Eden DeGenova promotes her lingerie shop as something of a sanctuary, a place where women can connect with their inner goddess – and find that special item to help celebrate the discovery. Of course, in an environment where blushworthy stuff is often chatted up, DeGenova said there’s a fair amount of levity needed to keep people comfortable.
“I do comedy in my shop everyday,” she said.
Maybe so, but never quite like this.
On Feb. 27, comedian Cameron Esposito will spend the afternoon at Baubo’s Garden as part of an uncommon promotion involving several local stores and comics. At 10 retailers and restaurants on Madison, ticket holders will have a little entertainment to go with their shopping. The event, Stir Krazee, was organized as a way to draw potential customers to the street, but in a way that engages people socially first and as shoppers second.
“I don’t think we’re looking at this day as a major sales day,” DeGenova said. “If you give people a good time, they’ll come back.”
For several years now, entrepreneurs in Forest Park’s downtown district have shown a willingness to work in tandem. Collaborations have led to dozens of creative cross-promotions linking everything from ice cream to live theater.
Tonya Hart, a co-owner of Two Fish Art Glass and one of the key players on the street, says the recession only magnifies the need for such relationships. Discounts alone aren’t enough to lure penny-saving browsers, so small businesses need to reinvent themselves – even more consistently and creatively, according to Hart.
“We understand that nobody’s an island over here,” Hart said. “It’s important that we all be a vivacious business so the street thrives.”
The idea to use stand-up comedy in a retail setting was DeGenova’s. In November, she took a comedy class at The Lincoln Lodge in Chicago, which is Esposito’s primary venue. Esposito was DeGenova’s teacher.
Though DeGenova went to her fellow business owners with the comedy idea, shop owners have consistently looked for ways to make Madison Street a destination. During the holidays, performers make for window displays along Madison and, on any given weekend, one store or another features such extras as live music. Putting comedians in retail shops was a concept inspired by brainstorming sessions for an event that would cater to groups of women, said DeGenova.
Stir Krazee is co-sponsored by several Forest Park organizations, including the Review.
Even for a lesbian doing stand-up, a gig surrounded by bras and underwear should be interesting.
“I love interaction,” Esposito says, “so they should get themselves there early so we can hangout at the lingerie store. Let’s get comfortable around bras.”
Also performing that day is Rhythm Method, a Chicago-based improv group. Product giveaways, a cooking demonstration and discounted merchandise will also be featured.