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Madison Street's new shop, Yearbook, has only been open since September, but already it's making itself known regionally. This month, Chicago Magazine's "Best of Chicago Issue" says Yearbook "gets straight-As all round [for its] interesting layered environments."
Co-owner Jef Anderson has years of product display and staging experience from working at Bloomingdale's and Marshall Field's. He stacks, strews and piles objects from the collegiate and vintage Americana to the contemporary. The result is like stepping into a magazine photo from the past.
"We want to make the store more of an experience, like you're coming into an environment."
Not your typical Madison Street antique shop.
A 40-foot crew kayak hangs from the ceiling. Ancient trunks and suitcases are stacked intriguingly. Old card catalog cabinets, lockers and mail boxes line the walls. Antlers, antique books, silver golf trophies ...
"The more you look, the more you notice," marveled a guest at Yearbook's open house, the evening of July 19.
Anderson and partner Noel Eberline have one rule when they scour the country on buying trips, said Eberline: "We know what we like. We have nothing in the store that we wouldn't own ourselves."
Customers love the look but sometimes need help visualizing how a 100-year-old oak card catalog might fit in their living room.
That's where Anderson's second business of design and decoration consulting comes in.
"We'll take objects to people's homes and essentially bring them to you, so you can see how to set them up," said Eberline. The shop also designs logos and websites.
The pair have hosted several "study halls" where they've discuss decorating for holidays, displaying family photographs and summer entertaining. Anderson is an expert at staging the detritus of life into an environment "comfortable but unconventional."
College pennants, dcor and banners evoke college nostalgia. Yearbook is also experimenting with its own private label, items with a preppy feel, including candles with scents like "Boathouse," "College Yard," and "Library." Anderson has partnered with Homer Laughlin China - the last manufacturer of diner-ware in the United States - to create art-deco sandwich plates featuring swimmer and football motifs.
But the shop on Madison is just the tip of the iceberg, say the pair. A warehouse in Maywood stores items that are more edgy.
"The stuff in the shop is all-American. The warehouse stuff is like the [environment for] the Bad Child. There's a freight elevator and it's a really interesting place."
There's talk of a "Yearbook Underground" warehouse party in September, but no details are nailed down.
"It'll be on our Facebook page," said Eberline.
"You can create an emotion with an environment," said Anderson. "This shop is all about an aesthetic and a certain kind of feeling.