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Shop talk

The best and worst of Chicago's shopping scene in 2008.

The best: OPENINGS

Connect (1330 N Milwaukee Ave, 312-890-3684) Everyone loves a good comeback story (just ask Britney), so when Nau closed its doors for good this year (see Closings), we were happy to welcome this ecofriendly boutique to Wicker Park as one of the few retailers in the country to carry Nau clothes.

Agent Provocateur (47 E Oak St, 312-335-0229) The British-based lingerie brand finally sates our desire for sexy skivvies with leather knickers, lacy bras and satin slips.

Homeboy (3327 N Broadway, 773-472-0548) This small home-decor shop in Boystown deserves a mention thanks to owner Ripley Worthy’s dedication to stocking merch by local designers, which includes dishware from the hip Circa Ceramics and Chicago cityscape prints by Blair Harvey.

Marc by Marc Jacobs (1714 N Damen Ave, 773-276-2998) After months of anticipation, Mr. Jacobs welcomed throngs of label-thirsty shoppers into his big glass box of a shop.

The worst: CLOSINGS

Language Among the slew of independently run shops that couldn’t keep up with the skyrocketing rents in Bucktown (also known as “The Marc Jacobs effect”), Language went from brick-and-mortar store to online boutique (shoplanguage.com) after just a few years in business.

Active Endeavors We were sad to see the outdoors-attire-turned-designer-label-purveyor Active Endeavors deactivate at the beginning of the year (The Evanston outpost remained as an outlet stop, but also closed after just a few weeks). Fortunately, we can still shop online at activeendeavors.com.

Endo exo The Lincoln Park skin-care and makeup apothecary got a makeover and an extra 1,000 square feet in 2007, only to go out of business in April of the following year. We’ll miss the shop’s selection of coveted, hard-to-find beauty products and its stellar eyebrow-shaping services.

Nau In addition to its green clothing, this chain donated 5 percent of sales to its nonprofit partners and gave customers the opportunity to choose which nonprofit would receive the money from their purchases. Looking back, perhaps the store should have kept a little more of that dough: It went out of business in May.

Looking ahead…

This year, menswear designer John Varvatos opened a boutique in the building that housed New York’s CBGB. He has his sights set on Chicago for 2009, with a shop opening at 930 North Rush Street.

Trendy Spanish retailer Zara made its Windy City debut at Old Orchard this fall and is set to open outposts on Michigan Avenue and in Block 37.

Marc Jacobs isn’t done with our fair town quite yet. He plans to open a more upscale Marc Jacobs boutique in the new Elysian Hotel.

Überhigh-end Italian fashion house Piazza Sempione will join the likes of Prada and Jil Sander when it opens a boutique at 34 East Oak Street in the spring.

Five more new shops we’re happy to have

Tailored-for-TV cosmetics shop MAC Pro (910 W Armitage Ave, 773-327-4902); luxe cycle shop Dutch Bike Chicago (651 W Armitage Ave, 312-212-3494); ecofriendly accessories store Grasshopper 510 (1944 N Damen Ave, 773-292-0510); local womenswear designer Maria Pinto’s eponymous shop (135 N Jefferson St, 312-648-1350); vintage housewares and attire boutique Knee Deep Vintage (1425 W 18th St, 312-850-2510).

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