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Sisters Opening Logan Square Boutique As Love Letter To Midwestern Roots

By Mina Bloom | March 17, 2017 5:29am
 Jennifer Detrich Smith (right) and her sister, Eleanor, (left) are the owners of Birdseye Rule, 2319 N. Milwaukee Ave., a new boutique selling heritage-style clothing and eclectic home goods.
Jennifer Detrich Smith (right) and her sister, Eleanor, (left) are the owners of Birdseye Rule, 2319 N. Milwaukee Ave., a new boutique selling heritage-style clothing and eclectic home goods.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LOGAN SQUARE — Growing up, sisters Jennifer and Eleanor Detrich spent every summer with their family on a campground in western Michigan.

It was there, surrounded by big trees, Big Bass Lake and log cabins, that the girls — and their three brothers — faced the ultimate coming-of-age test: When deemed ready, each kid would swim out to Birdseye Island, one of several islands in the middle of the lake, to prove they could kayak or swim without any help from an adult. The rite of passage was called the "Birdseye Rule."

"I think it's only like 100 meters each way or something, but it feels like you're swimming the Atlantic at 10 years old," said Eleanor, 25, who took her husband's last name, Smith, once she married.

Now adults, the sisters, originally from Mansfield, Ohio, hold those family memories — and countless others — so dear that they've built a business around them.

The pair are opening a boutique and home goods store named Birdseye Rule on a booming stretch of Milwaukee Ave. They're aiming for a soft opening this weekend and a grand opening about a month after that.

[All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

The boutique, 2319 N. Milwaukee Ave., is a love letter to their childhood memories. Everything from the clothing tags, which are old family photographs, to the display pieces, pieces their mother picked out at estate sales and fixed up, has a personal story behind it.

"We're trying to share our life experience that we think is a shared Midwestern experience," Eleanor Smith said.

For sale is a host of earthy and heritage-style women's clothing, everything from dresses to jeans from AG, Free People, Scotch and Soda and Wildfox, and lesser-known brands like Sancia, an Indian brand that makes leather purses. Plus, a variety of rugged menswear, including shoes from 1892 Thorogood and bags from Filson, a brand their grandfather used to wear.

The shop will also sell an array of eclectic home goods, including cactus-shaped vases, candles, speckled camp mugs — hearkening back to their campground days — and other trendy kitchen vessels.

"It feels like it rounds out our store a little bit," Eleanor Smith said.

The sisters have been working on opening the shop about two years. They signed the lease in January 2016 and the renovation and city permit process took about a year after that.

Jennifer, 31, who coincidentally also married a man whose last name is Smith, has a fashion background. She worked in visual merchandising for Anthropologie for years and then went on to do freelance merchandising work for small boutiques in their hometown — "she's the kind of person who wants power tools for Christmas," her sister quipped.

Eleanor Smith, who earned degrees in biology and gender studies, said she's prepared to take on the "wingman" role at the shop.

"I love being the wingman person to the person in charge and getting people's vision and making that vision happen," she said with a huge smile.

The pair are excited about the future of the block, which has seen the entry of high-end women's boutique Felt, 2317 N. Milwaukee Ave., and stationery and gift shop Steel Petal Press, 2321 N. Milwaukee Ave., in recent years.

Bags by Sancia.

"I lived here for a really long time and when we lived here there [were] no shops, there was one and it was great, but like, as far as variety and having what every other neighborhood seems to have, it was kind of lacking," said Jennifer Detrich Smith, who now lives in Humboldt Park with her husband and newborn.

"Now with all of the restaurants and bars and stuff that's kind of endless ... That was one of the main reasons" to open the shop.

That, plus their shared love for Logan Square's "community-focused" vibe, made the storefront a perfect fit, she added.