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By Tom Holmes
It's tempting to call Studio 8 an antique store. "Not so," said Melody Kratz, owner. She prefers "vintage made modern" to describe what customers will find when they first walk into her new shop, which she plans to open in Forest Park in February after a move from Oak Park.
"We are absolutely thrilled to be part of Forest Park," Kratz said, adding: "I love the idea of being part of a community of other shops similar to ours and having a vested interest in the town."
Kratz got into the refurbished furniture and funky knickknacks business several years ago, after leaving her job in printing sales to become a stay-at-home mom. In order to, in her words, "stay sane," she began scouring the alleys around her Oak Park home, picking up discarded furniture, "bringing it back to life" by overhauling it and then selling the repurposed pieces.
Once her practice started to pick up revenue, Kratz decided to move from renovating in her home to opening a shop at 1125 Garfield St. in Oak Park. She named the business Studio 8, and worked on restoring furniture right in the middle of the store. Not long after opening, friend Leah Goodwin also began selling her estate jewelry at Studio 8, with Kratz keeping a cut of her sales. Business-wise, Kratz said the jewelry addition was a good move, but it meant that she no longer had the space to restore furniture right in the store.
After three years at the Oak Park location, Kratz realized she had lost what had drawn her into the business in the first place—the ability to create unique pieces of furniture to compliment the vintage knickknacks in the store. "That's when I decided to move to Forest Park," she said. "Our new location isn't much larger, but it gives me the workspace to continue creating pieces to add to our inventory."
Kratz said her business has never been an antique store in the traditional sense, although she believes that Studio 8 fits right in with the antique shops and other unique stores on Madison Street. "You will never find broken, dusty or outdated items here," she said. "We are constantly evolving and staying with the current trends."
Goodwin's estate jewelry will still be for sale at the shop's Forest Park location, and joining Kratz as a business partner will be Brian Shamhart, a seasoned antique dealer who Studio 8 has worked with before. With the help of Shamhart, Studio 8 plans to get into the estate sale consulting business.
Shamhart "will help grow it and get it to the next level of what I want to do on the retail end, as well as helping people do estate sales, all aspects of vintage stuff," Kratz said, adding: "People come in all the time and sell us stuff. It's a big way we get our inventory, and kind of fun for people who don't always have an outlet to bring stuff straight in to someone who knows what they're dealing with."
Studio 8 will take the space of Empowering Gardens, a nonprofit that aims to provide people with disabilities meaningful, long-term employment. From April to November, Empowering Gardens operates at 7730 Madison St. During the colder months, the nonprofit relies on friends with empty storefronts to provide it space rent-free. Landlord Tony Aiello had been doing just that at 7316 Madison St. until he found a new tenant in Studio 8.
Anna Solares, a co-director of Empowering Gardens, said she doesn't know where she will relocate her nonprofit until the weather warms up. "We are trying our best to keep everyone working," Solares said of whether or not anyone will lose their job.
Answer Book 2017
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