The average souvenir can be anything from an "I heart Chicago" t-shirt to a refrigerator magnet or a snow globe, but these seven shops take souvenir shopping in the Windy City to a whole new level. In addition to being highly unique, everything you purchase supports these local businesses. If you have room in your suticase, stop by these sports for one-of-a-kind items.
The two best selling t-shirts at this historic hard rock lifestyle store in East Lakeview are screen-printed with a skeletonized Blackhawks logo and skeletal Cubs bear logo. So much for your average souvenir t-shirt. The Alley, opened in 1986 on Clark & Belmont, and sells around 500 original t-shirt designs that capture the spirit of a hardcore Chicago fan. Two of my favorite t-shirts are an an image of a doxen puppy wrapped in a Chicago hot dog with all the fixings and the Chicago city seal in white on black. For Harley-Davidson bikers, this is a required stop on your way to Milwaukee's Harley-Davidson museum. The Alley also feature Chicago-inspired designer jewelry, key chains, thimbles, patches and more.
Transit Tees was home grown here in Chicago by Columbia College alum Tim Gillengerten. It is the only manufacturer authorized by the Chicago Transportation Authority to reproduce merchandise inspired by the famous public transit system. Pick your favorite station name or neighborhood and there will be a magnet, t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, or greeting card for it. Some designs are more abstract; others are strict reprints of the iconic colored CTA train lines. I recommend buying the tie embroidered with the entire "L" map. Not only are these pieces made locally, they are inspired by something locals experience everyday.
Opened in 2007 by Michael Bloom, this woman's clothing and shoe boutique has a very personal Chicago story. The name was inspired by the owner's grandmother Flora, who was nicknamed after the famous Flora Dora showgirls in New York City. His grandmother worked in the historic Monadnock building designed by John Root and Daniel Burnham where the store now operates. Floradora carries custom designed shoes made in Chicago and garments by local designers. Some of his curated selections are elegant formal wear and others are stylish yet comfortable sports wear. He also makes a nod to Chicago history with reprints of old city maps and vintage-inspired Chicago post cards.
Hollywood Mirror's retail store on Belmont was opened in 1994. It began mostly as a vintage / thrift shop and grew to a lot more. Hollywood Mirror's corporate office is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. There are also retail locations in Japan and Hollywood. In addition to carrying a wide variety of used and vintage clothing, accessories, and furniture, they design and manufacture their own original products. They currently make wallets, socks, t-shirts, baby clothing, bags, ties, backpacks, housewares and more. Most designs are done in Tokyo but some of it is designed the corporate office near O'Hare Airport. They also sell a wide variety of brands specializing in trendy, alternative, pop culture, and gag gifts, toys, and kitschy items.
Stephanie started Inkling in 2010 out of her desire to create a venue showcasing hand-crafted products by local artists and craftspeople and inspired by Chicago's neighborhoods. Whether it be art, stationery or jewelry; each item has a story to tell. Everything is carefully chosen to reflect the city's iconic neighborhood icons like the famous Green Mill Jazz Lounge in Uptown as well as East Lakeview where the shop resides. She says her life's passion is art and design, and considers herself fortunate to be able to share this with her customers at Inkling.
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