The Ultimate Shopping Guide to Chicago
From candle stores to witchy shops, these small businesses should be on your list.
Shopping season is upon us. Whether it's for the holidays, New Year-new me vibes, or just a treat your self pick-me-up to get through the mostly dark days of winter, we’ve got you covered. And because it’s truly not how much you spend but where you spend it, we’ve rounded up the 25 small businesses across the city that can use your dollars. Nothing beats the touch and feel of having something you want, as soon as you buy. No matter what part of town you’re in, there’s something for everyone.
Look out for: Witchcraft wares
For the witch in your life, get yourself to this far north side shop that’s jam-packed with candles, spellbooks, incense, and ritual items. If witchcraft isn’t your thing there’s Armadillo's Pillow, a bookstore specializing in used, rare, and hard-to-find books; and Third Coast Comics and Leather 6410, a custom-made leather store. These and a dozen more local businesses in Rogers Park are offering deals on Small Business Saturday, November 25. Save your receipts from shopping in the area and receive a cash rebates up to $75, courtesy of the nonprofit Rogers Park Business Alliance.
Look out for: Housemade pasta sauce, chili and herb oil, and coffee
“They're a super small LGBT-owned restaurant that offers a little something different than the more traditional Italian food you find around Chicago,” says Victoria Kent, citing the crispy arancini stuffed with wild garlic, the thick-crust Sfincione (aka Sicilian Style Pizza), and pistachio, cherry cassata cupcakes filled with candied Door County, Wisconsin Cherries as her go-to choices. “They started at farmers markets and at a ghost kitchen, now they finally have their own space in Edgewater.” You gotta love a local spot that makes the climb and doesn’t give up on its dream.
Look out for: T-shirts that make you smile
This printing, design and clothing company offers shirts like “I Paused Zelda to Be Here.” Everyone at the company (besides the manager) is part of a union and part of sale proceeds go to a variety of different organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, and local public programs. They may have started as a T-shirt company but today, they also carry a variety of houseware items.
Look out for: European snacks, meats, and fancy drinks
This upscale convenience store offers a hand-picked selection of unique food finds, local and imported goods, and best-of essentials for pets, home, and body. You might come for a quick fix but stay for their signature gift boxes that start at $40. Andale provides a thoughtful, grab and go option for the busy types. Each box contains delicious ingredients to create a fun night to remember. The “With Love from Chicago” features products that highlight local city makers and the “Fish & Chips,” dares you to eat tinned fish like a Spainard (on Torres Spanish potato chips which are included in the five piece kit).
The Book Cellar
Look out for: Books from local authors who make regular appearances
The perfect spot to cozy up with a good book. The Book Cellar is an independent, woman-owned shop that includes the latest cookbooks, fiction, and memoirs. A cute cafe is located inside to give you space to enjoy your purchases. You can usually find owner Suzie Takacs working events and the register. Stick around and shop what the locals call “the square,” the block of locally owned shops where the window fronts of old school stores like Timeless Toys, Merz Apothecary, and Gene's Sausage Shop and Delicatessen provide a charming walk through the past.
A Secret Closet
Look out for: The gently used footwear as well as new jewelry and accessories
This women’s boutique has a number of vintage and new items. Expect to find hats, jackets, tops, skirts, fashion sunglasses, gold-plated jewelry and footwear. The shop is small, highly curated so there’s no need to go digging and well priced. It’s also local and woman-owned.
Look out for: Tailored clothes at no additional charge
One of the coolest shops in Chicago, Production Mode creates their own collection of women's slow fashion clothing and accessories in-house. Clients have access to the cutting and patterning tables on the showroom floor. They can buy off the rack, made to measure (at no additional charge), customize color, trims, and even order custom silhouettes. The atelier carries multiple independent designers of clothing, jewelry, and gifts who share their similar slow fashion (i.e. ethical and sustainable) ethos.
Look out for: Pastries, bread, and coffee
This small batch bakery by Valeria Socorro Velazquez Lindsten is worth all the hype. It offers items like pumpkin coffee cake with pepita streusel, tres leches mini cakes and sourdough muffins. Power up with a mesquite smoked vanilla latte, pick up a box of pastries for whatever holiday get together you have going on or do both.
