When clientele step into El Anticuario on 18th Street, in the heart of Pilsen, their five senses are set in motion as they navigate a collection of memories: the smell of baked goods, jazz music blaring from the record player, an assortment of vintage postcards with photos of classic Hollywood films, antique dolls, and even the so-called ‘cemetery of books.’
At least, that is the mission of co-owner Francisco Orozco, when he began the family business with his daughter, Gibby, and wife Alex six years ago. Now, they are preparing for change.
Right outside the shop, at 1425 W. 18th St., residents have been seeing a public notice that has caused a bit of confusion and raised rumors over the possibility of El Anticuario closing down. One interpretation of the notice is that a make-up business will be replacing the antique shop.
The family denies this will happen anytime soon.
“People come in here all the time and ask about it,” Gibby said. “The door is always open.”
She said that the upcoming semi-permanent make-up business, or “brow laboratory,” has been in the works since the antique shop reopened after the pandemic. She noted that the new make-up business will work separately from the antique shop—it will be located behind the building, through a separate entrance, and run by a different owner.
She mentioned that she was curious as to what changes this new brow laboratory will add on, but mentioned that she “knows it’s all for good, because [they’re] different businesses.”
The listed owner of the new business, “J.Huerta,” could not be reached for comment.
One thing is for sure, Alex’s weekend tradition of baking goods for the shop, inspired by the recipes of the Mexican poet and scholar, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, will continue.
“I make goods at home for us to eat, but also for others to come and eat with us,” she said. “I’m always doing something different.”
The goal is to create organic conversations with their visitors, while enjoying the pastries. Alex works to diversify these recipes. “I’m always aspiring to make something different…to make something from Mexico, like Mexican wedding cookies.”
Alex says that clients bring a piece of their own culture to the shop as they get a taste of the family’s home and roots. The mom and co-owner of El Anticuario shares that the business unites people from all different backgrounds.
“They come from all over,” she said. “When they come here, they talk to us first to see if we are going to stay open… there are people that we’ve had as customers for years.”
She wants every single work day to be a beautiful day filled with hope. She says this hope derives from the opportunity of being able to share her love language: food, according to her daughter Gibby.
“We’ve been encouraging her that it’s her time to do something that she really loves to do,” Gibby says. “She loves to cook and she loves to bake.”
Gibby, a former teacher, says that prior to coming into the business full-time, her entire world revolved around teaching until the pandemic caused a shift.
This proud daughter of Mexican immigrants expressed that the business is a “connection to the outside world.”
But, it hasn’t always been smooth. The pandemic was a challenging time that left her whole family, “in limbo.”
“It was very strange for us as a family,” Gibby said. “It impacted us because we didn’t know what was happening[…] and so we’re kind of like, well, ‘do we stay? or ‘do we leave?’”
Gibby said that despite the bumps on the road, she always knew that the world for her and her family was their oyster.
The family ultimately decided to renew their lease and stay in Pilsen. “This is always home for us,” Gibby said.
Her father Francisco agrees. “It’s a concept made by the community for the community,” Francisco said. “We want them to come and enjoy an experience.”
The experience that arose from a hobby right before he married his wife, Alex Orozco. Alex says that her husband began collecting antique goods from local sales or even from items that were thrown out by other residents. This was something that deepened their connection as a couple altogether.
“He had his collection of antique items and I always liked knowing about the past,” Alex remarked.
For Alex, the shop opens up a gateway for people to get a sense of their family home.
While the family waits for this new business to open up, they say they hope more people come to the shop and become part of their community.
“It really is open for everyone and anybody and I just think my emphasis is that everyone feels the love,” Gibby says. “When you love the work that you do, it just comes out naturally. You’re more at peace—I hope that we can give that peace and love towards people.”
She wants Chicagoans to see that every item within the shop has a life of its own.
“A lot of these items carry memories and history and connections to other people,” Gibby expressed. “You come in here and you feel like just stepping back into history.”
For Gibby’s father, Francisco, the goal is for residents to understand that they have just stepped into a fictitious reality. A reality that will open the space for new residents of the community that will place them in two different worlds: the art of make- up and the art of vintage treasures. This hybridity is a concept that has become a normality in the Pilsen neighborhood.
“That’s the ultimate idea,” he said. “That it won’t only bring them nostalgia, but is able to immerse them in a different world.”
Hillary Flores is a first-time contributor to the Weekly.