Champion of Shop Local Movement Rings in 12 Years on North Damen Avenue

By Alisa Hauser on January 19, 2013 12:19pm 

 Julie Horowitz-Jackson, owner of Viru, ordered eight dozen donuts from Glazed and Infused to celebrate her shop's 12th Anniversary Saturday.  Complimentary donuts and anniversary deals will be available 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19.
Julie Horowitz-Jackson, owner of Viru, ordered eight dozen donuts from Glazed and Infused to celebrate her shop's 12th Anniversary Saturday.  Complimentary donuts and anniversary deals will be available 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

BUCKTOWN — There's just one reason a local merchant's still kicking after 12 years in business.

"I wouldn't be standing here if not for the grace of neighborhood," said Julie Horowitz Jackson by telephone on the eve of her shop, Virtu's 12th anniversary party from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

The store, described as a "curious collection of fine craft" on its awning at 2034 N. Damen Ave., carries a variety of items from jewelry to housewares and stationary. 

Jackson, 43, started Virtu in January 2001 and attributes her longevity as a business owner to regular customers that see the value in frequenting independently-owned shops.

"I have specific people that do the majority of their shopping with us. Time and time again, they say they don't want to see big box stores here, not that there's no place for them, but when you support local businesses you're keeping the neighborhood unique and vibrant."

It wasn't an overnight road to success for Jackson.

Initially working as a waitress at Club Lucky, 1824 W. Wabansia, Jackson, who'd left a career as a photographer after a basement flood ruined years of work, gave most of the day-to-day responsibilities of running Virtu to her husband, artist Donald Jackson.

"For the first five years, most people didn't even know me, Donald was the face of Virtu. He was here every day. We are a true mom and pop [store]," Jackson joked.

Eventually she left her waitressing job and now operates Virtu full-time, while her husband, who launched an arts studio for kids a few years ago, helps out when he can.

Bucktown resident Debbie Shear-Gibbons has lived in the neighborhood for seven years and RSVP'd for the anniversary party on Virtu's Facebook page

Gibbons said that she plans to stop by the sale to purchase a gift for her mother-in-law's birthday.

"I only discovered Virtu about a year ago, but it has become my go to place for thoughtful, unique gifts," she said.

 Virtu opened in January 2001 at 2034 N. Damen Ave. and is hosting a 12th anniversary celebration Saturday.
Virtu opened in January 2001 at 2034 N. Damen Ave. and is hosting a 12th anniversary celebration Saturday.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

Along with a 20-percent discount on every item in the store, Jackson will be offering "favorite things that come in dozens" and mystery goodie bags.

Lox and bagels will fuel morning shoppers while donuts from Glazed and Infused at 1588 N. Damen Ave. will satisfy the afternoon crowd.

Jackson's neighbor, Toast restaurant at 2046 N. Damen sent an anniversary gift flower arrangement of orchids, tulips and red leaves from Larkspur, a longtime floral shop which is just across the way from Virtu at 2123 N. Damen Ave.

When the weather is cold and the lines are too long to get into Toast for brunch, Jackson said that Virtu often "serves as the Toast lounge for everyone waiting."

Referring business to each other's businesses is "the whole point," Jackson said, especially in a challenging economy.

In December 2009, a neighborhood blog featured Jackson in a post titled "Six Women (and a Man) on North Damen," referring to the high number of female business owners on Damen between Armitage and Webster. 

Just half of the women featured on the blog are still in business today.

"I can count so many stores we've lost at the top of my head.  It's important that we all work together and do the best we can do for the neighborhood," Jackson said. 

 Virtu is located at 2034 N. Damen Ave. Store hours Saturday are 11 a.m to 6 p.m. Ph: 773-235-3790.

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