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Paczki Day, Part II

First, you’d best get over to 1730 Outlet early today if you’d like free paczki! The world has gone paczki crazy!

1730 W. Wrightwood, Chicago, 60614. Entrance to the outlet is around to the right (east).

I ordered paczki for our outlet customers last Friday, calling Dinkels ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to wait to pick them up. HA HA!

The first sign of trouble was plainly visible when I pulled into a no parking zone across Lincoln Avenue from Dinkels at 7:50AM. Vehicles of all descriptions were lined up on both sides of the street with their emergency flashers on. I looked in the bakery’s windows to get some idea of how crowded it was inside. All I could see was a huge amorphous shadow filling the storefront, moving sluggishly in no particular direction.

But I ordered ahead! I should be able to walk right up to the counter and pick up our paczki! HA HA HA!

I turned on my emergency flashers hoping there was some kind of Paczki Day moratoreum on parking tickets being issued near bakeries. I hopped out of the car and crossed the street.

The door wouldn’t immediately open because of customers filling the store to its capacity, and then some. Then a couple of people smiled and edged away so I could squeeze into the store. I reached for a pink numbered slip drooping out of the “Please Take a Number” machine.

“Won’t do you any good,” said a young man in a black North Face jacket.

“What if I pre-ordered?”

“That line is the outer line, which ends somewhere way back there.” He pointed toward the far, rear corner of the bakery. “The inner line is for walk-ins.” The two lines formed concentric amoebas.  I shrugged and thanked the young man.  Resigned to my fate, I made my way to where the end of the line was rumored to be.

A kind young woman standing in the far corner where the two main display cases meet confirmed that she was indeed the end of the line. (She took the above photo and emailed it to me, so that’s an actual view of Paczki Day at Dinkels, 2012!) As we moved forward, the wonderful fresh-baked pastry aroma filling the store and heightening our anticipation of paczki to come, we all got to know each other pretty well. The young woman ahead of me began to cheerfully help bewildered newcomers.

A young man wearing a striped Blackhawks stocking cap entered.

“Did you pre-order?” she asked.

“No.”

“Your line ends right there.”

A young woman in a ponytail entered.

“Your line ends with the guy wearing the striped stocking cap.”

Another black North Face jacket entered.  By this time we were near the door, so we began holding it open both for new customers edging their way in, and for paczki-laden patrons trying to make their way out.

“Your line ends with the woman in the ponytail.”

“They should put you on the payroll!” I offered.

“I’ll take payment in paczki! They should be handing them out! Or I could shoot them out of a teeshirt gun like they do at the United Center!”

Yet another North Face jacket entered and stopped. “Holy moley!  I ain’t going through this!” He turned to go.

“Come on in and join the party,” we urged.  “Beats going to work!” He changed his mind and started toward the rear of the store.  “Your line ends with the guy in the Fedora and the North Face jacket.”

Spirits were high in general with the paczki humor flying freely, except for one woman dressed in a red coat who took it upon herself to redeploy Dinkels personnel. She didn’t think her line, whichever one it was, was moving quickly enough.

The kind young woman and I finally made it to the front at about the same time. She confided that she hoped she would get a seat on the “L”.

“How far do you have to go?”

“The Loop,” she said.

Wo!

I hope she got a seat, too!  She earned it.

But it was all worth it. 

So drop everything and head to 1730 W. Wrightwood right now! (10:30 Tuesday morning) because our paczki are fresh and waiting for you!

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Happy Paczki Day! Join us for a yummy treat at the store …

I was born and raised in Chicago. During my youth the city had the second largest Polish population in the world (after Warsaw), but until last week I had never heard of Paczki Day! How is this possible?

I don’t know. But perhaps you’re in the same boat? Stop by the store on Tuesday and taste what Paczki Day is all about!

