Maybe you usually head to Old Town for its bars and nightlife, but you should also consider this neighborhood for its plethora of shopping. Here you'll find some of the city's best gift shops as well as stores that invite you to pamper yourself, from flower shops to nail salons. The next time you're in the area, check your bank account and, if you can, shop 'til you drop.
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The best shops in Old Town
Not only does this runners’ favorite feature shoes by a multitude of brands—from Adidas to Asics to Mizuno—along with cute athletic wear and accessories, the store excels at customer service. Before you plunk down cash on your new pair of kicks, employees lead you through a free gait analysis on an in-store treadmill so you know you're getting just the right shoe.
A visit to this snug Lincoln Park fixture (it's more than a century old!) will disabuse you of the notion that surliness is part and parcel of the butcher’s trade. Employees here positively light up at meat-related customer queries, and they take the time to explain wares without putting on the hard sell. Oh, and the product’s great, too; call in an order for a memorable special-occasion roast, or pop by and browse the freezer cases for exotic finds like lamb bacon and gator sausage.
The group behind this Old Town store is the Center for Cultural Interchange, a nonprofit that offers environmental volunteer and education programs throughout the world. In addition to stocking the typical gifts and home accessories that are safe for the environment (you know, made from bamboo or other sustainable materials), the shop also sells handmade and fairly traded items by artists from all over the globe. There’s women’s jewelry from India, Indonesia and Nepal; ceramic mugs, bowls and umbrella stands from Vietnam; and exclusive green heart-shaped bath soaps produced locally.
Second only to Bloomingdales, Handle with Care features one of the city’s best selections of upscale designers like Shoshanna, Joie, Missoni and Amanda Uprichard. But don’t let the designer duds intimidate you—the salespeople in this two-room boutique are consistantly helpful, laid-back and friendly. For a great gift or finishing touch, the fancy yet functional selection of jewelry and handbags rounds things out.
Connoisseurs and history buffs will appreciate the admirable collection at this family-run Chicago institution that's been around for more than 125 years. Look for specialty wines and sought-after vintages appreciated by oenophiles, plus wine classes throughout the week and free tastings each Saturday. For a nip after your shopping stop, hit up the bar: In early 2013, the family re-established the tavern adjoining their original 1888 shop that closed before Prohibition—a move more than 90 years in the making.
This general store and art gallery has been selling trinkets and rarities since 2011. Its focus on beauty and practicality means a large stock of local and international commodities, including French home-spun linens, raw local honey and vintage lingerie. Bonus: You might even bump into Joan Cusack, who's said to own the store.
Loyal customers love the perennial part of the business—going to customers’ homes to pick up mostly high-end vintage consignment pieces—but these vintage hunters-and-gatherers upped the ante: Monday through Friday, shoppers can drop by the storefront to browse a far larger selection of clothing and accessories than what’s available on the ladies’ eBay shop. Plus, it’s not all vintage; a third of the inventory includes deeply discounted overstock from shops around the country.
A New Leaf is the place to go when you're looking for exotic flowers or stunning arrangements, whether you want them for a big event, a gift or just for yourself. You can buy something as small as a single stem, or purchase all the flowers you need for your wedding. Delivery is available. Oh, and did we mention the next-door event space is a popular (and gorgeous) wedding venue?
This location of Plum Market is the only one outside of Michigan (the small chain is based in that state) and has brought with it a few exclusives, including a counter serving Zingerman's Bakehouse products. Other reasons why Plum Market is a hit in Old Town: It has a heavy focus on locally produced goods (Carol's Cookies, Crumb Bread); it features sushi by Takashi Yagihashi; there's an Intelligenstia inside (along with a wine bar and a fro-yo counter); and it even offers delivery service. Is this heaven?