when she was inside Mojo Spa.
Song said he had no idea who Lady Gaga was, but after she left a customer who’d also been in the store told him that the young women he’d just rung up was Lady Gaga.
“If I had known, I would’ve been nicer,” Song said.
Why All The Wigs Stores?
Song can’t put his finger on why there are so many wig shops on the block, but he believes Wigs & Plus came first.
“We’ve been here more than 30 years,” Song said. (Back in the 1970s, the storefront was home to a five-and-dime called Gary’s Discount, newspaper archives show.)
Sung Hwang, co-owner of Heads & Threads, said her store is the oldest wig store in the neighborhood because, for 15 years prior to her buying the existing business in 1987, it was home to another wig shop by the same name, putting the store’s beginnings in the early 1970s.
Hwang said Song’s store was a variety store named Young’s Discount until about 10 years ago, when the name was changed to Wigs & Plus to capitalize on the apparent need for wigs along Milwaukee Avenue.
Song declined to comment on that claim.
According to Hwang, the wig business is much slower than it used to be because there are fewer of the store’s core customers, African American women, in the neighborhood.
Hwang said “theater people,” drag queens and women seeking hair extensions frequently shop at Heads & Threads.
Last Friday, Whitney Wilder, a dancer for a Miami-based go-go girl dance troupe Zhantra that has an outpost in Boystown, was about to try on a wig.
“A lot of other dancers from Zhantra come here for their wigs. This is my first time here,” Wilder said.
Inside D&S YoYo
October is a busy season, said Mi Kim, co-owner of the third shop, D&S YoYo at 1284 N. Milwaukee Ave., which opened in 1992.
Kim said the “YoYo” was a carryover from a different owner of the store and she doesn’t know the origin. She and her husband added the D&S for their two daughters, whose names start with the initials.
Like the other stores, wigs here range between $20-$70 for synthetic styles and human hair can cost as much as $300.
“I enjoy the customers, the cancer patient, they try on wig and choose the right wig. I am so happy, making money is second to that,” Kim said.
Longtime sales rep Vilma Torres has been working at D&S for 18 years.
Torres said a few recent customers looking for wigs said they wanted to look like reality TV star Kim Kardashian or another member of the Kardashian family.
“It could be anything. We won’t know yet until a few day before [Halloween] what’s popular. Last year it was the Addams family, the Fantastic Four, the Wolverine,” Torres said.
But Elvis, Prince and Marilyn Monroe have been hits year after year, Torres said.
Torres said she expects to get some customers this weekend who want to look like Aretha Franklin since Franklin died this year.
When asked if the store has an Aretha Franklin-style wig, Torres replied, “No, but I’ll figure one out like I always do.”
D&S YoYo Merchandise’s hours are 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.- 6:30 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday, 1284 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Wigs & Plus’ hours are 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily, closed on Sundays, 1221 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Heads & Threads hours are 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, closed on Sundays, 1254 N. Milwaukee Ave.