Best shop that started in the back of a truck

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The cat sign on the window says it all. “I have two cats [Sweet Pea and Naomi] that I bring to the store when I’m there,” says Adrianne Hawthorne, 36, owner of Ponnopozz studio and store in Ravenswood (4839 N. Damen). “The store has a sign in the window indicating if a cat is inside and, if so, which one. Shoppers are always welcome to pet the kittens and socialize with them. Joy, kindness and genuine enthusiasm are at the heart Hawthorne’s business. And efficiency too. Besides running her shop (brick-and-mortar and online at ponnopozz.com), creating her art (which she sells on Ponnopozz and several resellers) and tirelessly promotes her business, Hawthorne also works full-time at Google as a user experience designer. “My Google work is remote and runs on Pacific Time, so I usually do Ponnopozz things in the morning and then log into my day job. Since I’m remote, I sometimes work from my studio. It’s hard on some days to juggle them, but overall it eases my anxiety knowing I have a steady paycheck and it gives me more space to play with Ponnopozz, where I go wild” No wonder Hawthorne named her shop after two imaginary friends she had as children, Ponno and Pozzer: “The name evokes the return to unbridled creativity that children feel,” says she.

Hawthorne’s journey from his job at Google in San Francisco – giving it his all, but feeling dissatisfied – to his return to Chicago – making art, but feeling anxious about his finances – to finally combining the two and finding a balance, is detailed in his blog, Reflections of Ponno. Available as a section in her online store, Hawthorne’s blog is filled with honesty about her personal and artistic growth, and great advice for artists trying to start or run a business. Vulnerability and generosity are evident in his reflections, present in his instagram posts as well. Hawthorne not only publicizes his own work; she often mentions other artists, designers, neighboring businesses and good causes. She also shares her storefront with artists and storytellers such as Sierra Carter and Kayla Mulliniks, who were looking for indoor space to house their You Are Here series. In the second iteration of its boutique, Hawthorne has more square footage to accommodate larger events, including its workshops.

Hawthorne’s proto-shop began in the summer of 2019 out of the back of a Penske truck decorated with polka dot balloons, a brightly colored oriental rug and lots of artwork throughout, with appetizers work and the help of her ever-supportive boyfriend, Seth Thomas. “I just thought of it out of nowhere,” she says. “I remember wanting to do another art show because I had a lot of paintings that needed a new home and I didn’t have a store yet. I didn’t want to exhibit in a gallery but wanted something small, interesting and easy. A moving truck seemed unexpected and fun. It kind of reminded me of the accessibility of food trucks and I generally thought that would be a good idea. It turned out to be a wonderful way to sell art. Lots of people stopped by, many out of the blue, and I felt (like just for a moment) like I owned my own shop. Shortly after that show, I finally signed a lease for my first space on Damen.

Last October, Ponnopozz moved just across the street, with additional space for Hawthorne’s art studio and even more of his well-curated inventory. The boutique is the perfect place for a shopping spree, as in addition to the pretty kittens, there is a cheerful effect provided by the exuberant decor of the boutique itself and all the colorful products it offers. Hawthorne sells candles ($20-$28), clothing ($30-$168), jewelry ($30-$50), stationery ($5-$40), pillows ($40) , puzzles ($20-$38), and other home decor items. It bears marks such as nooworks (Clothes), Parts (hair accessories), Baggu (bags), and Poketo (various). Local brands include K-Fleye jewelry, Nicolet candle, Edgewater Candles, House 184, vintage royalty, Lilla Barn Clothes, Halo Soap, Marshmallow XOand Drawn goods. Hawthorne favors gift items made locally or from small businesses. She also sells her own works of art: originals range from $40 to $475, and prints from $25 to $75. His work can also be seen on a large range of products and collaborationssuch as wrapping paper, cards, clothes, accessories, pillows, and now even the couches and one delivered which teaches readers how to paint tarot cards in his style (available for pre-order, $22.99). “I love seeing people experience joy in my shop,” says Hawthorne. “Ponnopozz is for all of us. It is a place where we can be ourselves.

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