Chicago Manual of Style—4/16/2010

Shopping close to home

By Jessica Hester

As both residents of Hyde Park and college students, we’re familiar with the go-to spots for late-night dining (like 11pm egg rolls from Wok n Roll), delicious lunchtime sandwiches (made fresh to order at the Med bakery), and Sunday brunch (if you can brave the line at Valois or the Original Pancake House). However, when it comes to shopping, most of us hop the #6 to downtown or click onto our favorite websites. But our neighborhood includes some retail stores that are definitely worth a visit.

If you salivate over the model dining room sets at Crate and Barrel, cook up an excuse to visit Freehling Pot and Pan Company (1365 E. 53rd St.). Foodies can feast on gourmet jams, teas, and chocolates, and buy fancy, low-fuss cookware to make student staples like ramen seem a little more appetizing. I love the mini French press I got for my birthday, which my friend paired with a yummy mocha blend recommended by the friendly owner. Like its chain-store counterparts, this store carries an array of housewares, from cheese graters to candles.

If you’ve bookmarked World Market on Firefox, check out the Fair Trader (1623 E. 55th St.). Like the online emporium of goods from around the world, the Fair Trader sells items from far-flung locales. The shop sells dresses, skirts, stationery, candles, jewelry, and countless other home décor items handmade by artisans who receive portions of the profits from every sale of the goods. Moreover, many of the items are made from recyclable materials, furthering the store’s goal of “shopping that makes a difference.” I’ve got my eye on a bright quilted tote that reminds me of patterned Vera Bradley luggage, and is the perfect size for a weekend getaway. The big, brightly-colored woven totes made out of elephant grass ($40) are perfect for carrying groceries or stashing supplies for a day at the beach.

If you like Reckless Records in Wicker Park, check out Hyde Park Records (1377 53rd St.). You can browse a massive collection of CDs, LPs, 45s, DVDs, and VHS tapes – or sell stuff that is no longer your style. You can find everything, from your favorite Top 40 band to completely obscure tunes no one has heard. Whether you’re looking to fulfill a John Cusack High Fidelity fantasy or stock up on some new music, this jam-packed store is worth a trip.

If the gift shop is your favorite part of a museum trip, don’t forget about the Smart Museum and the Oriental Institute! Each on-campus museum has a shop that sells totally giftable goods. The Smart Museum sells pretty postcards that make great birthday cards. Head to the Oriental Institute to pick up some hefty Mesopotamian-themed paperweights or ties for the budding archeologist in your life. All proceeds go to fund research initiatives for the OI.

Though it’s always fun to browse the shops on Michigan Avenue or online, it’s possible to max out your credit card without straying too far from campus. Don’t forget to check out the boutiques in our own backyard!