Sugarcup Trading: By the Children, For the Children

Bringing Brands With Messages, Merchandise with Meaning to Oak Park

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By Christina Pippin

Local Shopping & Fashion Blogger

For my first blog post, I was excited to cover the opening of Oak Park’s newest retailer, Sugarcup Trading, at 110 N. Marion Street, for two reasons specifically. I love all things green (sustainable living, not the color), and I had read that Sugarcup would carry an amazing assortment of eco-friendly products.

I had planned on Mondays being Green Days here on the Shopping Blog: this means I will bring you all things eco-friendly, organic, repurposed, and restored; SCT fits right into my plan, and I do love when a plan comes together! The second reason is that I love children, hence shopping for children follows suit, but I often felt my options were limited when hunting and gathering fun, unique gifts.

I visited Sugarcup Trading with high hopes and was not disappointed. This shopping experience will certainly surprise you, and not simply because they have bookmarks made of elephant poop. Really? Yes, anything can be recycled, I learned.

From the charming, antique displays, to the whimsical wall art by local artist Karen Light, Sugarcup Trading’s milieu is unlike any other children’s boutique I’ve experienced. Michelle Vanderlaan, the founder and the mind behind the magic, describes the shop’s décor as urban vintage, reminiscent of New York’s Soho and Paris’ Left Bank shops. Julie McBroom, Michelle’s partner in crime, researches the brands to be sure all products align with their mission to carry organic, fair trade, recycled, eco-friendly or “just-plain-cool” items.

“Every brand has a story,” declares Michelle smiling, her passion for each product palpable. Together, Michelle and Julie have managed to amass an array of hip and fun clothes, toys, games and collectibles from around the world, including France, Spain, and Australia, some being sold in the U.S. for the very first time.

First time customer, Chris Nolan, a mother of four and Oak Park resident, was clearly impressed: “The clothes are well-designed and unique. The toys are interesting. It is a beautiful store.”

Present was an unexpected assemblage of young professionals, none of them beyond ten years of age, a group of children welcoming customers, tidying the store, answering questions, rather articulately I might add: all were members of a kids advisory team brought together for the purpose of incorporating children’s feedback in key decisions such as concept direction, space design, and inventory selection.

Jef Anderson, a graphic designer and Oak Park resident shopping for a gift, believes they have succeeded in creating an “interactive, cutting edge, design-conscious shop.” He shared, “This is something [Oak Park] needed.” He left with a pair of newborn booties in hand, just in time for a baby shower.

The shop has a rare trading component, encouraging kids to trade their “previously treasured” goodies that appear on the trade roster for Sugarcup points, which can be used to purchase store items. While I was there, six-year-old Margo Sloan carried in gently used dresses and puzzles to exchange, but hadn’t decided if she was going to spend or save her points.

Chatting with the members of the advisory team, PJ, 10; Olivia, 10; Grant, 10; Beau, 7; Lauren, 10; and Michael, 8, I asked them to explain the trading concept. The level of sophistication and understanding that they displayed was impressive: they truly embrace the recycling concept. PJ explained, “It’s cool that the clothes are recycled, and they look good.” I noticed a wide-eyed little girl asking to become a Sugarcup ambassador, clearly lured by the leadership and decision-making role.

Sugarcup Trading aspires to be a place where kids and adults "embark on an interactive, new way to shop, a journey. It might be just the ticket to a valuable and adventurous experience.” Where’s my ticket? I’m ready to board.


Sugarcup Trading Company

110 N. Marion St.

Oak Park, IL 60301

Reader Comments

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Sue from Fox River Grove  

Posted: November 10th, 2010 1:59 PM

Thanks for the great information Christina.What a great concept and a great article. I am excited to visit soon.You have provided so much information which makes me know it will be worth the trip.

Jenna from Forest Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2010 11:19 AM

Looking forward to checking it out. I am always clueless as to where to go for unique gifts for kids. Great first blog!

Steve from Oak Park  

Posted: November 9th, 2010 7:18 PM

With Christmas coming up, this is a store I will definitely visit. I live in Oak Park and I am always looking for new stores and for eco-friendly items. Thanks for helping me find both (and for the great photos!) Congratulations on the new blog (I have just bookmarked it,) I wish you continuing luck and I look forward to reading more!

Hewa from Pittsburgh  

Posted: November 9th, 2010 7:24 AM

Congratulations, Christina. I loved the article, it took me away from suburban Pittsburgh(for a while anyway)and brought me back home. Sugarcup sounds like a really nice place to do some thoughtful shopping. Kids, have such wonderful insights. Keep up the great work!

Ralph from Plainfield  

Posted: November 8th, 2010 6:07 PM

Christina, the article was very interesting of a new concept and the interest to check the place out. Oak Park has always had a spot for the small one of a kind shop and if we truly re-cycle places like this and interest in the young people will grow. Great Job!

Eden from Oak Park  

Posted: November 8th, 2010 1:01 PM

Sounds wonderful! I met the owner a while ago prior to her opening the store and loved the trading concept. While I don't have small children at home anymore, I certainly have nieces and nephews and look forward to exploring! Thanks for the info Christina!

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