Where to Shop on Small Business Saturday in Chicago

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The holidays are a time for giving thanks, for seasoning everything you consume with pumpkin spice, and for stampeding into Target for a Nintendo Switch. It’s truly the most magical time of the year. Amidst the grateful gluttony of Thanksgiving and the absolute mayhem that is Black Friday, Small Business Saturday is a more modest occasion to encourage patrons to spend their dollars at independent neighborhood businesses-ya know, rather than crowd surf your way through a big box department store.

In Chicago, small businesses are a pivotal part of the city’s vibrant neighborhood patchwork. They may not command the big, ritzy real estate of a downtown conglomerate, but what they lack on Magnificent Mile frontage, they more than make up for in character, charm, and unique maker-made products you won’t be able to find in the tourist-trod byways downtown. From Bronzeville to Rogers Park, these are the types of heartfelt-and often family-owned-businesses that deserve emphasis year-round, but if ever there’s an excuse to patronize an indie artisan or timeworn company, Small Business Saturday is it. Here are 10 great places to shop this holiday season in Chicago.

Absolutely Anything Essential Gift Shop

“If you can shop big box, you can shop essential.” That’s the tagline of the Absolutely Anything Essential Gift Shop, a Black-owned store and venue in Bronzeville stacked with local artisans slinging everything from body scrubs and beard care to mugs, candles, and keepsakes. Like the store name suggests, if there’s a knickknack, accessory, or trinket you may need, whether for yourself or as a gift, the Absolutely Anything Essential Gift Shop likely has it. On Small Business Saturday, the store is hosting a free-to-attend shopping event from 10 am – 5 pm, complete with free arts and crafts opportunities, and special on-site vendors like RP Couture Boutique, Remree’s Blings & Things, and Passion by Design.



Lincoln Square
In spite of his tendency to overstuff his sleigh with bloodthirsty capitalism, Santa has a soft spot for small businesses. Which is why the big man is carving out time from his busy schedule to swing by the Small Business Saturday event in Lincoln Square, where numerous shops are offering special discounts and deals for the occasion. After visiting Santa in the morning at The Perfect Cup, stop off at Neighborly, a decade-old indie institution known for its charming housewares, art, and gifts. For the holidays, the shop features a festive lineup of items like tinsel trees, reindeer pi√Īatas, ornaments, stockings, and artsy renderings of the North Pole. On Small Business Saturday (and Sunday), all items that are Chicago-made are 15% off. After your spree, listen to Dickensian characters sing carols in Giddings Plaza.


Ukrainian Village
Whether you’re looking for copal incense, chunky jewelry, pithy cards, esoteric cookbooks, quirky shin-high socks, air plants, or baby onesies emblazoned with “The Future is Female,” Komoda has it all. Outfitted with enough artsy oddities to inspire a Portlandia skit, the female-owned corner shop is an adorable, cozy nook for all your gift-giving needs-with numerous impulse opportunities for personal purchases, in case you just can’t say no to a masochistic puzzle. A long-standing fixture in Ukrainian Village, Komoda exemplifies the essence of a neighborhood small business; the kind of friendly, warm space where you feel authentically good about spending your money.

Athena Board Game Cafe

Rogers Park
With frigid weather in the offing and inevitable polar vortexes to preempt, ‚Äėtis the season for stockpiling gifts that could provide cozy entertainment long into the winter months. And by “cozy entertainment,” we mean board games so competitive that they may have long-term ramifications in your relationships. The perfect spot to shop for all your gaming needs is Athena Board Game Cafe, a kitschy nook in Rogers Park that doubles as a place to sip lattes and play games on-site, or purchase games to take home. For Small Business Saturday, the shop is participating in a neighborhood-wide incentive that includes specials and discounts at all manner of stores. Kicking off the holiday shopping season, the nearby Welcome Station is offering free coffee, hot chocolate, and tote bags, along with live Christmas music and a holiday-themed 3D snow globe, from 10 am – 2 pm.

Unabridged Bookstore
Unabridged Bookstore
Unabridged Bookstore

Unabridged Bookstore

Few industries have been hammered by online retailers quite like independent bookstores, which is why small businesses like Unabridged Bookstore need your support and loyalty now more than ever. The Lakeview institution is a literary wonderland all year long, but in honor of Small Business Saturday, the shop is also offering 10% off purchases both in-store and online, starting at 9 am. For those who shop in-person, Unabridged will also be serving snacks and pastries from next door patisserie, Sugar Daddy, and selling adorable Totes for Tots kids’ tote bags designed by local LGBTQIA+ artist, David Lee Csicsko.

