When you exit the Metra stop in Glen Ellyn off the Union Pacific West line, one of the first things you see is the light-bulb-studded sign of the Glen Art Theatre, a historic 1920s movie house. With its classic black-and-white marquee, red-and-yellow color scheme, and glowing, block-letter GLEN perched atop either side, it’s almost like a miniature version of the Chicago Theatre’s iconic sign. And in this more modest cityscape, it’s just as majestic.
The sign represents everything that’s so charming about the kind of Main Street downtowns you find in the suburbs. They’re the heart of community life, but completely unlike the rest of the suburban landscape. Instead of big-box stores, you have unique, independent shops; instead of spread-out space, a compact and walkable taste of urban life; and instead of new developments, history. Glen Ellyn’s Main Street is no different—thanks to homemade foods and unique gifts, there are plenty of shops there that embody this exact feeling.
Blackberry Market | 401 N. Main St.
Be warned: you’ll be hard pressed to pass up this café when you see people devouring melty sandwiches and made-from-scratch bakery goods through the window. Inside, reclaimed-wood shelves are piled high with treats such as small-batch preserves from Quince & Apple, honey from Prairie’s Edge Honey Co. in nearby Wheaton, and Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA. Charming hostess gifts and kitchen items such as printed tea towels, Intelligentsia coffee beans, and branded mugs abound in the marketplace area.
Fuschia | 538 Duane St.
When owner Ashlee Rooney moved from Chicago out to the suburbs, she missed the kind of clothing boutiques that were so plentiful in the city. So in 2004, she opened Fuschia and stocked it with fashions from designers such as Tracy Reese, Milly, and Michael Stars. She can often be found in the store lending shoppers styling tips as they try things on.
Bird on a Wire Studio | 492 N. Main St.
Just across the tracks from Fuschia, this bright, cheery shop is a treasure trove of handmade accessories, home decor, and gifts, from necklace charms that look like sealed wax to journals so gorgeous you’ll immediately be inspired to take up journaling. But locals don’t just come here to shop—the staff packs its calendar full of workshops, classes, and other hands-on events that celebrate DIY artistry.
Paisley on Main | 494 N. Main St.
Upon heading next door into Paisley on Main, the first thing that hits you is the color. The second is the patterns. The shop is a whirlwind of whimsical prints, and they are everywhere: on knit scarves, quilted Vera Bradley purses, stuffed animals, and even soap dispensers. The store recently started carrying Crabtree & Evelyn’s luxury home and body products.
AliKat Boutique | 499 Pennsylvania Ave.
It’s not hard to lose an hour exploring AliKat. The quirky home decor, thoughtful gifts, and on-trend fashion are at home with the shop’s urban vibe, which is set by exposed brick and hardwood floors. Even if the day’s mission involves finding a Free People top or the perfect hostess gift, the fun, unexpected finds make it all too easy to get distracted.
Photo: © Stephanie Bassos, Groupon