There’s no greater pleasure than giving the perfect gift, one you know will elicit sheer delight from its recipient. But finding those unique gifts can be difficult in the age of big box stores, chain retailers and e-commerce giants.
We’re lucky in Chicago — small shops boasting myriad goods from artisans both local and from afar can be found scattered across the city, beacons of independent business ownership in their respective neighborhoods. Visiting more than one or two in a day, however, could prove cumbersome.
Now imagine handmade goods, en masse, under one roof! A dream come true? For me, you bet!
Which is why I love attending the One of a Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart, where, this weekend, more than 300 vendors from all over North America are being showcased. Glorious one-stop shopping!
From fine arts and crafts to fashion, home goods, long boards, musical instruments and sustainable “upcycled” goods, the selection is endless. There’s also live music, fashion shows and a craft center for kids.
Whether you’re shopping for gifts or browsing for inspiration, it’s deeply satisfying to meet the creative force behind that dress, earrings or fig preserves you simply must have. And being able to chat directly with artists and craftsmen creates an exchange that harkens back to a more personal relationship between seller and buyer that I find quite fulfilling.
While there are artists that return yearly, an “Emerging Market” section of the show is dedicated to 30 talented, up-and-coming makers. One of those, is fashion designer Adilah Muhammad of “Adilah M.”
“This is my first collection. …Joining One of a Kind was important because I wanted to showcase my work here, in the Chicago community, and [to those] who are visiting, to show the wonderful things happening in Chicago,” Muhammad said.
The desire to welcome new talent also is echoed in the “Gourmet Market” section, with a dedicated area for emerging food entrepreneurs. Working in conjunction with The Hatchery Chicago, fledgling entrepreneurs interact with customers, getting feedback, selling, practicing and gaining invaluable footing and confidence in their business skills.
Vineeta Santoshi, co-founder of Chutney Devis, was proud to share her Indian home-style food with me. “We’re a local, small, micro-business, woman-owned and we’re super excited to be here and share our comfort food with everyone,” she said. “And the crowds are amazing. … It’s not just sampling, they are really interesting in buying.”
Several seasoned shoppers told me they browse on the first visit and return later for purchases. Walking around, you get the same sense of urgent energy you feel while shopping during the holidays. It’s special. There are people traffic jams and a lot of area to cover but plenty of tables to sit and rest a spell. Utilize your floor plan map in the show’s program booklet and be methodical so you don’t miss a booth.
Oh, did I mention there were handmade adult bibs?
The show continues through Sunday at the Merchandsie Mart. For hours, ticket information and more, visit oneofakindshowchicago.com.