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Neighborly Store Makes Friends, and Beer, on Opening Night

By Patty Wetli | November 19, 2012 9:38am

RAVENSWOOD — The grand opening of a new home goods shop on Montrose Avenue was as friendly as you'd expect from a store called Neighborly.

As customers perused the decorative ceramics, throw pillows and other home accent items Friday night, they were treated to complimentary food and drinks, including a "Neighborly Stout" beer crafted for the occasion by Ravenswood's Begyle Brewing.

Turns out Begyle partner Kevin Cary is a longtime admirer of Neighborly co-founder Jenny Beorkrem, 29, and her other venture, Ork Posters, which specializes in typographic city neighborhood maps.

"Holy cow, I can't believe I'm here," said Cary, who spent the evening pouring drafts from a makeshift tap.

The seeds for Neighborly were planted three years ago when Beorkrem decided to set up a holiday pop-up shop in Ork's offices, selling gifts crafted by local artisans.

"I always kind of had it in the back of my head to build a retail space around Ork Posters," she said. "But I didn't want it to just be a gallery."

Neighborly finally took root when Ork outgrew its storefront on Montrose, with a year still left on the lease. The address was passed down to the upstart store. The poster business relocated to new digs on Berteau Avenue, just blocks from Begyle's brewery on Cuyler Avenue.

Beorkrem and Cary connected during September's Ravenswood ArtWalk, and the idea for the Neighborly Stout collaboration was born.

Begyle isn't the only local business receiving exposure from Neighborly. Beorkrem, who pointedly keeps Ork's production in Chicago (which earned her a spot in an "American Made" competition sponsored by Martha Stewart), has extended her support for made-in-Chicago merchandise to the new shop. She estimates that "40 to 50 percent" of the store's merchandise is manufactured in Chicago, the Midwest or Midwestern-ish cities such as Toronto.

She describes the aesthetic, developed with partner Mary Beth Kapp, Ork's operations manager, as Mid-Century Modern.

"It's something that's definitely functional, colorful, made from friendly material, but still simple," Beorkrem explained.

When it came time to stock Neighborly, Beorkrem and Kapp turned to many of the artists they had featured at Ork's pop-up shops. Working on a tight timetable, with just eight weeks to set up and open the store, the partners discovered that a number of their favorite vendors had already stopped fielding orders in the run up to the holiday season.

"We asked, 'Can we get a few?'" recalled Beorkrem.

Companies such as Circa Ceramics, which operates out of a Ravenswood studio, complied. After all, it's the neighborly thing to do.