Savvy shoppers know that every town is best when experienced at the indie, local level—the Thai iced coffee at Kopi in Andersonville, the weird art books at Myopic in Wicker Park. Now, through the power of the internet, shoppers can replicate that locavore Chicago experience from the comfort of their home, whether that home is in Brooklyn or Dubai. Strolby, the online marketplace for “the best small shops in the world,” launched its Chicago section on Wednesday, featuring wares from 10 of Chicago’s best local stores.
Chicago is Strolby’s sixth market (others include Austin and Marfa) and third major metropolitan area. “The city is obviously a major cultural center, but it’s also uniquely community- and neighborhood-oriented,” said Sarah Naseer, Strolby's president, who cites her St. Louis background as one of the reasons she wanted to showcase the Midwest on Strolby. “Once we started researching more about the local scene, it became clear we were going to find some special stores and storeowners to introduce to the Strolby audience.” And find them they did: the 10 featured stores are Modern Cooperative, Rocky and Luella, Ad Hoc, Humboldt House, Gather, Monica and Andy, Foxglove Studio, Maya Mueble, Lindsay Lewis, and Territory Design.
Getting featured on Strolby isn’t as easy as simply being cool. There’s a rigorous selection process. “We look for storeowners who are tastemakers in their neighborhoods,” says Naseer. “Generally, we want shops that carry very special inventory, often those who stock one-of-a-kind and locally made goods. Since we’re a lifestyle site, we also look to create a collection that has a variety of categories that can appeal to all of our shoppers. So with the 10 Chicago shops, we wanted to get a great mix of women’s, men’s, home, and kids.”
Tiffany Paige, co-owner of Modern Cooperative, says that customers frequently ask them to sell their handmade pieces online, which is one of the reasons they were so happy to team up with the site. Their collection on Strolby isn’t a replica of what they have in the store, but they’re planning to build up inventory as time goes on. “We’ve posted about 20 items: vintage barware, handmade jewelry by Errol Detroit, Michelle Starbuck, and Chain Chain Chained, and a line of handmade infinity scarves by Argaman & Defiance,” she says.
Shopping local while shopping online is a savvy combination of two powerful retail trends—Strolby is like a better-curated, less-overwhelming Etsy—and so far, it seems to be taking off. This year, Strolby’s sales have already increased by 400%, and their new stores by 43%. The local-but-online concept isn’t for people who want cheap deals and lots of them, but e-commerce like this is a fitting platform for those who want to consume slowly and mindfully. “We’re drawing in a customer that’s interested in learning about other cities,” says Naseer.