There are plenty of choices in the new boutique category this year: a reflection of a national economic upswing and the emergence of a strong scene of independent makers in Chicago. In every corner of the city, new storefronts are beguiling fashionistas and bargain shoppers, tech geeks and foodies, gearheads and hipsters, homemakers and collectors. But we couldn’t resist the DIY feel of Audio Archaeology, which sells (mostly) vintage stereo equipment along with piles of records and related knickknacks. Since the place opened last March, near the Loyola campus, it has steadily gained a following among savvy audiophiles. Despite its bonafides, the shop is not intimidating: a knowledgeable owner and no-frills merchandising make Audio Archaeology’s compact sales floor approachable to the uninitiated. Casual customers can pick a vinyl record from a wooden crate for a few bucks, and immediately test it on one of many “Mad Men”-era console turntables that have been lovingly refurbished and modernized. Amid a wave of new boutiques, Audio Archaeology is part of a hopeful trend of independent makers and shop owners who have found the right scale, location and market. Groove on.
1324 W. Devon, 773.856.3472, audioarchaeology.com
Audience Choice: Humboldt House, 1045 N. California, humboldthouseco.com
Best of Chicago 2014