WICKER PARK — Whether it’s a new boutique or a neighborhood institution, the story of local retail over the past year has been one of resilience.
Small businesses have adapted how they operate and changed the way they interact with customers, all while maintaining the essence of who they are and what they bring to the community.
From Quimby’s Bookstore, which turned 30 this year, to newcomer Wilderhouse, there’s never been a better — or more needed — time to shop local in Wicker Park, West Town and Bucktown.
Check out a small selection of gifts from around the neighborhoods:
Quimby’s Bookstore, 1854 W. North Ave. Website.
The arcane, weird and bizarre all come together at Quimby’s, a Wicker Park institution.
Known for its emphasis on local artists and writers, the shop’s holiday highlights include a personally customized zine package ($25-$100), a Quimby’s-themed air freshener ($5.99) and “Crisis Zone,” a graphic novel developed on social media during the pandemic ($29.99).
The store is also full of other oddities and ephemera perfect for stocking stuffers bound to freak out your normie relatives.
Quimby’s is open noon-6 p.m. Thursday-Monday. 773-342-0910. Instagram.
Wilderhouse, 1339 N. Damen Ave. Website.
That includes earthen housewares like the Ana Paula Ceramic Bud Vase ($68) and a Dune incense bowl ($46). The store also carries mushroom wooden ornaments ($13) in the shapes of oyster, shiitake, amanita and morel mushrooms — perfect for your not-so-traditional Christmas decorating.
Wilderhouse is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Sundays. 773-799-8925. Instagram.
Chicago Plants, 2321 W. North Ave. Website.
House plants have exploded in popularity during the pandemic, and local shop Chicago Plants has taken full advantage. Beyond its wide range of indoor and outdoor plants, the store also offers consultations for your home or office to help you decide what plants should go where.
If you’re looking for something unique, start with something from the store’s Rare Plant Collection, like an Alocasia Sarian ($38) or a Euphorbia Lactia ($198). But if you want something a little more basic, you can pick from a variety of succulents ($4-$10) or a trusty silver satin pothos ($14-$54).
Chicago Plants is open noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and noon-5 p.m. weekends. 773-636-8001. Instagram.
Chicago Makers Pop-Up Shops, 2064 N. Damen Ave., 1821 W. Chicago Ave., 1279 N. Milwaukee Ave. Website.
Technically, the Chicago Makers Pop-Up Shop qualifies for all three neighborhoods: It operate stores in Bucktown, Wicker Park and West Town. Co-founders Anna Romo and Monica Little launched their first version of the pop-up during the 2020 holiday season to showcase wares from local artists and businesses, and their business has grown considerably since.
Now, they’re offering items from almost 100 makers and creatives across their three locations. That includes acrylic and birch dry erase boards at the Bucktown location, handcrafted tealight candle holders in Wicker Park and Chicago neighborhood and transit maps from ThisCityMaps in West Town.
All three pop-up shops are open noon-7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sundays. Instagram.
Uprise Skate Shop, 1820 N. Milwaukee Ave. Website.
At Uprise in Bucktown, you’ll of course find a healthy selection of skateboard decks, wheels, bearings and other accessories.
But some of the store’s apparel and merchandise would make great gifts for anybody, not just the skaters in your life. Check out the Bodega Signage snack bag ($12), Pamplemousse koozie ($8) for all your seltzer drinking needs and Uprise’s large selection of super comfy beanies ($18-$44), available just in time for winter.
Uprise is open noon-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. 773-342-7763. Instagram.
Paperish Mess, 1945 W. Chicago Ave. Website.
Since 2012, Paperish Mess in West Town has been home to hundreds of local artists and makers selling everything from jewelry to wellness products.
This holiday season, standouts include illustrated soy wax candles ($13-$17.50), handcrafted holiday cards ($4-$6) and a range of incense sticks, cones and herbal bundles ($6-$8).
Paperish Mess is open noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. 312-265-1497. Instagram.
Aya Pastry, 1332 W. Grand Ave. Website.
There’s something unique, perhaps even transcendent, about the pastries, cakes and breads Aya Fukai whips up at her West Town bakery on Grand Avenue. Whether you stop by for a morning treat or order a cake for a special event, you really can’t go wrong.
It’s hard to narrow down the menu, but if you’re looking to serve multiple people, don’t skip the chewy matcha mochi cake ($45) or the Instagram-ready black sesame cake ($50).
For something lighter, stick with the Samoa cake donut ($4.75) or the kouign amann ($4), perfect with a cup of coffee. If you’re in a hurry, Aya’s drive-thru is open every morning for a quick in and out.
Aya Pastry is open 9 a.m-4 p.m. daily. Its drive-thru is open 7 a.m.-noon daily. 312-846-6186. Instagram.
Did we miss your favorite neighborhood spot? Not to worry! Add it to our Block Club reader guide, which will come out in early December.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: