HYDE PARK — After five years and a successful clothing line, two Hyde Parkers are returning to their neighborhood to open a boutique on 53rd Street.
Autumn and Brian Merritt have sold their clothing line, Sir and Madame, as far away as Japan as close at Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood. On Saturday, the couple returns to the neighborhood they grew up in to open a pop-up boutique.
“It’s definitely clothing you can put your own spin on,” Autumn Merritt said of the now three-year old line that she thinks works as well for professors as it does for students. “We say we style the urban sophisticate.”
The couple runs a successful boutique at 938 N. Damen Ave. and at the urging of the University of Chicago are doing a test run in at 1504 E. 53rd St.
Autumn Merritt said she remembers the space as Coconut Records from growing up in Hyde Park in the 1990s. She said she found the familiar vinyl tile of the old record store under the carpet as she stripped it down to the polished concrete.
On Monday, Hyde Parker Doug Frietag was painting the store’s top hat logo on the wall before the velvet curtains that are the signature of the Ukrainian Village were installed.
Frietag and Merritt ran through the list of former tenants of the space, from record stores to the former Apartment Finders offices that Brian Merritt helped set up before he ventured into fashion. Both agreed that Hyde Park was now ready for boutique like Sir and Madame.
“We were always thinking about Hyde Park, but we needed a little more to anchor us as a business,” Autumn Merritt said, pointing to the new restaurants and Akira on 53rd Street. “I look at it now and we could move back.”
While waiting for Hyde Park to get ready for a return, the Merritts built two businesses on the North Side, first a street wear shop in Lincoln Park started in 2007. When the lease ended on the Lincoln Park space in 2010, the Merritts decided to open Sir and Madame.
In a blaze of two months, the couple found and prepared the new space and launching a men’s and women’s fall and spring line that would leave their own mark on Chicago’s fashion scene.
“It all happened so fast,” Merritt said, adding that she was pregnant with the couple’s second child at the time. “Brian and I are not designers by trade, we just know what we like.”
She admits that she wouldn’t do it again, but it leaves the store well prepared to enter Hyde Park now she says the neighborhood is ready.
The university has recruited three boutiques to do six-month pop-up shops on the block. Comfort Me Boutique opened in recent months, Sir and Madame will have an official opening Oct. 10 and Independence will open in the next month.
“While pop-ups are not uncommon, it is interesting to have three testing one neighborhood all at once — and bringing in all at once something the local community has long said it needs (clothing stores), if only for six months,” said Calmetta Coleman, a spokeswoman for the university.
Merritt said Sir and Madame might stay a little longer.
“If it goes well for us, we’re definitely going to stay longer,” Merritt said.