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Trillium's Erica Cook on Owning a Wicker Park Boutique

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Welcome to our new series Birthday Bites, in which we celebrate boutiques—and their owners—on their anniversaries.

Photo: Thomas Dahir

Trillium, the Wicker Park boutique we love, will celebrate its third anniversary tomorrow night. From 5 to 8 p.m., an in-store bash will offer refreshments, a raffle, and the opportunity to browse through clean-but-elegant fashion (it's a look Trillium does exceptionally well.)

On the store's birthday eve, we chatted with its proud mama and owner, Erica Cook. Read on to hear Cook's perspective on owning a Wicker Park business, her most memorable customers, and which holiday dress is on her own wish list.

Let's go back to Trillium's birthday: What inspired you to open a store in the first place?
I've worked in boutiques since I was 16 and have always found them fascinating. Ever since then, I've wanted to own my very own shop. In 2010, the timing was right and I was lucky enough to be able to open Trillium. It was my dream come true!

Looking back on your opening day, what advice would you give to your (then-) self?
Relax.

How is three-year-old Trillium different from baby Trillium?
The biggest difference would have to be inventory. We're trying to remain different yet also widen our price range so that we can appeal to customers that might not have shopped with us before. Although we still carry some well-known designers, such as Cynthia Vincent, 360 Sweater, and DL1961, we have a wider selection of lesser known designers now, such as Wanderluster and Thomas Sires. We also have a wider selection of more inexpensive designers, like Piplette, KLD Signature, and Upper Metal Class.

Speaking of inventory, what's in stock now that you're flipping out over?
I'm obsessed over the sweaters from Le Mont St. Michel, especially the ombre style. It's on my own wish list. I'm also loving the jewelry from Wanderluster. It's so fun and sparkly for the holidays! And, I love the metallic and leather dress by Whit. It's so different and so cool. Oh, and I can't forget the holiday pieces from Tibi. We have this great leather cami and metallic skirt.

What has been the most surprising thing about owning a store?
Ha, the stress level! I always knew it would be a difficult job, but you get thrown curve balls every so often. I've also been pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy certain parts of the job that I didn't think I'd like, such as creating the window displays and managing the website.

What do you love about owning a store in Wicker Park? And, any challenges that come with that particular neighborhood?
I love Wicker Park. I love the people, the vibe, the restaurants and bars. I especially love that the businesses have remained independent. I think the biggest challenge is getting tourists over here.

What about your job makes you giddy?
Each day that we get in a shipment of new merchandise is like Christmas. Sometimes I've been waiting for a specific style for four months and it's finally arrived. Sometimes I forget what we ordered and it's a big surprise opening that box. I also get a gigantic smile when a customer tries on something that makes them completely excited and feeling great. Those are the best days.

Tell us about some of your most memorable customers over the years.
Hmm, there are so many! A few months ago, a nice gentleman came in and wanted to purchase a gift card for his girlfriend. We started chatting and he said that his lady was feeling down lately and he just wanted to do something to cheer her up. I thought that was so sweet. Another one: We used to have large planters outside the shop and a lady came in one Sunday morning and said that she saw some people ripping out our little trees the night before. She said she put them back and was sorry she didn't put them back completely straight. I was blown away by her kindness.

We also have our regulars that have shopped with us since we opened. It's always nice seeing them and chatting. It's also fun remembering what they purchased from previous seasons, it's like a history of the store for me.

And, blowing out the (real or imagined) candles on Trillium's birthday cake, what's your wish?
I wish for at least 3 more years!
· Trillium [Official Site]

Trillium

1744 W Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622 773 698 8162 Visit Website