Roeser’s Bakery

Humboldt Park
From sugar cookies to gingerbread, the holidays are prime time for pastries, and Chicago certainly isn’t lacking in bakeries and stores offering frosted goodies. Sure, you could buy panettone at Eataly, but wouldn’t you feel better about supporting a true-blue mom-and-pop that’s been honing familial recipes for more than a century? For all your holiday dinner party dessert needs, Roeser’s Bakery has your back-just like it always has since opening in 1911. The oldest family-run bakery in the city, this refreshingly frills-free bakery is beloved for its classic American confections, from sugar cookies and coffee cakes to pies, caramel-kissed cupcakes, and custard-y doughnuts. For the holiday season, the homey cafe is filled with gingerbread cookies, yule logs, and frosted Santa cupcakes.

THC by Chitiva

The holidays can be a stressful, hectic, and busy time of year. Fortunately, weed is now legal here. Of the many dispensaries scattered throughout Chicago, one apt option is THC by Chitiva, a Presenting Sponsor in the third-annual Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Saturday 5K. Designed as a unique way to encourage indie shopping (and perhaps working off some of that stuffing), the neighborhood race allows runners to get out and explore the Wicker Park-Bucktown community, and encourages them to patronize area businesses-which are listed and highlighted on the race map-once they’ve crossed the finish line. It’s an opportunity to shop small, buy holiday gifts, and treat yourself for a run well done, and in the case of the neighborhood dispensary, it’s an opportunity to find a much-needed mellow amidst the holiday hoopla.

Wolfbait & B-Girls
Wolfbait & B-Girls
Wolfbait & B-Girls

Wolfbait & B-girls

Logan Square
Described as a “local makers marketplace” and filled to the brim with feminist apparel and funky accoutrements, Wolfgait & B-girls has been a longtime cornerstone in the Logan Square shopping community. The eclectic women-owned boutique features all locally made gifts, art, and accessories, from earrings and Krampus ornaments to Chicago-themed coasters, stickers, candles, shirts, and more. Always a go-to shopping spot, Wolfbait is also participating in a neighborhood punch card program designed to foster economic impact for Logan Square small businesses. Happening through the end of December, with cards available for pickup at stores like Wolfbait, shoppers can get them punched by making purchases in-store. Along with Wolfbait, participating businesses include City Lit Books, Fleur, Boulevard Bikes, and The Logan Theatre. Once you’ve made at least 10 punches, you can drop off your card at Wolfbait for a chance to win prizes like movie passes, gift cards, bottles of whiskey, coffee beans, and paint parties at Pinot’s Palette.

Brewpoint Craft

Filipina-owned small businesses take the spotlight at a special Small Business Saturday market being held at Brewpoint Craft cafe in Elmhurst. Held from 10 am – 2 pm, the free-to-attend event will be loaded with indie vendors slinging everything from gourmet goodies and candles to jewelry, apparel, and art. Participating businesses include hand-embroidered accessories from Chicago for Keeps, handmade soy wax candles from IM Home Candles, party-planning items from Rae Lou Creative, and artwork from Jackie Andres.

Southside Blooms

West Englewood
“Flowers that empower” are in full bloom at Southside Bloom, a self-described “farm-to-vase” floral shop emphasizing sustainability and community. All of the lustrous, bouquet-worthy flowers in the Black-owned store are plucked from the surrounding community, with all purchases serving to support jobs for at-risk youth. So whether you’re handpicking a holiday wreath or wooing your partner with a dozen roses, these are florals you can feel especially good about. Even better? Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity recently added Southside Blooms to the Illinois Made program, a statewide collective of independent small businesses worthy of celebration and travel for their unique products and experiences.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on¬†Instagram,¬†Twitter,¬†Pinterest,¬†YouTube,¬†TikTok, and¬†Snapchat.

Matt Kirouac¬†is a travel writer with a passion for national parks, Disney, and food. He’s the co-founder and co-host of Hello Ranger, a national parks community blog, podcast, and app. Follow him on¬†Instagram.


Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

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John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.


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