Browsing Bliss

May 2021 View more

Photo by Andrew Martinez

By Kelly Aiglon

For anyone who loves the thrill of the hunt, the new Painted Tree Marketplace ( in Naperville’s Westridge Court is quite the treasure chest. Take your time to crack it open—you’ve got six aisles to peruse, with surprises around every turn.

The store can be described as a vibrant year-round market. More than 200 local crafters, artists, and wholesale vendors have their own spaces, each with its own distinct vibe and flavor. Manager Michelle Iannotta likens it to a “live Etsy store.”

“Walk in any day and you’ll see vendors setting up or rearranging their spaces—it’s exciting to watch,” she says.

A lively mix
Because the merchandise changes so often, there isn’t a guide or map for shoppers. So with 20,000 square feet of territory to browse, you’ll want time to get to know the lay of the land.

“You’ll go home with a lot of design ideas,” she says. “Some vendors have set up vignette-style environments—like dining rooms complete with tables decorated with plates, napkins, and chargers. You can imagine your next dinner party.”

A recent exploration turned up everything from antique furniture to luxury bedding to handmade soap to artisan foodstuffs. At the Vintage Therapy space, a Louis XV armchair was up for grabs aside a rehabbed distressed-wood file cabinet. Down the aisle at the Chocolate Shoppe, allergy-friendly confections, like gluten- and dairy-free chocolates and caramels, tempt those with a sweet tooth.

On the homespun end of things, Oswego-based White Blossom Soaps is there with all-natural and handcrafted bath bombs, bar soaps, and diffusers. You may also recognize the local brick-and-mortar retailers at Painted Tree: the fashion-focused Karisma Boutique and fair-trade-oriented Ten Thousand Villages among them.

A fulfilling mission
Since Painted Tree launched—the first shop opened five years ago, and now there are 12 locations nationwide—it’s been about delighting shoppers. Beyond that, it’s given vendors and makers a dynamic and affordable place to find their spotlight. Entrepreneurs can run their own business here, without the costs and headaches of their own brick-and-mortar locations, says Iannotta.

“It can get really costly for a maker to have their own stand-alone shop—between two and four thousand dollars a month in rent, plus staff and utilities. Here, you get your own space and only have a six-month commitment.”

It’s clear that something very special is brewing at Painted Tree, and it’s up to the curious and adventurous to find it. “When someone walks in the door that hasn’t been here before,” says Iannotta. “Their eyes light up and they look left to right. We smile and say, ‘First time?’ ”