Photo: Clayton Hauck

My neighbor Kiki had been asking me to go with her to her favorite shopping haunt for years. “Sus-ahh-nah, let’s go to Kor-eee-ah,” she would say in her Greek accent whenever I complimented a pair of expensive-looking earrings that cost only $4. She wasn’t talking about hopping a plane to Seoul, but rather hailing a cab to the 4500 block of North Clark Street, a strip of nondescript and mostly Korean-owned fashion importers that few passersby ever give a second glance to. So, one recent Saturday morning, we went.

The stores have unchic names like Sunshine Fashions and Clark Fashion Depot, but they are where bigger boutique owners snap up startlingly inexpensive merchandise—most of it from China—and mark it up for their own stores. For example, I bought my niece a hat with rhinestone cat ears for $8 and saw it at a department store two weeks later for $28. By my estimation, most things are around 70 percent off typical retail prices.

I recommend starting on the north end of the block at Nice Trading Company (don’t miss the aisle of stylish hoop earrings and the vast assortment of oversize costume jewelry) and working your way down the west side of the street to Montrose before heading back up the other side. I particularly love the gauzy summer scarves ($2 to $10) at Adorro Wholesale, the sparkling evening clutches ($11 to $19) at Ace Fashion Trading Company, and the wall-to-wall jewelry at Top Plus and Top Fashion. But don’t bother trying to haggle. The owners will tell you what they told me: “It’s already wholesale.”

1. Pompom necklace from Clark Fashion Depot

$6.50 (matching earrings not shown)

2. Earrings from Top Plus


3. Rhinestone dog brooch from Clark Fashion Depot


4. Rhinestone clutch from Ace Fashion Trading Company


5. Faux–baroque pearl bangle bracelet from Top Plus


6. Brooch from Clark Fashion Depot


7. Glitter hoop earrings from C & Y Accessories

Five pairs for $5

8. Necklace from Nice Trading Company


9. Hoop earrings from Nice Trading Company


10. Glitter clutch from Ace Fashion Trading Company