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Orange Beautiful is Closing Up Shop, But Not Going Out of Business

LINCOLN SQUARE — Orange Beautiful, a hybrid gift store/design shop, is closing this weekend. Kinda. Sorta. Not really.

"We're not closing, we're just changing," owner and chief designer Emily Martin said.

Addressing rumors sparked by the announcement of the transition, she added, "I'm not having a baby, our landlord didn't kick us out, we're not giving up on our dream."

What Martin, 34, and studio manager Lizzie Greco, 27, are giving up on is their role as shopkeepers. As of Sunday, Orange Beautiful will cease to exist as a day-to-day retail shop, freeing up the pair to devote more time to their creative endeavors.

"I think we felt a little too tied to the schedule of the store," said Martin, who started designing wedding invitations out of her Ravenswood home after a stint at the Paper Source.

She moved into the Damen Avenue location in May 2010, experimenting with the notion of combining her custom design studio with a retail space that would showcase the work of Chicago artists — jewelry, stationery, woodworking and more.

The half-store, half-studio approach confounded a fair number of potential customers, Martin conceded.

"A lot of the stuff we were doing had nothing to do with a storefront."

Greco came on board in 2011 as Martin's first, and only, full-time employee. The two immediately began collaborating on projects, and running the shop became an increasing distraction.

"We feel like we have all these ideas that are inspiring and great that never come to fruition, and the store is the reason," Martin said.

"Neither of us are really, 'Let's stand behind a counter for the rest of our lives and sell cards to people.'"

Which isn't to say they will cease selling cards altogether.

"For a lot of people, this is their go-to place to get a sympathy card, and we don't want them to go to CVS," Martin said.

Her plan is for Orange Beautiful to maintain its presence on Damen Avenue, offering occasional shop days, meet-and-greets, workshops and mini-craft shows.

"We're going to make the front of [the studio] more like a showroom and meeting space," Martin said.

"We're going to make it our goal to do one event a month. More of an art gallery kind of setting."

For Martin, who originally hails from Cincinnati, the shift away from retail represents a return to her roots.

Hooked on paper and bookbinding in high school, she studied art at Kenyon College and has recently resumed hand-drawing her designs, in part to discourage Internet theft of her work. (She maintains a Pinterest board that calls out offenders.)

Designing custom papers, which Greco can incorporate into her hand-decorated picture frames, is just one of the ideas on the pair's "crazy brainstorm board" — a riot of sticky notes that represents years of pent-up creative energy.

"Once we made the decision [to close the shop], we were like, 'Oh my god, this is so exciting,'" Martin said.

Final opportunities to shop Orange Beautiful, 4658 N. Damen Ave., are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. All merchandise is discounted 30 percent.