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Wooden Ring Shop Takes Flight in Pilsen

By Chloe Riley | March 22, 2013 9:40am

PILSEN — Dinosaur bone and meteorite.

Just two materials you can splice into a ring at Simply Wood Rings.

“We tell people, if anyone wants to give us a meteorite, we prefer ones that are more stone than iron,” sales manager Allison Taylor said laughing.

As for dinosaur bones, how about some 80 million-year-old Thescelosaurus vertebrae from Montana?

The company, started in 2006 by Gustav Reyes out of his living room, makes custom wood rings using thinly cut pieces of wood. Customers can add anything that can be ground up, like shells, sand, rocks, and the occasional meteorite.

Taylor said they get all kinds of requests.

“A lot of people give us sand from beaches where they went on vacation. Someone’s mailing us a rock from a hike they went on. As long as it’s soft enough, we can crush it,” Taylor said.

The shop, which used to be at the more pedestrian-friendly Cermak Road and Halsted Street location, moved a year and a half ago to 2233 S. Throop St. in Pilsen’s industrial quarter.

But what they lost in foot traffic, they gained in feathers.

Lynn and Amazon, two peregrine falcons, have nested on top of the building Simply Wood Rings calls home. The birds have been on the endangered species list since 1973 according to the Field Museum, which set up an official nesting box for Lynn and Amazon.

Now the wood ring shop follows the birds on Facebook, sending them “positive fertility vibrations” as they prepare to nest.

“That’s like our favorite thing to do during the day: check out what the falcons are doing,” Taylor said.

Though Reyes has lived in Chicago all his life, the majority of the shop’s business comes from around the world.

A man from Lebanon recently ordered a wedding ring made out of a tree his grandfather planted for him on the day he was born. The grandfather passed away last year.

“That means so much to him and where he’s come from. I mean, you can’t carry around a tree with you all the time,” Taylor said.

Taylor said other customers choose the rings because they have a metal allergy or because they like the eco-friendly aspect of the rings, which are made of reclaimed wood.

And some just aren’t the big diamond type.

“My fiancée is not the flashy, bling-bling kinda girl,” said Seth Wilson, who lives in Denver, Colo.

When he searched “eco-friendly rings,” Simply Wood Rings was one of the first to pop up. And when he heard his then-girlfriend mention the company by chance, he figured it was fate.

Instead of a diamond, his girlfriend chose a sapphire, which “matches her eyes,” Wilson said.

“It’s exactly what my fiancée wanted and it saved me money, too. She loves it,” he said.

The rings cost around $250 to $600.

Simply Wood Rings recently joined the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance, a group of environmentally conscious vendors that sell wedding-related products.

The shop will also make an appearance at the Green Festival at Navy Pier May 18-19.

And of course, you can always stop by the shop for a ring fitting and a falcon sighting.

“It’s hard to get to, but you must venture,” Taylor said.