Here’s what I’ve learned. Paczki (pronounced “punch-key”) Day is a pre-Lenten celebration created in Poland to clean out the larder in preparation for the Lenten fasting required by the Catholic Church. In Poland it is celebrated on Fat Thursday, the week before Ash Wednesday. Americans of Polish descent, however, celebrate it on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, just like Mardi Gras or Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

Central to the fun is this little treat …

Fried Dough Around the World” photo

Paczki are deep fried rolls made of  yeast dough and filled with fruit preserves such as strawberry, raspberry, prune, apricot, or even sweet cheese. The outside is dusted with sugar.

We’re serving them FREE at 1730 Outlet on Paczki Day, Tuesday, February 21.  And we’re getting them from Dinkels, an authentic European bakery right here in the neighborhood on Lincoln Avenue.  Okay, Dinkels isn’t a Polish bakery, but it’s one of the best bakeries in the city and I have it on good authority that the paczki are the real thing.

Stop by and have one, but come early because we figure they’ll go fast. While you’re there, check out what’s on sale for wholesale or less in our store, and be sure to visit our furniture showroom.

1730 Outlet . 1730 W. Wrightwood . Chicago. Mon-Fri 10-6 . Sat 10-5 .

Here’s a related story told many years ago by my Chicago History professor at Circle (now University of Illinois at Chicago, which shows you how long ago I graduated!).

Back at the turn of the 19th century an Asian gentleman immigrated to the United States and settled on Chicago’s West Side near the intersection of Ashland, Division and Milwaukee. He wanted very badly to become a citizen and so worked hard to immerse himself in the language so he could some day go downtown to city hall and understand the applications and forms. He kept close to home, depending on his neighbors to help him. Two years later he was convinced that he could speak well enough to venture out so he hopped on a streetcar and road to city hall where he asked to be directed to the office where he could apply for citizenship.  No one understood him because he was speaking Polish.

A fun little anecdote to illustrate the rich ethnic diversity that defined, and to a large degree still defines, Chicago.

Happy Paczki Day, everyone! I’ll be at the store on Tuesday chowing down on paczki.  Hope to see you there!

The Year of the Owl

No, it’s not The Year of the Owl in China.  The Year of the Dragon just began there. 

Nor do I refer to Temple University where (shameless blogger bragging to follow) daughter of blogger recently graduated in only 3 1/2 years!

However, if the Temple University Owls continue winning basketball games, it could very well be the Year of the Owls, plural.

But what I’m talking about here is the current crazy popularity of the owl in American culture.

We just finished a round of trade shows from coast to coast. Your 1730 blogger visited Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago (at the Merchandise Mart – a building featuring Northwestern Terra Cotta decorations probably fired in our building!!), and New York. While visiting our booth at the Javits Center in New York, a journalist friend chatted about what she had seen on display at the show.

“Owls,” she said.  “They are everywhere. What’s going on?”

“We have lots of owls,” I replied.

“Why?”

“People like them.”

“I never would have thought of writing an article about owls, but I’m going to have to.”

Not too many minutes later, an old friend from York, Pennsylvania, whom I hadn’t seen in over three years, tapped me on the shoulder. After exchanging pleasantries I looked at her badge.  She owns a store called The Gardener of the Owl Valley. Here’s her logo:

Last week we had a meeting to discuss our website www.tag2u.com.  Top selling items were listed. And what do you think was at the top of the list?

You guessed it!  Owls. You can see them by clicking here and typing “owl” in the search window.

Yesterday we had an operations meeting.  Our heads of accounting and customer service mentioned that they had been chatting about owls a couple of days ago!

A lively debate ensued about the true popularity of owls. On the one hand, sales figures don’t lie. But on the other hand … owls? Who knew?

I decided to do a little scientific research by using the world’s favorite marketing research tool (besides Wikipedia) — GOOGLE! 

I pit owls against dogs and cats, using the terms “… lovers gifts” because if I used just the animals’ names I would get all kinds of dog collars and cat playthings that are considered gifts for the pets themselves.  I wanted to quantify those looking for gifts whose design themes are based on the three animals.  Here are the results:

Cat lovers gifts:  1,960,000 Google links

Dog lovers gifts:  3,140,000 Google links

Owl lovers gifts:  8,940,000!!!

