We’d like to think every month is a perfect time to herald all the artisans, craftspeople, designers and other passionate entrepreneurs who run their own shops.
But, officially speaking, July is Independent Retailer Month — a time to celebrate your local mom’n’pop shops and small businesses.
So let’s root for the underdogs – those running some of our favorite places around the Midwest.
If we counted every shop we loved, we’d be here until the snow flies. For now, here’s just a sampling of our indie picks around the region:
Forage Modern Workshop
“We love the Midwest and good design.” That’s Forage Modern’s founding principle. When you visit the store, you’ll want to curl up and call it home — the well-curated space features furniture and home goods from independent artisans and designers, as well as one-of-a-kind vintage finds.
Common Good Books
This beloved bookstore used to call a basement home, but in 2012 the store moved to sunny new digs near the Macalester College campus in St. Paul. This is a place where you can easily spend hours browsing books and chatting with staff. (You might even catch a glimpse of Garrison Keillor, who owns the joint.) Hillary Rodham Clinton loves Common Good Books, too — she stopped by this month on her book tour.
Askov Finlayson sits on a power corner in Minneapolis’ hot North Loop neighborhood. It’s the third in a series of successful businesses on the block, all run by the brothers Dayton — Andrew and Eric. The men’s clothing store emphasizes quality construction and timeless design, whether you’re looking to go dapper or outdoorsy. Fans of contemporary design will enjoy the high-style selection of home goods.
Arrow, right across the street from Askov Finlayson, offers cutting-edge and ahead-of-the-trend clothing for women and men. The chic space showcases designer pieces that aren’t available anywhere else in town.
I Like You
You can’t get more independent than I Like You, which showcases goods from more than 200 local artists and artisans. The Northeast Minneapolis shop blows more traditional card sellers out of the water when it comes to finding the perfect card. There’s also a wide selection of posters and prints, screen-printed t-shirts, handmade jewelry and other unique home goods.
Head to Pilsen to visit this vintage modern boutique, opened by two lifelong collectors. Their shop is a hodgepodge of vintage “Mad Men”-esque furniture and home decor, reclaimed wood pieces and work made by Midwest artists. Their pint-sized shop dog has the run of the store — Joplin the Chihuahua knows good style when he sees it.
Heritage Bicycles is a family-run affair. Mike Salvatore is a fifth-generation Chicagoan who, after five years at a New York City bike shop, headed home to open Heritage with his wife and newborn baby. The bike shop / coffee shop / art space has become a neighborhood favorite for its welcoming atmosphere and creative energy. Their signature bicycles are custom built and assembled right in the city.
Independence has it right there in the name, but that’s not why they made our list of indie retailers. Independence was the first Chicago men’s shop to focus exclusively on American-made goods. The store’s founder also started Oak Street Bootmakers; the line’s shoes and boots are a staple at the store, along with other vintage-inspired styles.
Shop. Gallery. Recording space. Screening room. Live music venue. Transistor has become a Chicago hangout, where concerts, movie nights and even a webcast are scheduled throughout the week. The shop carries electronics, records and books, as well as art and home goods from more than 80 local artists and designers.
They warn you before you come in: prepare to fall in love. The women’s clothing boutique in Andersonville specializes in small-run handcrafted goods — once they’re gone, they’re gone. Shoppers are sure to find a unique piece, from a favorite t-shirt to a perfect party dress.
“Hugh is designed to feel like a very hip, early ’60s bachelor pad,” says owner Joe Posch. Inspired by mid-century modern style, Posch opened Hugh as a pop-up store and transitioned into a brick-and-mortar Midtown location in 2012 after winning Hatch Detroit (a competition that awards $50,000 to one Detroit entrepreneur). The store’s motto is “Classic Lifestyle + Classic Design,” which is evident in its well-curated selection of barware, men’s personal accessories, mid-century inspired home décor and furniture.
Siblings Andy and Emily Linn are seventh-generation Detroiters, and you can feel their love for the city in the store’s selection. They carry housewares, jewelry, apparel, accessories, and home decor handmade by hundreds of independent artists and designers from around the city and the Rust Belt.
Goods Detroit calls itself a t-shirt bakery. Let us explain: they use the bakery analogy because they make their t-shirts on-site in small batches. Their storefront carries Detroit and Michigan themed apparel and gifts, and they’ve recently expanded their selection for children and babies (that’d be Lil’ Goods).
Hugh’s Joe Posch strikes again. In 2012, he teamed up with Toby Barlow and Liz Boone to open Nora, right next to Hugh in midtown Detroit. The store is heavily influenced by Scandinavian and Japanese culture. There is a focus on items that are both beautiful and functional. They carry housewares, artful décor and gifts.
The Rustbelt Market is actually a collaboration of roughly 70 independent retailers and artisans. Vendors can rent space in the 15,000-square-foot market, which was once an Old Navy store. It’s a fairy tale of indie artists salvaging the remnants of a big box store gone bust. On weekends, the market buzzes with activity, from tarot card readings to DJ sets to 50 booths carrying art and goods.
Tom Ray and Lew Prince loved music, but thought most record stores sucked. That’s how the Vintage Vinyl story goes. Ray and Prince opened their own place in 1979, and their independent record store is now one of largest in the country, with an impressive collection of new and used records and CDs.
Left Bank Books
Left Bank Books has been going strong since 1969. If you’re need of a good read, Left Bank Books will help you find it — they focus on providing a diverse selection of titles and subjects. Browse their selection of new and used books in their flagship location in the Central West End neighborhood, tucked in between historic homes and fine art galleries.
Who says print is dead? Firecracker Press proves print and letterpress are alive and well and lookin’ good. The design studio and shop carries an array of handcrafted printed goods: posters, coasters, postcards and notebooks. They also design custom business cards, invitations, event posters and more.
Cherokee Street Bikes
Two-wheeled travelers take note: Cherokee Street Bikes is a local favorite. Whether you’re into cyclocross or just want to pedal around your neighborhood, they’ll find you the perfect ride. The shop is located on historic Cherokee Street, which offers 12 blocks of independently-owned shops, galleries and cafes. Take it all in while you get that tune up.
Learn more about Indie Retailer Month: