Brown is the New Green in Oak Park

Oh, the treasures you will find at the Brown Elephant!

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By Christina Pippin

Local Shopping & Fashion Blogger

After moving back to Illinois from out of state three years ago, I lacked certain necessities as I waited for my own furniture and personal belongings to be shipped to me, like say, a can opener. And blankets. Oh, and when I moved it seemed like such a good idea to donate my winter boots and my warmest winter coat; after all, I had taken a job in Arizona: I anticipated sunny days and blue skies ahead. I won’t need this anymore, I remember thinking to myself, discarding random possessions. However, after only one homesick year, I returned to Illinois, my heart full of glee, but my apartment devoid of some basics.

Cut to Harrison Street in the Harrison Arts District of Oak Park. Sometimes while shopping around town, I had seen a few people lined up, early morning, outside an establishment located around the corner from the Buzz Cafe. After seeing this a few times, I decided it was time to investigate. It turns out that there is a fantastic resale shop right here in town, the Brown Elephant (217 Harrison Street,) that people are really crazy about – so much so that sometimes a small group forms, laughing and chatting politely, outside the doors as they wait for the shop to open.

What’s inside? I had to know. You’ll be happy to hear the answer: it’s a bargain bonanza. I've been hooked ever since that first visit years ago. Maybe it was the upbeat music, or perhaps it was the sunshine spilling through the large windows, or it could be the knowledge that there's some rockin' recycling going on; whatever the reason, I like it here. Under new management, the store has never looked better. The store is tidy, the merchandise tantalizing, and the new staff congenial. You’ll find books organized neatly by category (many for $1 and less!) and an abundance of music to choose from (albums and CDs). And there are gobs of new and gently used clothes and shoes. I found the perfect pair of Nine West shoes for my dance class here for a mere $5!

I’m pretty sure my sleuthing skills fail me not when piecing together the real reason for the existence of that line that forms outside the doors (it’s twofold): they have some phenomenal furniture pieces at very reasonable prices. If you’ve just moved in or if you’re redecorating, this is the place to be. Most importantly, there’s a purpose to your purchase: the revenue generated by donations and purchases at the Brown Elephant Shops help fund services for the more than 50% of Howard Brown clients who are under- or uninsured. Now, those are just two of many great reasons to shop at the Brown Elephant.

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Nancy Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2010 11:01 AM

My husband practically haunts the book section there. He buys a book to read while he has a cup of coffee nearby.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2010 1:08 PM

I hang in the southeast corner looking at books while she browse. The Brown Elephant is always followed by coffee at the Eastgate.

Dan Haley from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2010 11:41 AM

This is a great store. Glad to hear the staff is now more "congenial." A few times when I've dropped off donations it felt like I was interrupting. This weekend, though, I'm heading over to try and buy a couch for my daughter's new basement TV cave.

Steve from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2010 6:07 PM

I have found great books at the Brown Elephant, like Melville for a dollar. It is always a fun place to visit, thanks for writing about it!

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