Ron Reizner and Susan Hahn-Reizner spend their days with the whistle of the 'L' and the melody of nearby chimes as they work in their shop along the cobblestone street of Glenwood Avenue.
“There is something that is almost magical about this whole area… You can be transported on just this little stretch of Glenwood,” Susan says.
Ron and Susan cherish old stories, thrive with new experiences, and believe in a path of exploration in finding your roots. They have rejuvenated their daily lives, and established a new direction with their shop, Armilla.
An armilla has always been used in direction and discovery. It is a celestial globe of metal hoops that early astronomers used to determine the arrangement of the stars. An armillary sphere models objects in the sky with rings that revolve around the earth. This celestial map has been adapted throughout history in various parts of the world.
Ron and Susan envisioned an armilla to illustrate their shop’s mission and tagline: a voyage home.
For them, this voyage has led to an unexpected home in Rogers Park.
Since its opening in October, Armilla has gained feedback from many of its Rogers Park neighbors. Ron and Susan feel that the neighbors seem to consider a new place as a lasting addition to the community, and they consistently stop in to share their ideas for the business’s highest potential.
Neighbors adopt new businesses into their lifestyles, and consider them to be woven into the neighborhood at their doors’ first opening.
“Beyond the creative, there is almost a fierce engagement in the community… It occurred to us that we made a conscious choice to be in an arts community, and it felt like a good mix for us,” Susan says.
Ron and Susan jumped right into this arts community with a form of art in vintage and repurposing this block hasn’t experienced.
Trinkets and treasures are dispersed throughout the store. Keepsakes are spread along with chairs, chests. There is even a bike on the wall, a light fixture made from a jeep’s grill and a festive bottle tree in the corner.
They have filled the light, airy, intimate space of 6928 N. Glenwood Ave. with items they have purchased, then fixed, played with, repurposed or upscaled.
They even upscaled the chair I sat on while interviewing them. Ron told me that the beautiful, dark wooden chair was originally covered in horrible velvet upholstery when he bought it. The bones of the chair were strong, so Ron and Susan let the bones’ beauty show by stripping the chair, preserving its wood, and made the chair useful.
The duo just wanted to liven the chair up. “You can either approach a chair as something, like you’re going to a museum, and it’s sacred. Ron and I looked at this and said, ‘It’s uncomfortable to sit on. It’s ugly. The upholstery’s horrid. It looks like it came out of a funeral parlor.’ [We thought] let’s hang onto the parts worth keeping. Let’s fix the parts we can. Let’s make it functional,” Susan says.
Ron and Susan aim to make their items highly functional, livable and suitable for any customer. They said that If a child comes in to find for something for mothers’ day, he will find something in his price range.
The shop is not a museum of objects that are untouchable, but the objects are curated and displayed in an artistic form. Ron and Susan use their space, floor to ceiling without cluttering it. Everything fits, nothing seems out of place.
“Every shop is going to have its own personality. It’s going to reflect who we are and what our approach is. How do we feel about this stuff? What do we want to project? And, what do we want to pass on to our customers?” Susan says.
Ron and Susan’s personalities are shown through their many stories, both personal experiences and narratives of the pieces in the shop.
Ron’s passion for vintage and repurposing began when he was 13 years old. His family was opening a nursing home, and when they were cleaning out the building, Ron found a life-size bust of a Grecian female warrior.
“It looks just like Susan’s face. It’s really wild,” Ron says.
If Ron could carry the marble bust down all the flights of stairs, his uncle said could keep it. He won the deal and then found a four foot pedestal to mount it on. The bust sits on the pedestal in Ron and Susan’s dining room to this day.
Ron has always appreciated the beauty and potential of things, and he has a strong grounding from his past that he has consistently nurtured and shared.
No item in Armilla is just a thing. Every piece is a story. There is a certain romance and charm to everything.
Ron and Susan are contributing to an already present strength in the neighborhood. They support a quality every community needs- an old-time friendliness and a genuine interest in customers and neighbors.
“The feeling of this neighborhood is back. It’s not that it’s gentrified- it’s not, because the people who live here are staying here. The artists who live here want to be here because they’re part of this neighborhood,” Ron says. “It’s like being in an old town in the 1960s where there were all sorts of artists and wonderful shops and a vibrance in the community.”
Just as Ron and Susan preserve and strengthen their merchandise in their business, they recognize the importance of sustaining the charisma of the neighborhood, and they are doing just that with their collection of stories along the cobblestone path of Glenwood.