Matt Puchalski set himself up early for a career in the arts, working as a framer at a nationally renowned studio in high school and enrolling at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. When his workplace unexpectedly went out of business, 20-year-old Matt shrewdly bought up the equipment and customer list, set himself up as the sole proprietor, and decamped to the safety of his parents' basement, where he balanced his coursework with the demands of a small-business owner. Matt's determination and hard work paid off, with streams of repeat customers and corporate clients paving the way for three subsequent business expansions and the company's current success.
A far cry from the shop's humble roots, the current studio shows off the talented staff's technical skill with projects such as a framed flat-screen television or 75-gallon aquarium. Technicians touch up and bring to life faded photographs with restoration projects, and the store's designers craft stunning framing compositions that decorate homes, corporate offices, and even the walls of the White House.
Now that he no longer has to juggle frame crafting and school with the rigors of owning his own business, Matt has time to return to his art, employing brilliant splashes of color to create impressionistic depictions of the stately granite structures, glistening skyscraper lights, and active volcanoes along the iconic Chicago skyline.
Walter E. Smithe's huge showrooms contain more than 500 collections of high-quality designer furniture and home accessories, stocking brands including Drexel Heritage, Nourison, Hancock and Moore, and Bradington-Young. Fill a brass-trimmed vase ($119) with flowers, pencils, or wishes, or keep winter moisture stylishly contained in a hand-painted umbrella stand ($99). Walter E. Smithe's selection of four-legged pieces includes an Ontario end table ($299) and a Louise chair ($599). Most products come with impressive warranties, including a 10-year guarantee for every cushion on the comfy Kayla sofa ($1,749).
Scattered across nine states, Mini U Storage's secure facilities make frequent cameos on the reality TV show Storage Wars. At each location, rows of storage units in a vast range of sizes house personal goods, business items, and vehicles. Specialty climate-controlled units can help preserve sensitive heirlooms or souvenirs from historic snowball fights. The Mini U Storage staff further assists clients in the moving process by offering complimentary rental trucks, along with boxes, moving supplies, and locks for purchase.
Arming Windy City's flower followers with a bevy of buxom blossoms since 1889, Amling's Flowers brightens occasions across the spectrum with its fresh floral arrangements. Built from the fruits of partnerships with independent petal peddlers, Amling's artistic arrangements help express emotions fit for a range of occasions, from birthdays to funerals to the first of many joyous parking citations. Lilacs soothe schnozes and seers with a sense-pleasing blend of lavender roses and fragrant hydrangea ($39.95), while the Cotton Candy's bursts of roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums issue forth with pastel explosions not seen since Gregor Mendel cross-bred hyacinths with a stick of dynamite ($34.95+).
In 1908, Madison and State became the numerical zero-markers of Chicago’s new street system, making the corner where they intersected the new epicenter of city commerce. On nearby Wabash Avenue, the company jumped into the furniture game the same year, selling home furnishings built by skilled local craftsmen. More than 100 years later, the shop still buzzes with that original energy, connecting customers with the finest home furnishings from more than 50 manufacturers. The fourth-generation family business has migrated from the city center to five suburban locales, where showrooms display gleaming hardwood tables, towering entertainment centers, and elegant leather couches. Along with accent pieces and kid-centric design items, each Toms-Price location also offers special services such as furniture refinishing, reupholstering, and moving help. On-staff interior designers can also lend their eye to design projects, artfully arranging rooms and selecting the color schemes, fabrics, and wax doll heads that best bring out the inner you.