Monday, April 10, 2006
Chicago Treats: The Brown Elephant 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Yesterday seemed like the perfect day for a walk to Andersonville, that quaint-but-trendy neighborhood (home of the city's best glögg) a little southwest of us in Chicago; with sunshine and temperatures in arm's reach of the 60's, this taste of Spring was just what I needed. I finally had the chance to walk a few miles to check out the new Brown Elephant. After a major move in February and March, the Andersonville location re-opened its doors at the site of the grand old Calo Theater at 5404 N. Clark Street, just a few blocks north of its former digs. Turns out it's a delighful location for the Brown Elephant, my favorite second-hand shop in Chicago, bar none.

The Calo's former ticket counter and refreshment zones have been redone in scarlet and gold "Oriental" chic and converted into checkout and donation areas, while the deep, gently sloping audience area surrounded by ancient frescoes and plaster detailing houses the main floor. In a strange way, this building echoes its new contents: cast-off and outdated to some, but filled with rare treasures for those who know where - and how - to look.

One of the best things about the Brown Elephant (besides the fact that proceeds from sales benefit a great cause, Chicago's Howard Brown Health Center) is its astounding range of goodies: everything from used computer equipment (I picked up a working current-model Epson scanner sans USB cable, and a still-sealed HP toner cartridge for my printer - each set me back a paltry $5.00), furniture, scads of clothing, books, CD's and movies - to jewelry, electronics, antiques and artwork. It's not all garage-sale stuff, mind you: there was a brand-new pair of mens' Coach loafers inside the glass jewelry cabinet bearing a $200 price tag. Folks have even been known to donate grand pianos and cars!

I did, however, limit my Sunday splurge. In my enthusiasm, I almost bought one of the dozen used bread machines stacked like cordwood on the bottom shelves of the Elephant's metal housewares shelves. After all, none were priced higher than $10.00. However, it ocurred to me the last time I saw over a dozen pieces of the same item returned for resale in one place they were Mariah Carey, Extreme and Vanilla Ice CD's.

That thought was enough to dissuade me from lugging one of those suitcase-sized electric loafpinchers home, bargain or no bargain. After all, the two mile walk back home would be a lot worse with a 20-pound bread machine in tow. But I know I'll be back next weekend.