Coffee, Hip Hop & Mental Health
Look out for: Merch supporting local mental health efforts
Founded in 2019 by Christopher LeMark, Coffee Hip Hop and Mental Health, a 501(c)(3) community organization dedicated to normalizing therapy and mental health discussions recently opened its doors to a new 2,200 square foot coffee shop. Stop by for a coffee while shopping the neighborhood. Biggie's Brown Sugar Cayenne Latte, Rihanna’s Coconut Cinnamon Latte, Lauryn Hill’s Blueberry Lavender Lemonade, or the White Sox Versus Cubs Lemonade and Cold Brew Blend is what’s on the menu, or pick up some merch. The cafe runs on a donation-based model.
Look out for: Beauty products and accessories to keep your hair healthy during the brutal winter
Good Beauty features the perfect stop for self-care during and after the holiday season. The woman-owned and Latina led shop is known for turning out Instagram-worthy looks. Gift someone the chance to self-care or shop the front of the salon which doubles as a pop-up store featuring products from local, woman-owned businesses including their own line of street style merch. Check their Instagram for any special events like tarot card readings or flower workshops.
Look out for: Scalp care products
There’s nothing more indulgent than a 60 minute scalp massage. At H20 House, that’s what they specialize in. The whole experience begins with a close-up of a your scalp that’s projected onto a small iPad like device. From there you’re whisked away to a small room where you lay down and have your hair shampooed, your scalp massaged and your shoulders kneaded. Rooms are shared so if you prefer privacy book with a friend or family member.
Alice & Wonder sits at the intersection of uniqueness and affordability, offering everything from hard-to-find gems you can't live without to the classic brands like you know and trust (like Levi’s and Free People). Athletic wear, evening wear, candles, holiday decor, accessories, and more. Find it all under one roof. Founder Ali Reff is intentional about supporting local markers in the community to counterbalance the boom of corporate retailers taking space in the neighborhood.
Look out for: You guessed it, frames
Why buy art if you’re not properly going to display it? For more than 40 years the family-owned Frame Chicago, a minority-owned and women-led business, has worked as a partner to art lovers who want to not only show off and preserve their collections but want to do so in a bold way. Their expertise in chemistry preservation and design has made them an international darling but Chicago artists and collectors first. Locals know they’re more than a frame shop, the walls at the store offer a rotating gallery of notable artists making it big outside of Chicago—Hebru Brantley, Bianca Pastel, JC Rivera and Robert Moore are a few of the works you might see. "We're passionate about design, and ensuring every customer leaves feeling like family,” says General Manager Alisha Rajani. Most importantly we're focused on helping tell the story of Chicago's ever-evolving art scene, and the frames are part of the art." The team at Frame will ensure your fancy piece of art is an equally impressive display case.
The Spice House
Look out for: Spices, herbs, and houseware
Tucked alongside one of the city’s rowdiest streets for nightlife, sits The Spice House with its quiet, warm and welcoming interior that looks otherworldly due to its exposed brick, barrels, and glass jars filled with herbs and spices. The small but mighty shop has cultivated a reputation nationwide for being the go-to choice for top chefs due to more than 60 years as the purveyor of high-quality cooking ingredients. Expect to find rare spice varieties, proprietary blends and just about anything needed for a home-cooked or Michelin-starred meal.
Black Luxe Candle Co
Look out for: Candles made for the season
For those who prefer experiences over material items, splurge on a luxurious candle-making class at this Black-woman owned shop. Of course, DIY isn’t for everyone so don’t be afraid to scoop up a candle or candle melts. Eucalyptus and mint, palo santo and blood orange are among the top sellers.
Mercado del Pueblo
Look out for: Dairy-free cheesecakes in flavors such as pineapple and guava
This empty laundromat turned pop-up market during the pandemic is the place to be on the weekend. It features a variety of local vendors selling jewelry, lotions, desserts, and art. There’s a special section where specialty Puerto Rican items, not easy to find in the city, are sold. The space isn’t big so it doesn’t get overwhelming but if you do, pop on over to the back for a snack at the cafe.
