#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Notes from Episode 19 with Larry Vodak of Scout

In this week’s episode, Sara and Laura are joined by Larry Vodak, owner and shopkeeper of Scout, an urban furniture shop and design business located at 5221 N. Clark.  At Scout you will find vintage, reclaimed, repurposed furniture, and industrial accessories.  Visit often as the inventory rotates daily.

Larry Vodak and Sara Dinges in Transistor’s Studio C.

“Find your passion, and then figure out a way to make a living out of it”
– Larry Vodak

Listen to Episode 19 with Larry Vodak!

Here are some references from Episode 19 that you may want to check out:

  • Larry spent 26 years in the ad business, but as the tide shifted in marketing he decided it wasn’t for him anymore. He developed a passion for antiquing from his ex in-laws. They used to always say “let’s go scouting,” which Larry translated as antiquing.  That’s where Scout’s name originated.
  • Larry felt like Chicago needed a very curated, neighborhood antique store that was run by someone who really cared about it. Scout was opened 10 years ago by the “seat of my pants,” says Larry.
  • Andersonville is so special because there is a connection between the neighborhood and the businesses. “The folks that continue to be the backbone of our business are the ones within a 10 block radius,” says Larry, and Sara references the same type of comment from Episode 1 of the podcast with Michael Bransford of Vincent (1475 W Balmoral)
  • What is Retail Agglomeration? Larry references this theory in his interview. He realized that he would benefit if there were more home stores like him, near him. “When there are other entities in the area, you cannot afford to become loose in your position – Positioning is the art of sacrifice.”
  • “The Scout Look” is hard to define, but for example, taking a courthouse table out of its original setting is when it becomes truly special. He especially loves Remington Tables from libraries. The look is all about being complete and functional without being formal or fussy.
  • Larry has three recommendations from first time home decorators: Never bring anything into the home that you don’t love; instead of buying three medium pieces for a home, buy one very large statement piece, even a piece that is very tall; and good upholstery is key.  
  • Scout’s design services now represent 50% of the store’s revenue
  • Larry got started with interior design when he was approached by Anne Rashford from the Museum of Science and Industry to design the interior of their Smart Home with all vintage pieces, and he was asked to design the home for a second year in a row! He gives much credit to Anne for believing in him before he believed in himself.
Larry posing with a 110-year-old roll top desk. Photo from @scoutdesign

Larry posing with a 110-year-old roll top desk. Photo from @scoutdesign

“Don’t spend a day doing something you don’t love”
– Larry Vodak does not believe in retirement and fully anticipates working for the rest of his life.

  • Larry’s inspiration has come in many ways: from customers and from developers. One developer who had seen Larry’s work on the Smart home, asked him to redesign his dream home in Lincoln Park, which was covered in a Chicago Magazine feature! This project really set Scout on its trajectory of work. He is also inspired by artists, both furniture designers and visual artists.
Scout's shop interior. Photo from @scoutdesign

Scout’s shop interior. Photo from @scoutdesign

  • Larry has been a part of Andersonville Arts Week since the very beginning and he loves all of the events that are put on by the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce because they are so good for the neighborhood. He’s looking forward to participating in the event this year, September 12-16 and has a big kick-off party planned for Friday night on September 14. He’s also planning something special to incorporate the expanded forms of art again this year including culinary art.
  • Sara brings up a comment made from Hallie Borden, owner of Milk Handmade (5137 N Clark) in Episode 13 of the podcast, when she reflects on Larry telling her, “Enough! Open your doors already!” In this same sentimentality, Larry believes in getting to know all the shops in Andersonville, and he loves going into Andies (5253 N Clark), Transistor (5224 N Clark) Candyality (5225 N Clark), Tilly’s (5232 N Clark) and all the other shops around the neighborhood.  
  • He would like to trade places with the owners of Taste of Lebanon (1509 W Foster) for a day. He also would love to trade with Andersonville Wine and Spirits (5201 N Clark), Michael from Vincent, Tim and Bob at Brownstone Antiques (5234 N Clark), Susan at Tilly’s and Karin at the Swedish American Museum (5211 N Clark).
  • The next step is to evolve the brand of Scout. 
Scout storefront featuring artwork by Chuck Meyers, and artist Larry works with frequently. Photo from @scoutdesign.

Scout storefront featuring artwork by Chuck Meyers, and artist Larry works with frequently. Photo from @scoutdesign.

“Small retail has to become more experiential. We have to become the Floyd’s Barbershop of antique retail.”
-Larry Vodak

Scout will be participating in this weekend’s annual Andersonville Summer Sidewalk Sale! Join Larry and 30+ other businesses for outdoor sales on antiques, books, shoes, home decor, and more!

Visit Scout on the following platforms:
Online: scoutchicago.com (site under construction)
Instagram: @scoutdesign