[Coffee and bikes at Heritage Bicycles]

Coffee and bikes at Heritage Bicycles

Best Shopping in Chicago

[Galt Toys + Galt Baby]

Best baby gear

Galt Toys + Galt Baby

900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-440-9550; 1915 N. Clybourn Ave., 773-327-9980; also in Skokie

We tried, we really did, to find a new best place to shop for the most trend-forward modern baby goods in Chicago. But Galt, the local family-owned toy specialty store, still wins. It’s often the first to carry strollers and infant gear that soon become must-have items: the folds-by-itself Origami stroller, the Silver Cross pram, the Naked Tub from Boon, and, today’s hot seller, the Mamaroo bouncy seat.


Best Hostess Gifts


1902 W. Montrose Ave., 773-769-2227

The successful hostess gift depends on striking just the right note. In three connected storefronts, Hazel offers a dazzling array of solutions: glass platters painted to resemble Chinese checkers or backgammon boards ($40), Angela Adams soy candles ($32), a mod Joseph Joseph spatula ($10), and a big selection of affordable jewelry. The nicest touch: Hazel also sells flowers by the stem. Toss three yellow calla lilies into a vase and the next invite is assured.

[Megan Winters Maison]

Best new home design shop

Megan Winters Maison

675 Forest Ave., Lake Forest, 847-295-1675

Some people think traditional design means fussy and dull. Designer Megan Winters wants to change that perception. Her charming new Lake Forest shop and design studio, dominated by a bold black-and-white color scheme, is filled with home accessories, gifts, and furniture that Winters finds at flea markets and fairs here and in Europe. She then paints, gilds, and upholsters the classic pieces to make them fresh and modern.


Best Men’s Clothing


47 E. Oak St., 312-675-2105

Opening amid many clothing store closings last year, Independence, a cozy but well-stocked men’s apparel den, is a spark in the ash heap. George Vlagos, the local craftsman behind Oak Street Bootmakers, opened the shop in March and governs it with his take on the made-in-America mantra. Look for goods previously unavailable in Chicago: denim from Imogene + Willie, sunglasses from American Optical, and Brooklyn-made aprons from Stanley & Sons.

Best new retail concept

Heritage Bicycles

2959 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-245-3005

Equal parts coffee shop, custom bike lab, and Americana shrine, this Lake View spot defies easy categorization. Michael and Melissa Salvatore craft luxury two-wheelers out in the open–plus sell vintage sporting goods, cycle-inspired stationery, fresh pastries, and Stumptown coffee. Whatever the concept is, we–and the creative types who colonize the café’s communal table–agree that they’ve nailed it.


Best vintage decor


7316 W. Madison St., Forest Park, 708-366-1920

Featuring vintage treasures with an academic bent–think rulers, globes, pennants, and banners–Yearbook gets straight A’s all around. This bright addition to Forest Park’s retail strip also sells American-made diner ware designed by the shop’s owners, Jef Anderson and Noel Eberline. In fine preppy fashion, the pair conduct “study hall” evenings to help patrons create interesting layered environments of their own.

Best new women’s boutique

Edith Hart

1917 N. Damen Ave., 773-252-3350

Formerly known as The Edit, this young Bucktown boutique changed its name but still carries the flirty-with-an-edge birthday outfit you’ve been searching for. The shop’s owner, Morgan Gutterman, has a knack for pairing tough pieces (faux-leather shorts by Bec & Bridge, spangled leggings by Sass & Bide) with feminine complements (soft silk tops by Boulee, fitted blazers by Generation Love).

Best resale for kids

Once Upon a Child

9520 W. 159th Street, Orland Park, 708-364-6333

Moms in the market for hand-me-downs won’t find the nubby stuff at this 15,000-square-foot store in Orland Park, which organizes its considerable stock of kids’ clothing by gender, size (newborn to 18), color, and garment type and carries a small selection of gently used strollers and play sets. Follow the shop’s Twitter feed– @OUACIL–for news on hot acquisitions (video monitors, joggers) and its popular $1 days.

Best smoke store

Tesa Cigar Co.

1039 W. Lake St., 312-929-3075

First opened about four and a half years ago by Chris Kelly, the son of a longtime South Side cigar proprietor, Tesa re-opened last year in its new matchbox-size space under the Green Line on Lake Street. A comprehensive selection of sticks–starting at $6, blended by Kelly himself, and rolled in Tesa’s own factory in Nicaragua–lines the walk-in humidor. Bring your own booze and light a torpedo from the Cabinet 312 series.

[Naperville Running Co.]

Best suburban running store

Naperville Running Co.

34 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville, 630-357-1900

The Naperville Running Co. gives Fleet Feet Sports a run for its money–and easily beats the competition in the burbs. The 5,500-square-foot emporium carries 14 lines of shoes (including hard-to-find brands such as Altra and Newton), electrolyte gels, and nearly every Hammer nutritional product. The store also offers an 18-point fit process, complete with video gait analysis, conducted by trained staffers who moonlight as running maniacs.

[The Haymaker]

Best reusable shopping bag

The Haymaker Shop

5507 N. Clark St., 773-681-0798

Photography: (Winters) Julia Stotz; (glasses) Tyllie Barbosa; (Heritage) Melissa O’Neal; (all others) courtesy of vendors