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OAK STREET IS BACK : A SHOPPER’S GUIDE TO PARADISE

 

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OAK STREET IS BACK

Just five years ago, a shopper wandering from Michigan Avenue west to Oak Street would have found empty storefronts where high-end luxury retailers used to be. “Prior to 2008, Oak Street had been known as the Midwest’s luxury shopping district,” says Greg Bayer, vice president at Mid-America Real Estate Corp., which leases properties on Oak Street, Michigan Avenue and Rush Street. As the recession came, upscale retailers vanished.

Now Oak Street is back in full force, with vacancy rates hovering close to zero, and the one-block stretch has re-established itself as Chicago’s Rodeo Drive, says Luke Molloy, senior director of retail services at Cushman & Wakefield Inc. in Chicago. What happened? The Esquire Theater, which closed in 2006, opened up 120 feet of prime real estate. Its redevelopment in late 2012 has been critical to further street resurgence, Mr. Molloy says. In its place, eight high-end brands have either opened their doors or will do so in the coming months.

Luxury brands tend to stick together, and right now they’re flocking to Oak Street. “They like to be together, and there are not many small spaces on Michigan Avenue,” says Sharon Kahan, vice president in the Chicago office of commercial real estate firm CBRE Inc., noting the allure of Oak Street boutique spaces to these retailers. “These new brands are international, they’re in demand and people want them.”

Since last summer, a slew of these in-demand stores have joined stalwarts Hermes, Moncler, Kate Spade and Jimmy Choo. “The overall ambiance of Oak Street—its charm, together with the quality and architectural detail of the Esquire redevelopment—speak to the sophistication of the brand,” says Patrick Valeo, president at SMCP USA, which owns boutique Sandro. “This location was never a question.”

Here’s what’s new—and coming soon—on the strip.
 

SHOP

BUCCELLATI

62 E. Oak St. ● 312-600-9224 ● Buccellati.com

A private viewing room allows shoppers to sip Champagne while ogling pieces by the Italian jeweler. Prices range from $300 to upward of $1 million for one-of-a-kind pieces as ornate as the silk-walled space itself.

CH CAROLINA HERRERA

70 E. Oak St. ● 312-988-9339 ● CarolinaHerrera.com

A piece of Venezuelan-born designer Carolina Herrera’s growing empire recently settled here. As opposed to the couture she shows on the runway, this boutique delivers a more approachable elegance. You’ll find clothing, like blazers for him and tailored dresses ($500 to $1,500) for her, in addition to fragrances, books and handbags ($350 to $1,500).

DOLCE & GABBANA

58-68 E. Oak St. ● 312-255-0630 ● DolceGabbana.com

The Italian fashion house, which opened recently here, has made a name for itself by being anything but demure. Think luxurious materials, then add bold prints or a healthy dose of sequins to secure an idea of the women’s and men’s options.

LUXABY BABY & CHILD

59 E. Oak St. ● 312-280-7905 ● LuxabyBaby.com

The Princeton, N.J.-based maternity, baby and children’s boutique opened in September, its second location in the country. The merchandise, such as a fox-printed girls’ dress that retails for $149, plays off of the grown-up trends found across the street.

MAJE

100 E. Oak St. ● 312-649-9228 ● US.Maje.com

Maje shares its Parisian-cool aesthetic with sister brand and Oak Street neighbor Sandro. The selection of women’s-only styles blends sharp tailoring with feminine details. By the end of 2014, the Paris brand will have another 10 locations across the country.

SANDRO

102 E. Oak St. ● 312-649-9224 ● US.Sandro-Paris.com

Clean lines abound at the boutique of French import Sandro, both through the modern, minimalist space and the straightforward collections in it, like neutral-colored silk blouses ($375) for women and European slim suits ($1,100) for men. Opened in January, the Chicago boutique, along with Maje, rented the last remaining slots of the Esquire redevelopment.

TOM FORD

66 E. Oak St. ● 312-605-5041 ● TomFord.com

Listen in on the “Who are you wearing?” red-carpet questions during awards season and the overwhelming response from dapper gentlemen will be Tom Ford. The designer’s 4,700-square-foot boutique in the former Esquire space, the only location in the Midwest, opened in August. Everything—from the immaculate marble floors to the $4,200 suits to apparel for women—is pristine.

VMR

34 E. Oak St., 7th floor ● 312-649-6673 ● VMRChicago.com

Names such as Alexander McQueen and Missoni may be absent from Oak Street storefronts, but they and other top-notch designers can be found seven stories up at VMR. The by-appointment-only showroom, whose name stands for “vintage, modern, resale,” offers new and vintage collections for women.

ZADIG & VOLTAIRE

114 E. Oak St. ● Zadig-et-Voltaire.com

The French brand’s fifth shop in the U.S. will feature the line’s signature casual chic looks when it opens this spring.
 

EAT

DEL FRISCO’S DOUBLE EAGLE STEAK HOUSE

58 E. Oak St. ● 312-888-2499 ● DelFriscos.com

The late 2012 opening of Southlake, Texas-based Del Frisco’s filled the restaurant void on the street. The restaurant occupies the bones of the shuttered Esquire; the theater’s marquee sign is still on display. On the lunch menu are a $15 chicken avocado wrap and a $25 two-course business lunch.

FIG & OLIVE

70-104 E. Oak St., 2nd floor ● FigandOlive.com

The Mediterranean restaurant’s first location outside of New York and California is expected to open in May or June.
 

DO

BLOW-BY-BLOW

67 E. Oak St., 3rd floor ● 312-867-0332 ● Blow-by-Blow.com

Oak Street is home to salons that have been doling out cut-and-color treatments for years. But if you’re just after a blowout in a hurry, this new salon offers them in loose waves or sleek and straight styles for a $40 flat fee. Complimentary cocktails, too.

SARAROSE

67 E. Oak St., Suite 5W ● 773-654-3421 ● SararoseKrenger.com

A by-appointment-only image and style consultancy started by Sararose Krenger, who ran Irving Park boutique Stix & Roses. The emphasis is on animal-friendly, eco-friendly and custom designs. Ms. Krenger also offers advice on nutrition, closet organization, skincare regimens and more. Initial assessments begin at $100.

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