It wasn’t even close! Owls rule!

As the week progressed, and our crew had time to contemplate the higher meaning of it all, the puns began.

“What a hoot!”

“Owl bet you never never thought owls could be so popular!”

“Woo hoo hoo!”

“You’re going out on a limb with that analysis!”

“You’re so very wise … and old …”

“Owl! That hurt!”

I began to wonder just how far you could take owl punning. So, of course, I googled “owl puns.”

150,000 results! Try it!

In the meantime, be sure to catch some owls at 1730 Outlet, 1730 W. Wrightwood, Chicago. Mon-Fri 10-6. Sat 10-5.

Owl see you there …

Green in Dallas

Why was I wearing a suit and tie in Dallas?  We NEVER wear suits and ties.

I sat in the lobby of the Anatole Hilton, dwarfed by the huge expanse of a vaulted atrium the size of a hockey arena, wearing my black suit and favorite navy blue tie with the little wobbly gold squares. 

In walked two fellow employees. They wore suits and ties, too. We don’t wear suits well. We looked like three representatives of the “Outfit,” in town for no good reason and up to no good.

Used to be members of the trade wore their Sunday best to the gift and tabletop shows.  New ties every day.  You packed three or more suits, plus an appropriate blazer-slacks combo. Not any more. Trade shows are so casual these days that if you wear a suit and tie folks may think you’re dressing for your own funeral.

But last Saturday evening, we buffed and fluffed and relearned how to tie a tie for a very good reason. tag had been nominated for a manufacturers’ award by an organization called ARTS.  The ARTS Awards, presented each January during the Dallas Gift Market, is the premier awards program for the decorative accessory industry — the Academy Awards of our business… or at least the Golden Globes because we all sat at tables.

Forty-five manufacturers were eligible for the “Green Award,” presented to the company that best demonstrates the innovative use of green/sustainable materials, and green initiatives – best practices actively involved in, including reducing the company’s carbon footprint, and manufacturing and design policies that encourage handcraft skills; maintain local, artisan-based production; and preserve cultural traditions.

So we sat and waited. There were lots of awards presented before it came time for the Green Award. And when tag was named we were speachless! Well, not really. One of our group walked proudly up to the stage and accepted on behalf of everyone at tag.

It was fun to win. It’s great to be acknowledged for our Green products and policies.

Want to see our Green products? Visit our store and you’ll see all kinds of items crafted of renewable materials using eco-friendly production methods.

Or visit our website:  www.tag2u.com

1730 Outlet.  1730 W. Wrightwood, Chicago, 60614.  Mon-Fri 10-6. Saturday 10-5.

Impression – 1730

So I’m in our 1730 Outlet store to take a picture and here’s what I get:

I think to myself, “WO!  You need a tripod!”  And just as I’m about to delete it, I think, I’ll keep it because there’s something I kinda like about it.  You know, a kind of impressionistic explosion of color? 

Okay.  Maybe not.  People want to see something like that, there’re over 30 Impressionist masterpieces by Claude Monet alone at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Here’s what I was trying to shoot …

… to show everyone that 1730 Outlet is ready for Valentine’s Day!  We’re ready for Easter, too.

1730 Outlet at 1730 W. Wrightwood.  Open 10-6 Mon-Fri.  10-5 on Saturday.  Closed Sunday. 773-871-4331.

Don’t forget our cool website:  www.tag2u.com

 

 

 

 

Tut tut … it’s not who you think!

Take a look at this face. Recognize him?

An Egytian statue from the Valley of the Kings? 

No.  He’s from Chicago.

An artifact in the Field Museum of Natural History?

No.

He’s in an exhibit at the Art Institute?

No. Give up?

Yes, and what does he have to do with 1730 Outlet?

He was born here.

Wha??

