WICKER PARK — A boutique home goods store selling handmade ceramics, beauty care products and other accessories is opening in Wicker Park this weekend.
Located in a formerly vacant storefront at 1339 N. Damen Ave., Wilderhouse is the first brick and mortar location for owners Michael Coates and Brian Brodeur, who have been operating the business online since 2019.
The shop will also sell pillows, candles, plants and kitchenware on top of an extensive collection of other artisan wares.
Coates, who has a background as a ceramic artist and for many years lived in the neighborhood, says he saw an opportunity to fill a niche in Wicker Park, especially as people redecorated their homes during the pandemic.
“I think there’s a rise in popularity of that white light, bright and airy, sort of California West Coast style,” Coates said. “For me, there was always a gap for it here. There’s very few stores, independent stores, almost none in the city, that I think really catered to a design aesthetic like that.”
Coates and Brodeur gutted and transformed the space themselves, which was once home to a dry cleaner and before that, a convenience store.
“We’ve repaneled parts of the ceiling, we redid all the ductwork. I don’t think there is a corner in this place that I haven’t been at with a toothpick,” Coates said. “I want people to come in and feel like this is a very serene, warm, but very comforting, calming space.”
Wilderhouse’s products are sourced from local artists and artisans around the world, some of whom have never sold their work in Chicago before.
“That direct link between the artists is important, so we’re trying not to use any major manufacturing companies or major wholesale distributors,” Coates said. “There’s a lot of focus on the craft, sustainability, eco-friendly, all the buzzwords that are filtering through this industry right now, but we’re not seeing a lot of it in Chicago.”
Coates says part of his goal is to make it easier for people to acquire well-crafted, handmade items.
“I think a lot of people think handmade and they think expensive. And, yes, some stuff based on how hard it is to make or where the materials come from, [it] will be a little bit more expensive,” he said. “But there are some ways of making ceramics that can keep costs down, and we can make it more affordable for people.”
If things go well, Wilderhouse could host events and possibly expand in the coming years.
“We just want to really just build a network into this neighborhood. And if we’re successful, we are here to stay, you know, the space can be used for so many other things. … We’re open to everything, we can’t wait to see where this goes,” Coates said.
Wilderhouse opens 10 a.m. Saturday. The store will be open every day except Mondays.