|YOUNG, STYLIN' AND UNIQUE. 06/14/2012
Written by Sydney Scarlata / Photos by Steve Starr
For many, the Randolph Street Market, located at 1340 W. Washington, offers the ultimate balance of quality merchandise at affordable prices and an energetic, youthful atmosphere. With close to 250 vendors selling antiques, clothing, jewelry, art and more, the market accommodates the Chicago Antique Market, the Indie Designer Market, Modern Vintage Chicago and the Holiday Market according to the market's website. The indoor-outdoor urban market provides live music and a variety of world cuisines to satisfy everyone's taste buds.
Attracting many young couples looking to furnish their homes, the market is open to everyone, including dogs. Children under the age of 12 are free and general admission tickets may be purchased online for $8 or $10 at the door.
Creator of the Randolph Street Market Sally Schwartz, often found socializing with the vendors, felt Chicago was missing an antique market.
"Originally, I was a party planner," Sally said. "I loved decorating with antiques but there was no where in Chicago to find the items I was looking for. There were stores but no scene. My intention in creating this market was to create that scene and I believe in it more than ever.
"This is a place where people can conduct business and for people who are fascinated with selling things. Here, everyone has a good time and they can discover great steals. I love helping vendors establish themselves and their businesses."
Down the aisles of booths, vendors from around the country set up their displays and mingle with their customers.
Amidst old driving signs, pool balls, records, buttons, scales, music meters and an assortment of miscellaneous items commonly found in an attic, Vendor Jon Smith attended to a young gay couple interested in his music meters.
"These items I found at a closed music school," Jon explained to the customers while turning two of the black meters in his hand. "They're super industrial looking and in great condition. I'd say these items are from the 1930s, 1940s. I think they're super fun and cool."
The couple enthusiastically agreed and bought three after asking how to attach them to one of the walls in their loft.
"I've been coming to this fair for two years," Jon said in between greeting the steady stream of interested buyers. "I like it because there is a really good mix of people who are educated and interested in my things. I see a lot of young kids buying their first apartment together who are looking for fun things for their place and I also see big time collectors. The fair is a really great size, and when the weathers nice I always see a fair amount of people looking at my offerings.
"I'm a recording engineer, you know a music guy, so I really like old radios and electronics, like these meters," he said pointing to the remaining group of black meters. "I originally started going to garage sales for myself and collecting things that I thought were really interesting. Soon enough I had a garage full of stuff that needed to be dealt with, so before the hoarders show could call me I decided to start selling stuff.
"For me, this is just a hobby, but I've always had a good time with it. Like right here," Jon said holding up an old broadcast microphone. "This is complete in its original packaging. It was from an old radio show. It was such a great find. Antiques are honestly just a bunch of stories and I think that's my favorite part about collecting and selling my pieces."
A few booths down, bright colored vintage furniture in pristine condition overflowed out of another vendor's station.
"We are the House of KYM," Yana, one of three girls in the booth said. "KYM is a combination of each of our initials, Karrie, Yana and Mara. For the three of us, collecting and home décor was just a hobby but then we decided to make it a business. We like reimagining classic items and playing with different textures and expressing global places. Each piece has a different history, which we hope to preserve while still putting our own twist on it.
"We refurbish every piece and we like to think of it as reimagining vintage. We love eclectic pieces from the 20s, 70s and madmen era. We also really love bright, predominantly Asian colors like green, red and black."
One of their items, a bright orange chair, according to Yana, was featured on HGTV home design. According to their Facebook page, House of KYM offers "antique and vintage furniture and décor that has been given TLC and a dose of our creativity to fuse past and present aestetics."
"For me, the fun part is definitely finding the furniture," Yana said while Mara and Karrie talked to a group of customers. "We go to estate sales, other flee markets and surf the web looking for items on craigslist and ebay. It's funny, a lot of people selling this stuff have no idea about how much it's worth. There's where we find the good stuff."
Around the corner, another vendor and his two helpers mingled with customers who admired the thousands of rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, lockets, beads, buttons and even keys, bottle caps and thimbles. The owner, Sandy Schor, has been coming to the Randolph Street Market for approximately eight years.
"I like that the fair is in Chicago," Sandy said. "It attracts an affluent clientele. They are very well educated and are interested in my merchandise. The Promoters are also very nice."
"Beads by Sandy," located in Fort Worth, Texas, is one of the country's largest collections of vintage beads that date back to the 1910s according to their website. For the 2008 movie, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Beads by Sandy" was the single supplier of buttons. In business for 12 years, "Beads by Sandy" buys in quantity, often buying out other businesses across the country according to Sandy.
"Originally I was a gemologist and designed jewelry," Sandy said. "But this is more profitable. I do shows all over the country. I have a warehouse back home that is floor to ceiling full of jewelry. I don't buy anything new. I really try and focus on old, antique jewelry."
Indoors, in the Plumbers Hall Ballroom, Goldsboro, North Carolina Natives Doug and Diane McElwain reorganized their display of antique sports gear, including trophies and team photos.
"We've been selling our sports memorabilia for around 25 years," Diane explained while her husband showed a customer their oldest product, a lacrosse stick from the 1890s. "It's funny, it always starts with one baseball gloves and turns into a room full of gloves. We only collect items in very good condition and are clean.
"I think the fair is very nice. It's an antique fair and has a luggage fair feel as opposed to a flea market. It pulls in a really good crowd of people who want to shop. Everyone is very young and interested in our merchandise. There is a lot of excitement and stuff to do which I enjoy a lot."