Here’s a more complete picture of him:

He lives, with his twin brother, at Reebie Brothers Moving and Storage, 2325 N. Clark, Chicago. He’s made of, you guessed it, terra cotta and was designed, formed and fired by Northwestern Terra Cotta, 1730 W. Wrightwood, circa 1921.  In fact, when he looked like this, downstairs from my office about 90 years ago …

(photograph courtesy Chicago History Museum)

he stood patiently waiting to be decorated and then sent throught the kiln that is now our furniture store. 

The twin Reebie sentries, based on ancient Egyptian statues of Pharoah Ramses II (died 1213 BC), stand guard over the landmark building’s entrance:

Take a look at the colorful decorative tiles and ornamental relief. It’s all Northwestern terra cotta.

Here’s a shot of Northwestern Terra Cotta workers glazing similar pieces in the factory around the time Reebie Brothers Storage was built: 

 

(photograph courtesy Chicago History Museum)

See those pipes mounted on the wall? They’re still here, and still used to help heat the building.

If you’d like to learn more about the Reebie Storage building and its landmark status, click here for an excellent, very brief YouTube video produced by Chicago Works in their Great Chicago Buildings series.

And if you’re interested in more about 1730 Outlet, stop on by!  We’re at 1730 W. Wrightwood in Chicago and we’re open from 10:00 to 6:00, Saturdays 10:00 to 5:00. 

Furniture, home decor and lots more, at 50% to 80% off.

And be sure to check out the new spring look at tag2u.com. It’s bright, pretty and fun!

1730 and the Bears!

First, Happy New Year everyone!

If you’re still shopping, 1730 Outlet is open until 3pm New Year’s Eve (closed New Year’s Day and January 2), with lots of great holiday decorations like these …

… at up to 80% off!  We’re at 1730 W. Wrightwood in Chicago, just east of Clybourn.

But what does this have to do with the Bears??

So I’m driving in the neighborhood here, on one of the streets very near 1730 Outlet, when I see a BIG guy getting out of an SUV parked in front of a BIG house.  He looks very familiar.

When I get home I tell my wife about it, saying, “I think he’s on the Bears but I’m not sure because they wear helmets.”

Three days later my wife is with me as we approach the same house.  “Right up there,” I say, pointing.  “He was standing at the curb right in front of … THERE HE IS AGAIN!”  Sure enough, the big guy, this time wearing a Chicago Bears stocking cap, is stepping out of the same SUV.  He looks up and sees us approaching and probably notices my eyes growing as big as bowling balls and my free hand gesturing wildly (I keep a hand on the wheel and am NOT unduly distracted, I promise), because he smiles slightly.  Then we’re past him.

“Oh my!” says my wife.  “He is totally familiar.  For sure.”

“But which Bear is he?”

“You’re asking me??” she laughs.  “I wouldn’t recognize George Halas if I ran into him.”

“He died a while back.”

“So I guess I won’t run into him.”

The next Sunday we’re watching the Bears.  There’s a shot of the sidelines, and there he is!  Wearing the same Bears stocking cap! 

“That’s him.” says my wife.

“It’s Matt Forte, and we know where he lives!” 

“Like Ted Lilly.”

“He moved to Los Angeles a while back.”

“Oh yeah.”

Back at work on Monday, I tell a fellow employee about it.  He mentions that Cub pitcher (maybe) Carlos Zambrano lives in the neighborhood, too.  And several other Cubs and maybe Sox and other stars.

Cool, huh? … our old, historic terra cotta factory headquarters sitting among so many famous athletes, and maybe other famous people.  A few decades ago the whole neighborhood consisted mainly of factories.  Here’s an arial view from the 1920’s.  Can you spot our building?

Can’t find it?  Let’s zoom in a little …

It’s the building with the water tank on the roof. I’m sitting there now! But these shots (courtesy Chicago History Museum) were taken not long after our building was constructed by the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company.

Today it’s a nice Lincoln Park neighborhood.  Matt Forte’s house’s site is visible above, but I’m not saying where. All I’m saying is look for him next time you head down to 1730 Outlet.  Like today or tomorrow.

You think maybe Matt Forte shops at our Outlet? He might. He could walk here … or run!

(Don’t forget to visit our website.  Click here.)