Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Six Women (and a Man) on North Damen

(Note: This story initially appeared in the Sept. 21st issue of The Pipeline.  Not mentioned in the story, but also pictured at right are Beth of The Painted Lady with her dog, Stephanie of vive la femme, and Jean of Grasshopper 510. Once I add archiving I can better link to past stories, but for now I am including this story here as I am linking to it in today's Pipeline if I ever finishing addressing all the edits from Pat who is a rockstar mistake finder and we work well together since I make a lot of them, okay, back to the edits...)

When I asked Tony Fitzpatrick, pictured, about changes in the neighborhood that he's witnessed while working out of a studio storefront at 2124 North Damen for the better part of 15 years, the artist had a few responses. The one that struck me most is his observation that he's surrounded by established and new women-owned businesses. Following are just a few reasons why Tony is presumably one happily outnumbered guy...

The mysterious origin of Dianne Crosell's store's name, Crosell & Co., is easy enough: just look at her business card, which would have helped me connect the dots faster, but naturally I just inquired. I took a lot of pictures inside Dianne's cozy two level shop at 1922 N. Damen, full of housewares, picture frames, vases, pitchers, art, furniture, and no doubt dozens of other things I didn't see, all with a modern yet quaint vibe like this chair, pictured, along with Dianne. Dianne, who spent many years in corporate America, celebrated Crosell's third year in business this past June,. "I missed being in retail," she noted. 

Though a long way from Bucktown, Beth Barnett's farm in Buchanan, Michigan is the source for heirloom flowers like lamb's ears, yarrow, marigolds, sunflowers, calendula, zinnias, and dozens more featured over the seasons in the small yet spacious Larkspur, located in a former Polish bakery at 2123 N. Damen. Pictured in today's masthead, Beth set up an official shop of her own six years ago, though she'd been working with flowers for about 15 years, a carefarm in buchananer that began with a part-time job at a floral shop while a student at Columbia College. About half of Larkspur's business is weddings, with the other half a mix of walk-ins, deliveries, and commercial accounts. If Larkspur's flowers look familiar, it's because they adorn the tables and hostess stands of restaurant neighbors Duchamp, Takashi, and Toast Two. (Photo of the Larkspur farm, and flower with grasshopper courtesy of Beth).

Rebecca of Radiance Fine Jewelry, 2139 N. Damen,initially seemed a bit dubious about posing so close to her wares and kneeling behind glass, but after a bit of coaxing I think I accurately caught her smiling face and her enthusiasm for all things jewelry-- and it runs deep! Initially a sculpture major, Rebecca admits she wasn't really a fan of any of the professors in her program and decided to switch from sculpting to metalworking, a decision that more or less--with a few stops in-between, like waitressing at asports bar in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics---led to her own business, now celebrating its third year in Bucktown! 

As I was running late to meet a friend, I didn't get a chance to chat much with Julie (pictured), owner of Virtu, 2034 N. Damen, but during my uber brief stop I learned that she talks fast like me (perhaps even faster, which could be a first). She used to be a photographer, but after losing almost all of her work in a flood she decided to realign energies and opened Virtu in January of 2001.  Along with the three aforementioned shopkeepers, Virtu will participate in a Bucktown Bridal Walk on Sat., October 17th. With all the varied products and services from all four shops, these enterprising women have much to offer local brides and grooms to aid in planning a big day the local way!  Click here to read the press release for the Bridal Walk, which will also include a raffle, special sales, and light appetizers. RSVPs appreciated by calling 773-486-5710, or via email.

Whenever a sign says "Under New Management," my curiosity is piqued, as was the case with The Bucktown Beanery at 2156 N. Damen. The former owner was coincidentally a male, but now the beanery, like many of its neighbors, will be owned by a woman, specifically Erin Baroska, pictured. After a year-long postgraduation stint behind the wheel of an Oscar Mayer weiner mobile, Erin returned to the suburbs to manage a handyman franchise. She reports to The Pipeline that she was looking for a career shift with a fun, relaxed atmosphere, preferably in the city. It was a match made in heaven when she saw the cafe listed for sale on Craigslist and realized that the Bucktown Beanery is the place that her fiance and she always drove by en route to Blackhawk games and always wanted to stop in at. Well, now she can stop in anytime since she's got the keys.

Two other shop owners on North Damen that I intended to include are Robin Richman, and Stephanie Sacks. Robin is the owner of a boutique that bears her name at 2108 N. Damen. Vive la femme at 2048 N. Damen is owned by Stephanie, and recently celebrated its seventh year in business.


  1. Tony Fitzpatrick is just down the street from me. When I first moved here I was taking a walk and came across his studio. He saw me looking in the window! Let me in, talked to me, he was so nice and welcoming. And an amazing artist and designer.

  2. He is all of those things indeed! Funny, I met him in the exact same way you did, Lauren, just staring in the window.... I initially thought big cat was a framing studio, wasn't sure.