This Week’s Top Story
Hallie Borden opened Milk Handmade (5137 N. Clark St., milkhandmade.com) in Andersonville in 2012, selling handmade goods from her own private label and other locally based, independent brands. In 2017, she partnered with her sister Dana Karlov to open Honey Bridal (5135 N. Clark St., honey-bridal.com) in the neighboring storefront. Much like its sister store, the relaxed bridal boutique specializes in handcrafted styles made by independent designers. For now, of course, both boutiques are temporarily closed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the statewide stay-at-home order.
To keep Milk Handmade in business while she waits to reopen her store, Borden turned her focus to e-commerce. “We’ve had to pivot to an online business model really quickly, which is tough,” she said by phone on March 25. “It’s not really what my background is in, and we didn’t have a very robust website.”
Still, she’s managed to snap photos of store items and upload listings rather quickly, building an online shop that carries plenty of items suited to a stay-at-home lifestyle: there’s a cozy tie-dye fleece sweatshirt ($58), restorative night oil ($74), and even Beer + Cigarettes soap bars ($8.50). Borden’s also offering 20 percent off gift cards, which shoppers can use in person when the store reopens.
In short, “Milk can still be in business in some way,” Borden shared. “It doesn’t feel as on pause as Honey right now.”
That’s not to say that the sisters don’t have a plan to help their brides have perfectly fitted gowns when business — and wedding dates — resume.
When the stay-at-home order went into effect, Karlov said, she crafted an email to her clients to let them know that appointments would be canceled until at least April 8. “Our brides have been very understanding,” she said. “I think they don’t want to be there any more than we do right now, and also a lot of their weddings and things are being postponed.”
She added: “We’re also making sure to let them know that once we are able to reopen and everything’s safe for everyone, we will be having extended hours, making sure that these brides can get in. We’re going to bend over backwards and have all our people ready, and get as many people in the store as we can — after it’s safe — just so we can fulfill the demand … And then we’re also going to be working with our designers on the back end to try to reduce any rush fees that would normally be associated with that.”
If there’s a silver lining to the temporary store closures, the sisters hope it’s a reinvigorated appreciation for the analog shopping experience.
“The thing that I see kind of changing [after the pandemic has passed] is the amount of disposable income people will have,” Karlov says. “So maybe they’ll be spending a little bit less, but I still see people shopping once everything goes back to normal. I think everyone has a newfound appreciation for the social aspect that in-person shopping provides.”
And then, there’s this: “More than ever, we’re all going to need a reason to celebrate,” Karlov pointed out. “What is better than having a fabulous wedding or a party or a barbecue or something, and getting a new wonderful outfit for it? I think everyone is going to be so ready to have a reason to celebrate.”
Top Sales This Week
Asrai Garden (now open at asraigarden.com) is offering 20 percent off its self-care and apothecary items, as well as incense, through April 1. At the store’s online checkout, enter the code SHARETHELOVE to get discounts on goods including grapefruit & juniper soap (normally $12.00), CBD body oil (normally $65), and jasmine body cream (normally $56). Asrai is also accepting direct donations to support its staff and other local charities throughout its temporary store closure.
Luft Balloons (luftballoonstore.com) which typically specializes in balloon installations at events, is offering its smiling rainbow balloon installation at a discount. Available for $155 (typically $275), the arrangements comprise happy-face balloons in the shape of a rainbow, and can be installed at a distance in yards, on trees, or on fences. The installations last three weeks outdoors.
Local company Oars + Alps (oarsandalps.com), which typically makes men’s skincare, has temporarily shifted its business model to focus on soaps, hand sanitizer, and hand sanitizer gel. The latter two items will be available soon, and bar soaps are currently 30 percent off (reduced from $14 to $9.95). The brand also has a new Dry Hand Repair Cream ($12).
Jayson Home (jaysonhome.com) is taking 20 percent off everything in store through today, March 30. The company’s website is open for business, and curbside pickup can also be arranged at the Chicago store, at 1885 North Clybourn Avenue.
Health & Beauty
Chill (222 W. Kinzie St., chillchicago.com) begins its online Chill at Home programming today. At $22 a pop for drop-in guests (or free for the studio’s members), the virtual yoga and meditation classes are conducted via Zoom. Find the online class schedule here. The River North studio is also offering short meditation classes every weekday at 9 a.m. on Instagram Live.
Studio Three (studiothree.com) is hosting free virtual workouts via Instagram Live, several times a day. The local fitness studio has also initiated the #S3LiveChallenge, which challenges users to complete 30 virtual workouts in 30 days. The classes include yoga flows, dance cardio, and stretch sessions.
With nail salons closed, Lena Rose Beauty (lenarosebeauty.com) is offering a solution for people stuck with gel manicures that need removing. Available for curbside pickup, shipping, or delivery within four miles of the Lincoln Square business, the local spa’s D.I.Y. Gel Removal kits ($10) includes cotton balls, foil, and other items needed to remove the manicures.
Retail News of the Week
- Some local fashion designers have pivoted to making masks during the pandemic. Read more.
- Stores along Michigan Avenue have boarded or emptied their windows for closures. Read more.
- A new bookstore opened in the West Loop just before COVID-19 forced it to close. Read more.