City Newsstand, 4018 N. Cicero Ave. in Chicago, hosted its 2nd annual Winter Wonderland celebration on Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday, a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country, was founded by American Express in 2010. It always takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Article by Annmarie Handley

City Newsstand and Northwest Arts Connection have done it again. Today, on Small Business Saturday, our family went to check out “City Newsstand Winter Wonderland.” City Newsstand is a local magazine store/book store/coffee shop on the Northwest Side that features tons of Chicago history non-fiction (which I love) as well as the browsing potential and uniqueness of bookstores of the Days-Before-Amazon era. My husband and I used to go there for moments of peace to browse the books and magazines and have a latte or chai before heading home to the rigors of parenthood. Today, the store was transformed into a winter wonderland with blue icicle lights decorating the ceilings, Christmas trees and a fire pit out front, and an ornately decorated tree inside the street window. Balloons asking patrons to “shop small” were floating everywhere from book racks, paintings by local artists, and countertops. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus were waiting in the back of the store, snuggled up in front of a faux fireplace, listening to kids rattle off their Christmas wish lists. Mrs. Claus was kind enough to make suggestions, loud enough for parents to hear, of the kind of mermaid tail my four-year-old might like, and I’d bet good money that Santa’s beard was real. I told him not to eat too many cookies (I can’t believe he’s not diabetic by now!).

Photo by Annmarie Handley
Photo by Annmarie Handley

My elder daughter immediately satisfied her love of the macabre by finding a book of supposed spooky or haunted places to visit in Chicago. I can’t wait to plan an excursion to visit some.

Photo by Carma Lynn Park
Photo by Carma Lynn Park

My little one was thrilled to be read Curious George and How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? by one of the volunteer story tellers in a Santa hat, while a horn and an accordion happily spouted a German-sounding melody from the front of the store. Warm, sweet hot chocolate was free and my daughter’s chocolate chin was a testament to how tasty it was.

As we made our way up to the front after running into several friends from the neighborhood and browsing the aisles, an author was at the mic telling stories that reminded me of my own childhood, growing up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood, attending private school. Her stories were unabashedly honest, heartfelt, and funny. She alternated the spotlight with an a capella singer whose melodies in Polish and English were hauntingly beautiful and reminiscent of generations past. Another poet at the mic delighted the audience with poems read in different accents, one Irish and one Southern-American, to add flavor to the poetic scenes.

Photo by Carma Lynn Park
Photo by Carma Lynn Park

A writer from Buenos Aires read bits of prose that warmed us with visions of summer weather and the southern hemisphere, as well as a poem from her favorite Mexican poet in both English and Spanish.

Photo by Nikki Spencer
Photo by Nikki Spencer

 

 

 

 

Students from Shurz High School toasted marshmallows in the fire pit outside and kindly passed them out to the patrons inside the store and in the café, while we listened to the artists perform. My husband and kids got hot drinks and fresh pastries from the café to nosh while listening to local artists of all different flavors.

Photo by Annmarie Handley
Photo by Annmarie Handley

The event wound down with traditional holiday tunes by a talented acoustic string duo. They welcomed the crowd to sing along and we did, as did the elderly man and woman sitting in front of us, the couple with kids at the front of the room, the people with and without Santa hats, the big guy in the Cubs hat, the café owner behind the counter, the teens and tweens browsing books, the little kids who couldn’t sit still in their seats, and the toddler enthralled with the musician’s guitar during the performance. Santa and Mrs. Claus danced and sang next to them. I had no idea Santa could dance. I hope my husband took notes.

My little one got Rudolph painted on her nose, its frosty antlers swirling up her forehead, by the Shurz kids, on the way out. As we were leaving, I told Mrs. Claus to take it easy on herself because I know that wives can be unsung heroes in these big holiday endeavors. She told me that “behind every great man is a great woman…and about 287 elves.”

 

Happy Holidays to all and thank you, City News and NAC!

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