LINCOLN PARK — A single sweater from Peru bought in the 1970s blossomed into a national brand that opened its first Chicago location in Lincoln Park last month.
"With the Chicago climate, it was a natural for us," said Annie Hurlbut, the CEO of Peruvian Connection.
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) was on hand for the grand opening Thursday evening of the business at 925 W. Armitage Ave. along with the building owner, Dan O'Donnell, whose Armitage Hardware moved around the corner onto Bissell Street to make way for the store.
"This is the story. Armitage Avenue is back," Smith said. "We are thrilled to have Peruvian Connection."
In the 1970s, Hurlbut was an anthropologist living in Peru, and she brought back a sweater of baby alpaca fiber. The animal's fur, which is native to the Peruvian Andes, is likened to cashmere.
That single sweater lead Hurlbut and her mother to start a wholesale business, importing the sweaters to their Kansas home and shipping them out, but that all changed when the New York Times wrote a feature on the business.
Since then, the company has expanded dramatically, opening stores in Santa Fe, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Kansas City and in England. The store specializes in men's and women's luxury alpaca sweaters, Peruvian pima knitwear and jewelry, according to its website.
"Lincoln Park is a dream neighborhood for us, partly because it's a historic neighborhood," Hurlbut said.