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Top Shops: Trendsetters

Shaun Tolson

When Chicago’s Shrine haberdashery (www.shrinestyle.com) opened its doors on Oak Street in November 2010, it introduced a boutique environment specializing in men’s accessories, predicated on relatively unknown, fashion-forward brands. “It’s finding that cross between the quality of American goods with the flair that only European designers can offer,” says Timothy Grindle, the store’s manager. “We’re looking for designers who are using interesting color choices or patterns and are adding a flair to a craft that’s been around for a long time.”

Up until now, the store has focused only on accessories—neckties, cuff links, and pocket squares, to name a few—but beginning this spring, the 1,400-square-foot boutique will introduce articles of clothing, as well. Despite the store’s diversifying inventory, Grindle insists that the feel and focus of the shop will not change. “It’s high-quality and up-and-coming designers,” he says, “and that’s grown only as fashion has changed.”

As Grindle explains, the store’s ideal customer is what he calls a “rake”—a well-dressed person with a penchant for edgy styles. While that would suggest that the shop’s clientele consists largely of young professionals, Grindle says that many distinguished gentlemen regularly frequent the store in search of hats, suspenders, and double-thick ties—nostalgic accoutrements that most other retailers have cast aside. Yet as much as Shrine succeeds on the strength of its inventory, it’s the boutique’s commitment to personal relationships with its customers that brings many patrons back. From handwritten thank-you notes to phone calls relaying inventory updates, Shrine tailors its approach to regular correspondence. “Because the staff knows what we have and knows the stories of our brands, we can connect with our customers to give them what they’re after,” Grindle says. “We try to be as knowledgeable about them and what they want as much as what we have to sell.”

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