One booth down, Richard Kasvin and his wife Alexis Des Rosiers organized piles of authentic, vintage and contemporary prints from all over the world. According to Alexis, they've been selling prints for over 25 years and coming to every fair at the Randolph Street Market for eight years.
"My favorite thing about this market is the people," Alexis explained. "This fair is more casual and attracts a broad variety of people. We own our own art gallery, ‘Chicago Center for the Print', and love to travel and collect prints from around the world." On the back table, clustered in an untidy pile lay many colorful prints of a Chanel perfume bottle.
"Those prints were made by Andy Warhol during his Marilyn Monroe days," Alexis said nonchalantly. "They were actual ads used on bus stops and buildings in Paris and New York. In the late 90s Chanel gave them away with every bottle of perfume they sold which is kind of interesting."
Downstairs in Plumbers Hall, "The Winding Road" owner Marla Showfer detailed that she has been doing every fair since November. In between sales, Marla explained that her products, which ranged from handbags, to scarves, to pencil covers to stuffed animals, are all eco-friendly and her business is dedicated to supporting small businesses that practice fair trade.
"After being a part of corporate America for a long time, I decided to start something that was socially responsible," Marla said. "I really wanted to know the source of who's making the products I'm selling. Currently, I purchase items from Nepal and India but I hope to expand to Istanbul and Morocco.
"I support the Nepalese Women Skill Development Project, and any purchases help to employ and provide skills to Nepalese women, many of whom are victims of domestic violence and have not had a proper education. In addition, I'm also a huge supporter of eco-friendly merchandise. Many of these handbags are made of hemp."
For Marla, the fair provides a wide variety of things to do and is a great source of entertainment. Many of her customers are environmentally and socially conscious as well.
Among the nearly 250 vendors, 10 food vendors offer a variety of world cuisines both inside and outside Plumbers Hall. Hannah Ouioun, a worker at Baba Pita, a middle eastern cuisine station, commented on the unique market demographics while setting up. "This is our first time working at the fair," Hannah said. "I love the people here, they are all so friendly and overall very happy. When we're really busy during lunch hours everyone is very understanding and constantly saying things like ‘don't worry about it!' "The people here are also very different from people we normally see. They dress in very unique clothing and I've seen a lot of young people with interesting tattoos." Next to Baba Pita, Antique Taco, run by Ashley and Rick Ortiz, was one of two Mexican stations at the market. What started as a catering company, according to Ashley, has turned into a restaurant, which just opened this May in Wicker Park.
"I think the people who come to this fair match our style perfectly," Ashley explained at one of several white tables open to fairgoers. "We sell antiques and food. I think we are a great pairing for the fair and I've always loved it. I think this is a great place to meet other vendors and it's a network of opportunity.
"This fair is always buzzing. It's open and free going. It's very accessible and special because it is primarily for antique vendors. I think this place is stylin' and it seems like this is the place to be."
Just across from the row of food vendors, a large white tent labeled Sally's Cabana provides a nice place to relax for Sally's staff. The Cabana houses additional merchandise as well. Taking a break from shopping, Bar III representatives Patrick and Fashion Blogger Aimee Song enjoy a refreshing bottle of water. Bar III, a new style-obsessed Macy's line, began touring flea markets across the country looking for inspiration. Randolph Street Market, the only fair represented in the Midwest, is one of six stops on their tour, which includes New York, California and Colorado.
According to Aimee, this fair was the best market for jewelry she has been to.
"I love this fair because it really is about quality over quantity," Aimee said. "Every vendor is different and every item has a story. Not every market we've been to is like this! When I've asked vendors from other fairs about certain items they can't tell me where it's from or the story behind it, but here each item seems to have so much meaning. Many of the vendors are the original owners of their items, I love it!
"Here the prices are so reasonable. While I was looking for items for interior design, I always thought there was a zero missing on the end of the price tag."
"I'm surprised at how big it is," Patrick added. "This fair is a party! It's casual. It doesn't have a flea market feel. It's leisurely. It really is a chic party and the best fair I've been to. This fair is so different than what we've seen so far. It is eclectic and many of the pieces are so inspiring for our own style at Bar III. And Sally really embodies the fair. She is so fun!
"Most people think there's not much promise in the Midwest. In New York, vendors mostly find items from estate sales and then resell them for a gazillion dollars. The vendors here bring their own stuff, it's original. Here, you can find some incredible deals. I saw someone buy an original rolling stones album for only $15. Because I'm an instagram dork, I just bought a camera that the instagram camera was modeled from for only $20."
Worthpoint, the industry's leading resource for all things collectible, had their expert Worthologists on site offering complimentary item appraisals on shopper's most prized possessions. VandM™ (Vintage and Modern), the go-to online source for unique vintage furniture, antiques, art and jewelry from around the world sponsored and curated the season opener. VandM’s top experts, including Chicago's own Tracy Burton, attended the event to scope out and report on the TOP Market finds.
Shoppers mixed and mingled with designers Stacey Cohen and Linc Thelen in thematic cabanas they designed, guests sewed quilt patches on a Chicago themed quilt created by The Sewing Maniac, they toasted with Bartab and were entertained by live musical acts including Wood Street Bloodhounds and The Vitrolum Republic, as well as comedians from Comedy Bar Chicago. Additionally, TOP Chicago-area artists handpicked by CS Magazine including Jessica Williams, Matthew Lew, Michael Del Piero, Laura Cartwright, and Jaime Henderson designed planters for charity, and Chicago's acclaimed artist Francine Turk decorated a Genuine Scooter auctioned off for Military Working Dogs. Not to mention, several doggies were adopted on-site via Chicago Animal Care and Control and early-buy proceeds went to Chicago House and Social Service Agency. What a weekend!