BY MEG MATHIS | July 15, 2013 | People
Sally Schwartz dines at NoMI Garden in the outdoor patio.
Sally Schwartz toasts the 10-year success of Randolph Street Market.
NoMI's Fortune Teller features vodka, Lillet Rose, strawberry, and mint.
She's a huge fan of NoMI's fresh oysters.
When it comes to masters of reinvention, Sally Schwartz is as fabulous as they come: The former event planner cofounded Chicago Antique Market in 2003 as a one-day, six-times-a-year sale; she then went solo and rebranded the event Randolph Street Market as a weekend-long celebration that has become one of the city’s top showcases for vintage furnishings, clothing, jewelry, and collectibles. We met up with the style maven over Par Avión cocktails at NoMI Garden to celebrate a decade of unearthing treasures in the West Loop and learn what she’s looking for this summer and beyond.
We couldn’t have chosen a better place!
SALLY SCHWARTZ: It’s a phenomenal view, and it’s just the best Michigan Avenue spot. I’ve been coming to NoMI since it opened; I bring people here from out of town, and my mother loves to come in from the suburbs. This is where she loves to be. It’s breathtaking.
When was the last time you came to NoMI?
SS: October—which seems like it was just yesterday—for my mom’s birthday.
Did you have a special dinner?
SS: We decided to do lunch with my mom, my cousin, my sister-in-law, my aunt, and a couple of my mom’s girlfriends.
That sounds fun. What do you love about NoMI’s menu?
SS: God, I love the sushi—love the sushi. I love how fresh and delicious it is. They also have really good soups. Their bread is delicious. They also do a really great scrambled-egg-omelet thing, and I love to come for cocktails.
Do you tend to go for a certain drink?
SS: Bourbon and water is very nice! Whatever I do really seems great at the time. I love to sit in NoMI’s bar and drink Champagne. It’s just a great place to stop before shopping, after shopping.... So, I actually was here more recently than October, but I was in the bar. I had a friend in from California, and we went to see the I Love Lucy revue, which was so much fun, and we came up here and had drinks, which was great. [Cocktails are served]
Cheers! Here’s to 10 years of Randolph Street Market.
SS: Thank you. It’s so much fun—almost bizarre. The whole thing just strikes me as, “I can’t even believe I did this.” Nobody can.
So how did you do it?
SS: I started an event planning company in 1985, and I really hit the go-go ’80s. People were going crazy; it was about excessive displays of wealth. Then the ’90s hit, and I started doing serious events around the country for Hewlett-Packard and General Motors. I was really a big shot—and then my marriage fell apart. When you go through a divorce, you reevaluate everything. I’ve always loved antiquing, and I wanted my own thing. I didn’t want clients; I didn’t want to wait for somebody to hire me to do a party for them.
It seems like such a natural fit for you to have created Randolph Street Market with your event background.
SS: I think of [the market] like a big seating chart, and I create pockets of energy with different vendors. It’s like this family that comes together once a month, and I know who the troublemakers are.... I also look at the merchandise: “What’s going to look good next to this?”
With a shopping obsession, it could be a dangerous job.
SS: It is! The problem is, the minute I start walking around and pulling out my checkbook, [the vendors] all want me to buy from them. And I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
How do you avoid the temptation?
SS: Well, items go fast. People are buying from shoppers of the last generation who wore stuff once, but bought 35 pairs of a Ferragamo shoe—those who really spent money shopping didn’t wear stuff more than once. I have so much appreciation for my vendors because they’re the ones schmoozing the little old ladies. They’ve built all this trust.
What’s your favorite vintage find?
SS: I have a wonderful Norma Kamali sweater coat that has all these giant iridescent, pearl-essence discs. It is so cool. It makes noise, it’s really shiny and shimmery, and I feel like a slippery pearl. It would go well with the oysters. [Eating oyster] Down the hatch! Oysters really seem kind of gnarly [in general], but these are good. It’s very, very fresh. But that’s what I love about NoMI.
What’s in store for the market this summer?
SS: I’m trying to create more of a cruise ship atmosphere. I want people to feel like they can stay for the whole weekend. We have massage therapists, a beer garden, more lounges for people to hang out....
Where do you see the market going in the next 10 years?
SS: I’d like to take it on the road—take the best of Randolph Street to other markets across the US.
If you could go back and tell Sally one thing that you’ve learned over the past decade, what would it be?
SS: I would tell her to have more fun—but I think I’ve had a lot of fun!
PHotography by Nathan kirkman