Located next to an empty parking lot, seemingly out of place, is Replica Chicago (aka "REP CHI"). The gift shop is tiny, and it’s easy to drive by since it’s on busy Milwaukee Avenue on Chicago’s northwest side. But do yourself a favor and pull into that empty parking lot.
Inside, the place is loaded with handmade Chicago gifts and personal accessories that are – gasp! – super affordable.
Since owner Lyndsey Hooley also does eco-friendly custom screen printing, the shop offers a great range of t-shirts and baby onesies with custom designs. The rest of the retail boutique features local art, handmade gifts, things made from recycled things, fair trade products and non-touristy Chicago items.
"HELLO I USED TO BE" tags for all of the recycled and upcycled items let customers know about the products' past life — Photo courtesy of REP CHI
Hard to find gifts for men or women? Your boss? Your boyfriend’s sister who you hardly know? REP CHI has you covered; they offer gifts in a range of price points.
A CTA token keychain is just $5. A set of four handmade coasters featuring Chicago’s el system is just $24. Bike enthusiasts will appreciate the gifts that honor their preferred mode of transportation. The shop offers everything from a bike chain bottle can opener to recycled inner tube earrings, bracelets and handbags for men and women.
Everything in the shop is eco-friendly, recycled or fair trade, and everything has a story.
“In the style of the 'HELLO MY NAME IS' name tags, I made my own 'HELLO I USED TO BE' tags for all of the recycled/upcycled items, so customers can easily identify the recycled source throughout my shop,” says Hooley.
The exposed brick that lines the walls makes for a great backdrop for the local artwork that's, again, all very reasonably priced.
Hooley does a great job curating what is in the shop and keeping her items at very affordable price points. It would be hard to come in here looking for a gift for anyone on your list and not leave with something, because she truly has gifts for anyone and for any budget.
For those who aren’t near the shop but want to ship a little piece of Chicago to a friend, REP CHI does offer many of her in-shop offerings online and can ship gifts.
For those who are local, though, make a trip to this hidden gem. It’s not only what makes Chicago such a cool city in which to live, but it’s a great way to support local artists and give a unique gift, too.