Refreshing; MINT
By Brian Gulas

If you’re a struggling artist, or just love making unique gifts; then you have to check out Mint Boutique. In this Lincoln Park boutique you can find everything from handbags, greeting cards, to jewelry, and candles. One of the best things about the merchandise sold there is that its all hand made by local artisans. With everything these days being produced by large manufacturers in other countries, it’s refreshing to see business/products (especially in the fashion arena) be produced right here in the good-ol’ USA. I was lucky enough to see Mint’s opening/trunk show; hipster’s gathered-round, sipped wine, and scoped out the loot. If you missed the opening checkout the website for store hours and more information. I love the idea of buying locally made stuff, and giving artists a chance to get their stuff out on the market so much that I had to talk to the owner Tammy Terwelp.

Chicago Fashion Magazine: Okay, first and foremost tell us about yourself…    

Tammy Terwelp: I grew up in Milwaukee , went to college at a small state school in WI--Radio/TV/Film major and have spent most of my career in broadcasting. While I didn't take any business classes in college, I think ten years in the radio/tv industry has toughened me up to be able to start a business on my own. I've lived in Chicago for five years now.  

CFM: What inspired you to start Mint Boutique?  

TT: I had been making jewelry for a while and had participated in the DIY Trunk Show and Depart-ment in 04 and couldn't believe how the public was clambering over hand-made items. The camaraderie of the artists was something I never expected either--we have a really supportive community here--yes, everyone wants to succeed, but not at the cost of someone else. I wondered why there was no year-round place to purchase hand-made items? So I started doing some research, was in the right place at the right time and whammo--I have a store. (PS Please refer to my store as "Mint" and not Mint Boutique---there is a Mint Boutique in Arlington Heights --though they never seem to answer their phone and I think they are a resale store--so I want to avoid confusion)  

CFM: The name of the boutique is very original, why did you choose it?  

TT: I wanted something snappy. Mint means "to manufacture" it also means something fresh and new, and cool. That's exactly what I want my store to be.

CFM: What are your favorite places to shop in the city?  

TT: I am a sucker for the shops on Armitage and by next year, I hope to have expanded to a storefront there. Anything to get closer to Ethel's Chocolate Lounge!! haha

CFM: What local talented artists/designers should we be looking out for?  

TT: I feature "regular" priced items ($20-$60) and I am also working on marketing my higher end items ($110-$375). I have amazing new artists in both categories! My favorite new higher end designer is Alexis Drake who does simple yet elegant pieces in sterling and now gold. (Trunk show featuring her work on September 15th) I am a HUGE fan of Sweet Thunder. She does incredible work reconfiguring vintage jewelry into gorgeous new creations; and works with semi-precious stones ($22-$95). Smitten Kitten does great multi-strand beaded bracelets and matching beaded bobby pins ($15-$22) My greeting card line really kicks ass. I feature Tennis, Anyone? silk screen cards ($4), and I just picked up a new designer yesterday, Nightfire Press, who uses a letterpress technique to make snappy cards with vintage clip art ($3.25-$4.25).

CFM: What qualifications does merchandise have to meet before you will sell it?  

TT: First and foremost, it has to be well made. It has to be high-quality materials and well constructed. Then it has to be both trendy and timeless. I want things to pop out at people. I want anything from my store to be viewed as a designer piece, because it is! I get billed as a "year-long-craft-fair" quite often in the press and to be honest, I don't see myself as that. I think people hear "craft fair" and think toilet paper covers and wooden angels. (Not that there is anything wrong with that) I am very supportive of the DIY movement and I am not trying to turn it into something inaccessible or snotty--I just want to help lift us all up to a more respected level. DIY'ers and fans of the movement all love and respect what we do, but the general public is horribly unaware of how talented these folks really are.

CFM: Do a lot of the artist’s sell exclusively to you?  

TT: A few of my artists have things in other boutiques, and right now I really don't mind. I want them to be able to succeed and most stores are in other neighborhoods. I think as time goes by and other boutiques become familiar with some of my artists work, there may be a turf war.  

CFM: Where do you see Mint going in the future?  

TT: A few different directions really. One idea is to expand to other cities and have a Mint Portland or a Mint Austin ...a more short-term goal is to move to a bigger space so I can feature more artisans. I'd like to incorporate more hand-made clothing into the store and I need more footage to do that.  

CFM: Do you have any future plans to sell online?  

TT: I do as a matter of fact. I am hoping to get an online version featuring select items by October. There are quite a few online hand-made items stores, so I was a little intimidated by that, but I think Mint's reputation will help drive some internet sales.

Visit Mint Boutique at:
1450 Webster Avenue
Chicago, IL  60614
Phone: 773-322-2944

Photo By Scott Harrison