Every now and then, I come across a “wow” piece that I have to have, budget and size constraints be damned. I can hear the conversations and jealousy that this one-of-a-kind piece will inevitably inspire—all before I even swipe my credit card. But ever since Agent Gallery Chicago opened in late October, my answer to “Where did you get that??!” has become 100-percent predictable. Owner Mariano Chavez, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute and former manager at Salvage One, fills his Wicker Park showroom with nothing but conversation pieces: vintage marquee letters, 1950s explosion-proof telephones, a cast-iron 1940s Killark lantern—even a 1969 moon globe. Chavez says he’s “usually on a chase” for one item and will find a bunch of other interesting pieces along the way. “I look for work that has very strong character and design,” he says. “A lot of the pieces are art in and of themselves.” Wow, indeed.