Western and Madison is the frontier of the West Loop neighborhood: an area on the city’s West Side at the edge of urban change. Marble-bath townhomes rub shoulders with pawnshops and weed-strewn empty lots in the West Haven neighborhood along Western Avenue.
It’s quirky, and boutique owner Danielle Seals, 32, saw enough promise in the area to move her four-year-old clothing and shoe business from Roosevelt Road in Berwyn to the West Loop.
Her Fashionable Addictions clothing boutique opened at 22 S. Western last month. Next door is the ancient Moon’s Sandwich Shop, and there’s a pawn shop on the corner. But the vacant lot across the street will soon be a Pete’s Fresh Market grocery store.
“I stay two blocks away and it’s an up-and-coming area,” she said.
Plus, she can give jobs to “people who need them in this economy.”
Seals participates in the Ovation program, which rebates a portion of West Side employee salaries for “People less fortunate, or with a ‘background’ [in the criminal justice system].” She has two employees and hopes to add two more.
Even though Seals grew up in Englewood on the South Side, she knows her West Side customers. “People are really into fashion in this end. Western is the new Michigan [Avenue].”
The boutique sells women’s, men’s and children’s clothing and jewelry. The garments run the gamut of sparkle-from subdued earth-tones in luxury fabrics to rhinestone cocktail rings. Seals prides herself on lower prices and offering plus sizes and curvy materials.
Fashionable Addictions also carries the work of local Chicago designers. Bling-bedecked belts from designer Yonna Banks (who also works at the shop) can be worn at the club or at work, Seals insists.
“Some people wear them with jeans, or in school: You flash in class,” she said.
Leather earrings are offered from two Chicago designers: Tameka Weathersby and Monique Scott. Seals also features the 70s-Afro designs and tees of Trina Edmond, Chicago designer of the Hot Yet Elegant (HYE) clothing and accessories line.
Some items sell out quickly.
“I need a ‘black girls rock’ tee [designed by HYE],” begs a customer. “It’s for my mother for a Christmas present.” Seals promises she’ll have more before the weekend.
The immaculate retail space is a perfect venue for events, according to Seals, who’s hosted several fashion and special music events – including signings with Kanye West protégé rapper GLC and DJ Trey.
“I’m looking for a good rock band, because we get all kinds of customers in this shop,” she said.
And if that’s not all, the owner has a wine cellar in the shop and is planning rooftop events for next summer. The mother of two also works full-time as a downtown collections agent. After her 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. stint at work, she comes straight to Addictions and stays until 8 in the evening.
Being the mother of a teenage girl, Seals has a warm spot in her heart for proms – how important they are to some girls, and how expensive. Every year she approaches local high schools and asks for recommendations for girls who have good grades but for whom prom is financially out of reach.
“Girls who have a single mother who’s maybe stressed out and doesn’t know how she’ll pay [for prom],” Seals said.
Last year Seals paid all expenses for five girls from Crane High School and Flower Vocational High School to attend their proms, and for six girls to attend homecoming.
“It’s a Cinderella night for them. We pay for the hair, the nails, the shoes and a new dress by a Chicago designer. Not a used dress – a new dress,” Seals said, noting that prom costs between $600-$700 per girl.
“This year we hope to sponsor 10 girls,” she said.
Grateful students soon spread the news. Word-of-mouth is bringing in customers. With Shoomi shoes next door and other businesses popping up, Seals hopes the area will become a destination for fashion shopping.
“We’re trying to have a downtown feel on Western Avenue,” she said.