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Merz Apothecary Gets Celebrity Makeover for the Holidays

By Patty Wetli | November 27, 2013 8:46am
 Merz Apothecary gets the star treatment from celebrity window dresser Simon Doonan.
Merz Gets Decked for the Holidays
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Merz Apothecary is putting its best face forward this holiday season.

As part of the annual American Express Small Business Saturday promotion, the shop, 4716 N. Lincoln Ave., was one of three chosen nationally to receive a makeover courtesy of celebrity window dresser Simon Doonan, the creative ambassador for Barneys New York.

"They found us," said Anthony Qaiyum, a partner in the business with his father, Abdul. "It was kind of a surprise."

Doonan, who Qaiyum called a "really funny cool guy," set to work refashioning Merz's display windows in late October. He quickly hit on the concept of building non-traditional Christmas trees out of natural materials, like sea sponges, in keeping with the apothecary's emphasis on homeopathic and organic products.

Qaiyum immediately jumped on board with the idea.

"My take was, 'I'm going to go along for the ride,'" he said. "It fits with us. I love" the windows.

A camera crew filmed the transformation and edited the footage into a commercial for Small Business Saturday.

"It's played two weeks in a row on 'Sunday Night Football,'" said Qaiyum, who's featured in the ad. "I don't hate the way I look and the store looks great."

Abdul Qaiyum bought the apothecary store from the Merz family in 1972. Anthony joined the business in the 1990s, helping to launch Merz's website, smallflower.com.

Though online sales now account for 40 percent of Merz's revenues, Qaiyum said the brick-and-mortar store has benefited from consumers' renewed interest in spending dollars locally.

"It seems, yes, the message has been getting across more clearly," he said. "It's really resonating with people in a way it wasn't five years ago, it's part of the zeitgeist."

Qaiyum credited American Express for "spending money, attention and power to get people focused on small business," as well as the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce for its efforts on behalf of neighborhood shops.

"For a number of years now, it's been local, local, local," he said of the chamber's message.

Gesturing along Lincoln Avenue, Qaiyum said, "Look at this block of amazing cool small businesses. This doesn't exist everywhere."

To take part in Small Business Saturday, shoppers need to register their American Express card in order to receive a $10 statement credit when making a purchase of $10 or more at a qualifying small business on Nov. 30.

Additional shop local reward programs include Unwrap Lincoln Square & Ravenswood. Before heading to the shops, be sure to check out DNAinfo's Lincoln Square Holiday Gift Guide.