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Early in the morning as the sun was peeking through the towers surrounding City Hall and the Richard J Daley Center, vendors and artisans of The Chicago Sidewalk Sale were setting up shop for the day. As they peeled back the panels on their white vinyl tents the temperature was already 85 degrees. Two of these artisans were Jessica Constable with her creative jewelry line Jess LC, and Rachel Brooks with contemporary men’s accessories line The Style Cooperative. They were arranging their respective products and setting up for display at this early morning moment when the sale wasn't yet swamped with buyers, we had a chance to talk with them.
First we check out the Style Cooperative who's introducing their very popular Bespoke Goods iniative where you can choose all fabrics and patterns your hand made is constructed of except the keeper which is leather on all Style Cooperative ties. The inside of The Style Cooperative tent resembles a living room (when assembled) complete with arm chairs, a rug and a record player.
When asked about the benefits and bummeroos The Style Cooperative has come across working with The City of Chicago and Chicago's men as shoppers Rachel Brooks responds positively on all fronts.
The contemporary menswear market is probably not the strongest in the Loop on a weekday but the exposure has been worth it. This isn't to say sales have been slow coming but rather the contrary the amount of tourist foot traffic that comes through the plaza brings a more adventurous customer. There is actually no fee to have a tent at the Chicago Sidewalk Sale but anyone that sells goods in Chicago anywhere on city property needs to obtain a Merchant's License which is the $25 which pertained to this situation since it's outside of the Richard J Daley Center.
The insurance however, was priced out higher than expected at a few hundred dollars but other businesses who have business insurance already weren't paying extra for that coverage. Another downside was that there was no electricity available at the sale - but as Rachel points out it wasn't a deal breaker. To process payment at events like this one, The Style Cooperative uses the Square hooked up to a phone equipped with wireless.
Our second business we stop at before the crowds started coming in was Jess LC run by Owner, Jessica Constable and two friends. What started out as a jewelry company ten years in its evolution has earlier this year started branching out to bags, wallets, coin purses and computer sleeves. The the cross body bags and expandable totes started earlier in the spring and most recently, like really, two days ago has started with her lined pouches in metallics and canvas. Now, Jess LC is designing everything in her Lakeview studio and has hired out production in Skokie.
When we asked Jess LC about the same challenges the $25 city property merchant fee was a piece of cake but the insurance requirement was "no bueno". Of course, as The Style Cooperative had recuperated expenses, Jess LC had done so as well. Jess LC was also using the wireless Square payment system.