They call Lynne McDaniel “the goddess of WOW.” But not for the wow-worthy, midcentury-modern finds in her vintage furniture shop in Humboldt Park.
Rather, the title refers to McDaniel’s efforts to build the WOW District, a blossoming shopping corridor along North Avenue just west of Western Avenue (hence WOW), where shoppers in neighboring Wicker Park and Bucktown to the east don’t often think to visit.
“There’s a bad connotation of Western being the Mason-Dixon line of North Avenue,” said McDaniel, whose store, An Orange Moon, is at 2418 W. North Ave. “The challenge is getting rid of that stigma.”
McDaniel’s efforts to unite her neighbors as WOW was one reason she and her husband, Ty, co-owner of An Orange Moon, landed starring roles in a short documentary that launched last week as part of a project called Small Business Revolution.
Ty & Lynne McDaniel aren’t just the owners and curators of a beautiful and successful furniture store, they are the driving force behind a booming urban revitalization in the West of Western district of Chicago.
The project is telling the stories of 100 businesses across the country, casting a spotlight on the nation’s mom and pop stores, which, according to some reports, seem to be making a comeback after many tough years.
An Orange Moon is one of 12 businesses to be featured in five-minute films. The other 88 are profiled in photo essays. The pieces are launching throughout the year on smallbusinessrevolution.org, culminating in a 22-minute documentary in September.
Another Chicago-based business, Belmont Barbershop in Roscoe Village, will be featured in a film later this year.
Deluxe, a $1.7 billion Shoreview, Minn.-based company that provides personalized checks and financial and marketing services to 4.5 million small businesses, sponsored the project to mark its centennial. It sought recommendations from employees and outside sources to find businesses with unique stories to tell, and commissioned Austin-based documentary company Flow Nonfiction to do the telling.
“What we really want to do be able to do with this is create a movement,” said Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe. “We want people to choose to support small businesses.”
Several data sets suggest small businesses are increasingly in demand.
In a survey conducted in September by the retail consultancy Kurt Salmon, 29 percent of shoppers said they are shopping at neighborhood businesses more now than three years ago. About half of the 900 people surveyed said at least half of their shopping trips take place at local stores.
Meantime, the share of U.S. retail stores with fewer than 500 employees — a standard definition of a small business — is seeing a meaningful rise for the first time in 25 years, the Kurt Salmon report said.
Good for them. I’ve been a customer (of small items, admittedly) since their shop was on the south side on 59th Street just west of Western Ave.
AT 4:39 PM FEBRUARY 24, 2015
An appetite for local, artisanal products and personalized service, the use of technology to expand a small business’ reach, and the vacuum created by the closure of big-box retailers done in by Amazon have helped fuel indie store demand, the report said.
And their sales seem to be benefiting.
Average sales growth was 8.5 percent last year among some 3,000 locally owned businesses polled by the Institute for Local Self Reliance and Advocates for Independent Business, up from 5.3 percent growth the previous year. Among retailers, which comprised half of the sample, revenue grew 5.1 percent last year versus 2.3 percent in 2013, according to the survey conducted by the two groups.
Many challenges remain, of course, including being able to afford health insurance, securing loans and competition from online retailers.
Which is largely why McDaniel spearheaded WOW to begin with.
“We have to help each other,” she said.
The shop’s community efforts weren’t the only reason it got Small Business Revolution’s spotlight. The store also is emblematic of the personal touch that sets mom and pop stores apart, Brinkman said.
“What we love about An Orange Moon is that the curation is phenomenal,” Brinkman said. “And here you can talk to the person who curated it.”
McDaniel and her husband, who both worked as clinical therapists before they became shop owners, opened An Orange Moon six years ago in the Gage Park neighborhood on the South Side.
McDaniel, whose mother was an interior designer, long felt pulled to the antiques and vintage furniture that had been an integral part of her upbringing in Englewood. In a Sunday ritual, she’d accompany her parents to Maxwell Street Market after church and before dinner at her grandmother’s house.
“You didn’t get up at night to go to the bathroom because you might run into a new piece of furniture,” McDaniel recalled. She developed her eye for good stuff while tagging along on countless sourcing missions with her mom.
The McDaniels opened An Orange Moon as a mix of antiques and vintage furniture but eventually focused on mid century modern design, which had become massively popular while antiques fell out of favor. They source their finds — which currently include Hans Wegner chairs for $1,895 each; a $3,500 Milo Baughman credenza; and a $7,500 coffee table from Philip and Kelvin LaVergne — from private people who call them with a house full of furnishings to sell. They also have a secondary business running estate liquidations.
The McDaniels moved their shop to its current spot in 2011 to be closer to where most of their customers live.
Barely a month in, McDaniel said, she had an experience that sparked the idea for WOW.
A neighboring business owner visited to seek advice about a new location after the building in which he ran a photography studio was sold — which seemed odd to McDaniel, who figured he must know other business owners on the corridor with better knowledge of the area than she. But he didn’t.
“I thought, ‘This doesn’t make any sense,'” McDaniel recalled. “We have to know each other.”
So she went about getting her fellow business owners to know each other.
The WOW District, which counts about 20 businesses as members between Western and California avenues, meets regularly to discuss initiatives like snow removal, washing windows, street beautification and ideas for drawing new shoppers and businesses to the corridor. The group, which is not formally incorporated and does not collect dues, is in talks with the alderman’s office to erect banners designating the district.
McDaniel, who plans to extend the boundary past Kedzie Avenue as business owners there have been asking to join, has become a connector.
When Rosie Quasarano wandered into An Orange Moon while shopping with a friend, she mentioned she always dreamed of opening a coffee shop. McDaniel pointed her to DreamBox Foto Studio across the street, where she knew owner Iwona Biedermann was looking to lease some space. Not long after, Quasarano, who lives in the neighborhood, left her job in advertising to open Cup and Spoon inside the DreamBox’s gallery space, raising money through an Indiegogo campaign.
The corridor, where development has been pushing west for years, has seen six new businesses open since the WOW District launched 14 months ago, McDaniel said. She expects a vintage clothing store and furniture store to join soon.
“People are coming over because they want to be a part of something,” McDaniel said.
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
*Photos from SMALL BUSINESS REVOLUTION PREMIERE Party:
Ty McDaniel with BKE Ellison from the show “Framework”
Ephraim Owens and the band
Kiara Lanier from American Idol
Rosie Quarasano Cup and Spoon
Rob & Michael from the WOW District Condos
Max Davis with crystal Baccarat glass
All on location at An Orange Moon