Look out for: Whole outfits designed by the owner
This is a funky little shop with a European bent to it, it sells dresses, scarves, and jewelry. Independently owned and operated by Lesley Timpe, it’s been in the neighborhood for 13 years. Cross the street and pick up a coffee at Dark Matter and browse their merch while you’re there.
In Good Spirits
Look out for: Spirit-free bottles
For the non-drinkers or sober curious In Good Spirits, a non-alcoholic bar and bottle shop. Pick up the Cut Above Zero Proof Discovery Pack which includes one six-ounce bottle of their zero-proof gin, agave blanco, whiskey, and mezcal to give the no spirit life a try. They have a wide selection of non-alcoholic wine to gift or bring to holiday parties and dinners.
Look out for: Healthy, good-for-you snacks alongside other small-batch, artisanal products
These Jamaican-inspired vegan cookies are made on the West side but can be found across the city and in the suburbs. "I grew up helping my Jamaican cake ladies in the kitchen and now I'm taking the foods, fruits and flavors I grew up with and baking them into my cookies," says Founder Danielle Tubbs. Dom’s Kitchen in Lincoln Park, Market in Old Town, Sugarbeet in Oak Park, and Ándale Market (which also made the list) are among the retailers carrying her product which is also soy, preservative, and nut-free (with the exception of a coconut variety).
Look out for: Jewelry, local zines, stuffed animals, Christmas ornaments, and paper products
Everything found inside Buddy, a 2,500 square shop within the Chicago Cultural Center, is made by Chicago and Chicagoland artists. The store is designed to help shoppers discover and support more than 300 makers. It’s the perfect place to stop by and buy something for the person who has everything. Expect to find Smelly Chalks, hand-illustrated maps of Chicago neighborhoods and rugs made with recycled fibers. It’s a strange and magical place where creativity reigns free. Buddy is part of the Public Media Institute, Ed Marszewski’s non-profit that has supported Chicago artists for over 30 years.
Semillas Plant Studio
Look out for: Plants, flowers and events
Angélica Varela is the co-owner and operator of Semillas Pant Studio. The shop offers plant rentals, plants for sale, flower designs for events and weddings and doubles as an event space for community and purpose-driven collaborations. The self-described “healer at heart,” Angélica specializes in creating inclusive community-driven spaces with a focus on ancestral culture. She runs the shop alongside her husband Miguel Rivera, a US veteran who strives to design food and beverage programs for ethical, sustainable, and purpose-led businesses with a focus on supporting hyper-local producers and entrepreneurs. They host regular events which are announced on their Instagram.
Look out for: Unique coffee blends like hibiscus-orange cold brew, flowers, and high-quality craftsmanship
Kiubo is the evolution of space that housed Comercio Popular, a boutique of curated Mexican goods ranging from apparel to houseware; and Flores Campo Santo, a flower arrangement and installation company—now, it also includes the coffee makers Bueno Days. This is a go-to destination on the city’s Southside where Mexican beauty is at the heart of what the trio do.
The Silver Room
Look out for: Books, toys, jewelry, and houseware fueled by Black creativity
This Black-owned boutique is one of Chicago’s gems. For 25 years it has offered a one time shop for clothing, literature, jewelry, and more. Expect to find chunky crystals in goldware by local designer FreshAssMonk, books by Chicago writers (like Bad Fat Black Girl by Sesali Bowen), Southside themed candles, and so much more. Events and workshops are part of the regular programming so be sure to check the calendar before a visit. Spend big money there guilt-free.
Justice of the Pies
Look out for: Cookbooks from a James Beard Foundation finalist
This isn’t your typical sweet shop. Expect blue cheese praline pear pies and German chocolate bourbon pecan delights. Maya-Camille Broussard’s flagship location is in a part of town that doesn’t get a ton of love, but that’s exactly why she chose the location: to drive attention to it. And it’s worth the trek for its number of goodies on the menu including a lemony pound cake à la mode. Her cookbook is also available on site.