HYDE PARK — Asked to pick out the holiday gift for Hyde Parkers, shopkeepers were just as likely to reach under the counter as to the shelves for a clientele they said has edgier tastes than any other neighborhood in the city.
Eric Williams, owner of the Silver Room, 1506 E. 53rd St., slid open a case and pulled out a soft bow-tie backed with by a sliver of rosewood by Bronzeville artist Norman Teague as his pick at $75. He said he’s found Hyde Parkers to be far more adventurous than his customers in Wicker Park and also suggested a sterling silver necklace of interlocking rings by local jeweler Susan Elizabeth Designs for $88.
Cornell Florist is the only place in the city to find vases by ceramicist Cecile Daladier of Drome, France. The handmade pieces range from $65 to $250 and are often crafted with particular kinds of flowers in mind, which the florists are happy to identify. The shop, 1645 E. 55th St., also is one of the only places to find Auntie Otie quilts, $175 indigo-dyed blankets woven from Indian saris.
Frontline Books, a stalwart of Hyde Park retail at 5206 S. Harper Ave., has luminous tote bags woven in the still-beating heart of American textiles in South Carolina for $25. For those curious about the forbidden, the store also carries “Anatomy of Female Power” for $40. The radical critique of feminism by Nigerian poet Chinweizu Ibekwe is likely to be more interesting to many for its rarity, otherwise only available for nearly $300 imported from London, than its ideas, which argue that the world is ruled by women and feminism is a reaction to a world that only appears to be run by men.
The Doorway to Experimentation
It’s probably a given that Hyde Parkers won’t shy away from experimental fiction, but for friends still hesitant about the fringes of literature, 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th St., recommends “The Story of My Teeth.” The $17 book tells the story of a salesman selling celebrities’ teeth so he can buy a set of Marilyn Monroe’s teeth to put in his own mouth, and that’s just the beginning of the light and funny book Mexican author Valeria Luiselli wrote collaboratively the workers at a Jumex juice factory in Mexico City. The store also recommends “Good and Cheap,” $17, a book of recipes for living on $4 a day that is great for beginning cooks and college students.
Locally Made Local Pride
Your dog may not have the faintest clue where it lives, but it can still sport some civic pride with a Chicago-flag themed collar by local makers Moxino Collars, available at Sprocket and Stone for $23. The shop at 1013 E. 53rd St. is also the only place to find Cat Ball cat beds, $60, handmade in Bellevue, Washington.
There’s probably some sort of neighborhood pride going on with an infant niece or nephew, even if they can’t verbalize it yet. Belle Up, 1504 E. 53rd St., has Hyde Park neighborhood T-shirts printed in a Frank Lloyd Wright-style font for $23. The boutique also carries a very modestly priced fringed leather purse not available at its other locations for $32.
One of Hyde Park’s newest editions, Modern Cooperative, 1500 E. 53rd St., has probably the most interesting option when shopping by smell. The Juniper Ridge soaps, $30, are all made from ingredients foraged near Big Sur in California and have an earthy aroma reminiscent of cedar, spruce and other herbal forest scents. The soaps fit nicely in the dopp kit bags by Owen and Fred of Brooklyn, N.Y., which go for $68.
There are lots of options for scented soaps and oils around, but only the Scentuary, 2154 E. 71st St., lets you create your own. Maybe frankincense, pear and sunflower would work really well together and you’re not likely to get the opportunity to mix them together anywhere else. The Scentuary also offers scent coaching for those who lack olfactory confidence.
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