Michigan Avenue getting 2 more cultural pop-ups

The temporary shops occupy the ground floor of the Wrigley Building just north of the Chicago River, with plans to close at the end of the holiday season, according to World Business Chicago, a public-private economic development organization.

North Michigan Avenue, the city’s most important shopping district, needs whatever help it can get these days after a wave of store closings that accelerated during the pandemic. After the departures of Macy’s, Gap, Uniqlo, Timberland and other retailers, the Mag Mile’s vacancy rate is pushing 30%. In another sign of the boulevard’s struggles, the owner of the Water Tower Place mall at its north end relinquished the property to its lender earlier this year.

But World Business Chicago was so encouraged by its experiment with Colores Mexicanos that it decided to expand what it calls its “cultural showcase program.” The Mexican shop, at 605 N. Michigan Ave., opened as a pop-up last year but performed well enough that it’s still open after extending its lease. In addition to selling handmade clothing and other goods, the store hosts events like mezcal tastings, art exhibitions and soccer viewing parties.

“The mission for each showcase is to transform a vacant downtown storefront and promote small, local businesses—offering visitors and patrons enriching, immersive cultural experiences and great gift shopping,” World Business Chicago said in a statement.

Before opening Colores Mexicanos, co-founders Erika and Leticia Espinosa, two sisters who immigrated to the US from Mexico in the early 2000s, sold Mexican crafts at Chicago festivals and on the street and ran a shop at a Little Village mall. They teamed up on the Mag Mile store with Gabriel Neely-Streit, a writer who had worked with Leticia Espinosa at Hoy, a former Spanish language newspaper.

World Business Chicago initially covered a portion of the store’s rent but isn’t anymore, according to a spokesman for the agency. The organization is using federal COVID-19 relief funds to cover rent, utilities and store construction costs for the two new stores, the Argentine Connection and Nordic House.

The Argentine Connection, at 410 N. Michigan Ave., and Nordic House, at 400 N. Michigan Ave., feature handmade art, décor, jewelry and other merchandise showcasing the culture and traditions of Argentina and the countries of Denmark, Finland, Sweden , Iceland and Norway.

The story has been corrected to show that the Argentine Collection and Nordic House are open.