Meet Your Merchant: Elegant Salvage adds character, color to grandma’s furniture
Repurposed furniture, antiques and home decor
16282 Mt. Olive Rd., Chicago Park
Growing up with very little money, Jeri Dean learned a lot about repurposing and recycling household items before it was a cool thing to do — whether repainting an old bookshelf, repairing a broken chair, building cinder block bookshelves.
Although the practice was born out of necessity, she grew to love it. Add a splash of color to a boring piece of garage sale furniture, and suddenly it “pops.”
So when her six children finally grew up and started families of their own, Dean was ready for a new creative venture. She and her husband Ron bought an early 1900s fruit packing shed in Chicago Park and refurbished it.
She had a vision of filling the 4,000 square foot historic building with furniture, antiques and home décor repurposed by herself and local vendors.
“I said to my husband, ‘Can I try this?’” said Dean, with a laugh. “He said, ‘Go ahead and try.’ Neither of us had any idea if it would pan out.”
In July of 2013, Dean opened the doors of Elegant Salvage on Mt. Olive Road, across from the Chicago Park post office.
By the end of the first month, Dean knew she’d made the right decision. With the motto “Repurpose, recycle, relove,” she quickly began attracting vendors who wanted to feature their work at her shop. Today, she works with more than 40 vendors and artists — not to mention adding her own work to the expansive retail floor.
“As you walk through the store, you’ll see different ‘vignettes,’ which appeal to a variety of tastes,” said Dean. “My vendors come from all walks of life, from an 80-year-old veteran to a young mom. And I’m always on the hunt for great pieces with character so I can keep prices down. My vendors come in daily. I’m very picky, but if someone amazing comes in, I’ll squeeze them in.”
If you “trend up” grandma’s old hutch with a coat of turquoise paint, suddenly the grandkids want it, she said. And for the do-it-yourselfers, Dean carries a full line of furniture paint.
Elegant Salvage is not just for women, stressed Dean. In fact, she recounts an almost-daily scenario.
“First, the wife comes in while the husband waits in the car,” she said. “Pretty soon the wife realizes that the husband would love the store too, so she goes out on the porch and yells, ‘Honey! Come in!’”
“People come down here and never want to leave,” said regular customer Zack Bennett, who actually asked Dean to help decorate his house. “Then customers keep coming back and pretty soon they’re Jeri’s friend. She’s wonderful — just don’t go to the flea market with her.”
Word of mouth has been Elegant Salvage’s biggest advertiser, said Dean, because she has put a lot of effort into catering to a variety of tastes.
“Vendors are bringing in new things every day, and they’re gorgeous, well-built, repurposed, affordable pieces that last,” said Dean. “And I love doing my own projects and learning new techniques. I’ve always been artsy-fartsy — it’s no wonder I love what I do.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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