This week, Laura and Heather are joined by Winifred Gundeck, owner of Winifred Grace. Winifred Grace is a lifestyle boutique featuring handmade jewelry, apparel, vintage goods and home accessories and has recently just moved south a couple doors to 5632 N. Clark.
“Chicago is just so awesome, and particularly our neighborhood. I love it so much, it’s such a great village and I’m REALLY excited we’re part of it and that my business is here. And our customers – they are just so nice. I feel really lucky.”
Listen to Episode 80 with Winnie Gundeck!
Here are some references from Episode 80 that you may want to check out:
- Winnie grew up in Miami, FL and Atlanta, GA and moved to Chicago in 2000. Her previous profession was in graphic design. She lives in Andersonville with her husband, 7 year old son Alex, and their dog.
- In 2003, Winifred Grace began as a jewelry line while still working in graphic design. She started by showing her work at small events, and then on to wholesaling, which she did for 11 years. She quit her graphic design job, and embarked on a new career where she participated in trade shows a year and sold to boutiques. Winnie began making the jewelry herself, and eventually grew to work with artisans who created pieces based on her designs.She loves the design process the most! Something unique they offered were custom stamped pendants, made to order within 30 minutes or less. (Which they still offer.)
- Finding a balance in her life between her business and family, Winnie decided to open her shop on Clark. She didn’t have any experience opening a business, but knew she had to take advantage of having a great busy street location.After a successful opening weekend, she knew she made the right decision. Daniel, owner of Roost, helped by suggesting they fill space with movable walls.
- A major highlight and achieved goal is that Winnie’s jewelry line was carried by Anthropologie, and was featured in the catalog and online. Anthropologie served as inspiration for Winnie, the layout, design, and especially the level of customer service their staff provides. In fact, she was so impressed with their staff that she saw and opportunity – and now one of them works with her at Winifred Grace.
- About 11 years ago, at her friend Jamie made a recommendation, Amanda. Winnie would create the prototype for orders, and Amanda would fill the rest. A little later, as volume grew, she found a workshop in a small town in Mexico that provides work for women by teaching them how to make jewelry, sell it, and in turn support their families. She contacted them, and sent off her basic drawings, which were then turned into beautiful pieces of jewelry. When packages arrived, it was better than she had ever imagined! They have been working together now for 7 years, and it transformed her business.
- Winifred Grace also carries other lines of jewelry, as she began to design less and expand her retail space more. She likes to focus on local designers – Morgan Reed, Le Kaiser (fine jewelry and every day pieces). Winnie sometimes chooses based on what she likes, but really focuses on what her customer likes. She pays attention to who shops there.
- Winnie shares that her customers are often practical, not cheap – but looks for value, and needs every day pieces to create a great wardrobe with a few special pieces. She is also acutely aware that providing apparel for people is deeply personal and acknowledges that as bodies change over time, it can be difficult to find clothing that not only fits well, but makes someone feel good.
- As a result, Winifred Grace offers free 1-hour styling sessions in the winter. These sessions are private, include “blind measurements” that aren’t shared with the customer, and research to help people find what kind of styles suit their body type the best.
- Similar to her clothing service, she offers home styling in the winter. Interior design comes naturally (which you can see in all her spaces!), and during last winter’s polar vortex, she had the idea to offer interior styling sessions. Her sessions are 3 hours, and she works with what you have. It’s a way to breathe new life into spaces. She loves discovering treasure that people already have, and incorporating them in a new way.
- Winnie has a great Instagram and amazing selfies! Follow @winifredgrace. She hates having her picture taken, but has learned from a social media consultant that when you (the business owner) are in the pictures, your followers engage so much more. So, she has worked at it and grown her following. She also learned that it’s important to make your online presence personal and share stories for people to connect with. It’s an extension of your store! She views that sharing content that is genuine and even imperfect, that is what people connect with. And, you’ll learn, it’s apparent from her posts that family is extremely important to her.
- Speaking of family, her father was a cautious but outgoing person, who once sold Apple computers door to door. Winnie adored her father, and wishes he could have seen her opening the business. Her mother has a Master’s in social work, has had her own practice, and is now in real estate (not so different from social work sometimes!) In particular, Winnie’s grandmother was truly an artist and inspiration, who always encouraged her to make things with her hands and be creative. Winnie always felt connected to her, and feels that she channels her style and persona.
- If there’s something Winnie could tell her 5-years-ago self it is that “Making mistakes and taking risks is part of living and growing. Don’t get too attached to things, and move on from them when they aren’t working.” And, it’s important to be able to say “I don’t know,” and “I need help.” She finds that being authentic and vulnerable to a certain degree, allows you to connect with people. Especially with staff! She also prides herself with being honest with people in a helpful way – a trait that serves well in retail.
- If Winnie could trade places with any other Andersonville business, it would be George’s Ice Cream or Norcross and Scott with Amanda. She loves the store, and she loves ice cream. She loves basic flavors, and her son loves anything with food coloring in it! Oh, and the toy store (Toys et Cetera) is amazing!
- “Chicago is just so awesome, and particularly our neighborhood. We (my family) do not have to get in the car! I walk to work. We eat in the neighborhood all the time – George’s, Alley Cat Comics, the bookstores (Uncharted, Women & Children First), Forever Yogurt, Octavio, Lady Gregory’s. I love it so much, it’s such a great village and I’m REALLY excited we’re part of it and that my business is here. And our customers – they are just so nice. I feel really lucky.”
Find Winifred Grace on the following platforms: