Although there's plenty of Chicago memorabilia in most major downtown retail establishments, it's always a fun idea to go on a search for something a little more authentic, unusual or one-of-a-kind. This is especially true if you're in search of that special gift or simply something new to add to your home.
Take a day trip south to Pilsen and check out some of the neighborhood's shops and boutiques, most curated by local artists. It's a great way to support local businesses while indulging in the culture of the vibrant neighborhood.
1958 W 21st St, 773-492-2412
This former pop-up gallery has now set root at the corner of 21st Street and Damen and is run by Pilsen residents. Most everything in the store was created by local artists offering an array of colorful perspectives. This includes collaborative pieces like the laser-etched mini CTA trains from artist Pablo Ramirez and Boosh Works. It's all about originality here.
One block south of the Damen Pink Line, two blocks south of Cermak.
"Community Arts and Cultural Gallery"
1173 W 18th St, 312-479-1970
From artisanal pieces and handmade jewelry to vintage fashion finds, locally created paintings, paper products and books, this shop has just the right amount of anything you might enjoy. Many of the items come from Mexico City, showcasing the area's culture and art. If you're lucky, there's a fresh batch of hot coffee or herbal tea made by owner Marcela. Some weekends there are workshops and exhibits.
Near the corner of Racine on 18th Street.
Modern Cooperative (pictured at top)
1215 W 18th St, 312-226-8525
If you're looking for something to jazz up your place or give as a housewarming gift for a loved one, Modern Cooperative is the place for you. Owners Mike and Tiffany make brilliant use of their knack for mixing vintage and modern items to create unique home living atmospheres. You'll find everything from decorative pillows, antique glassware and hat stands to wall hangings, desks and bookshelves. It's a beautiful display of American craftsmanship.
For more, check out this video feature from 24/7 City Secrets!
Located between shops at Thalia Hall, between Racine and Allport.
Knee Deep Vintage
1425 W 18th St, 312-850-2510
This is a haven for thrift store aficionados without the negatives that push some people away. Clothes, shoes and other garments are clean, in great condition and in all shapes and sizes. And there's plenty of vintage finds for those looking to simply style up their current wardrobe (like Jackie O inspired sunglasses to Sinatra-style fedoras). Plus, the store boasts a great assortment of home furnishings, big and small.
On 18th Street and Bishop across from Cafe Jumping Bean.
Reciclarte Studio and
1441 W 18th St, 773-916-7610
This eco-conscience studio and shop is adorned with pieces from owner Leticia Rodarte as well as local artists and musicians. Here you'll find hand crafted pieces, jewelry and books and even all organic spices, coffee, chocolate and herbs. Doubling as a studio, Reciclarte offers drawing, painting and even Spanish classes. If you're there on the right day, Leticia will cook up a vegan dish for customers to sample.
Next door to Cafe Jumping Bean.
Getting there: CTA - Halsted #9 / Damen #49 to 18th Street. Walk 18th Street east from Damen or West from Halsted.