An Abandoned Dentist’s Office Is Now Chicago’s Hottest Housewares Shop
Step inside Logan Mercantile.
Updated Oct 12, 2018 6:52 AM
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In our Ask a Shopkeeper series, we tap the coolest store owners we know for a tour of their space and to ask them what items are trending right now—and beyond. For this installment, Kitty Izzo gives us the scoop on Logan Mercantile, her two-month-old Chicago shop that’s dedicated to well-made, utilitarian goods that are as beautiful as they are functional—everything from Japanese garden shears to lambswool dusters.
How did Logan Mercantile come to be? My husband and I own Park & Field, the restaurant next door to Logan Mercantile, and when we opened five years ago, we quickly realized we were short on storage space. So we originally bought this building to help Park & Field, and after demolition I saw the bones of the shop and realized what a gem it was. It was once a dentist’s office and hadn’t been in use since the ’80s, so there were drop ceilings and carpet. When we took it all out, we found the original tin ceilings and wood floors. We knew it would be the perfect space for a shop, so we converted the back half of the building for restaurant storage and kept the front as what it is now.
But really, the store stemmed from a passion for the home and a deep desire to offer well-made, sustainable, eco products from ethical companies. There are a lot of European shops I love that inspired me, and I couldn’t find anything in Chicago that offered basic, utilitarian household goods without anything trendy or fashion-focused. I love my customers, but I don’t want them back repeat purchasing. I want them to buy it once, and for it to last a lifetime—and in some cases, longer!
Who shops there? We’re very close with our community—I’ve lived around the corner for 15 years! I get a lot of the older generation, oftentimes people from Europe, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, and it’s very nostalgic for them. They remember these items from when they were children, and sometimes they haven’t seen them in decades, things like rug beaters and lambswool dusters.
What are some other items you stock? I have some unique items like a record player brush, a book brush, and a blinds brush, which make great gifts for that person who has everything. But I also offer some extremely basic everyday items like pure latex rubber gloves and sponges. I have brooms from $11 to $90. I want to offer something for everyone. I’m not looking to be a bougie broom shop.
What is your criteria for choosing a product to sell? It must be useful and well made. I spent two years researching products and curating the best of the best from all over the world: scissors made in Sheffield, England; Japanese kitchen knives; German brooms; and brushes from Iris Hantverk in Sweden, which has employed the visually impaired for more than a century to make its brushes. Most of these brands have been around for 100 years or longer, so they know what they’re doing. They’re ethical companies using sustainable practices when harvesting their woods and bristles. And they’re ecological. These products are biodegradable and usually compostable. It’s far past time we all take accountability for what we are purchasing and how it impacts the world on a larger level.
Tell us about the design of the store. I did the design myself. I knew I wanted clean lines and bare bones. I wanted the products to be center stage, so the space was designed with that in mind.
There’s a very cool garden center we created that is smack-dab in the middle of the shop and has French doors that open up to the outside. It’s packed floor to ceiling with gorgeous pots. I don’t offer plants or flowers, because I felt we had enough wonderful plant shops in Chicago, but not a lot was offered in the way of tools. So it was important to me to include the more utilitarian side of gardening. My husband is a chef and an avid gardener, so we worked together on what he felt was missing in the city and built a beautiful garden center filled with high-quality tools, from Japanese pruners to gutter shovels.
Which products do you personally use at home? I can’t live without my brooms and brushes. My mother was a bit of a neurotic cleaner when I was growing up, and she definitely passed that trait along to me. My kitchen dish brush with a wood knob handle makes what is otherwise the daunting task of doing dishes really and truly joyful. It’s incredible what a difference using the right tools can make in otherwise pretty mundane chores. I also don’t believe we need a ton of things. Consumerism has told us we need 14 different cleaning products when simply white vinegar will do most of it. I don’t like to push products on my customers. I’m always here to help them, but I’m not here to push things on them that they may not want or need.