Best of the CRANDIC Spotlight: Artifacts

Todd Thelan dangles from his new doorway in Artifacts. November 2020. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Artifacts was voted Best Vintage/Consignment Store in Little Village’s 2020 Best of the CRANDIC awards.

Todd Thelan has owned Northside corner store Artifacts since 2003. This year he knocked a hole through a 150-year-old brick wall in the shop, tripling his space in the process.

“It still freaks me out when I walk through that doorway,” he said. “It should not be there.”

2020 presented challenges to the small, artsy staff at Artifacts, causing them to close the vintage shop’s doors for weeks on end and cancel their 25th anniversary celebrations. But it’s also offered massive opportunities — most notably, the chance to expand into the neighboring storefront, which Thelan has dreamed of for years.

“We’ve been setting aside money just waiting for an opportunity like this; we didn’t know if it was going to happen. It happened pretty quickly in July.” El Banditos announced it was moving in with Billy’s High Hat Diner, leaving 327 E Market St unoccupied. Thelan claimed the space and set about a three-month renovation process.

The new, huge Artifacts — full of antique furniture, metal signs, wall art and even a giant painting of Richard Nixon’s head — opened in early November (a mask mandate and customer limit enforced). The reactions have been “immensely positive” and “heartwarming,” Thelan said.

More room for art means room for even massive Richard Nixon art. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

“I think it’s a sanity issue for a lot of people,” he said of customers’ attraction to vintage shopping during the pandemic. “The best compliment I got was the other day a woman came in, she said, ‘I feel like I’ve been on vacation. This is a brand-new place I’ve never been to and it’s right here at home.’”

Artifacts’ tight-knit four-person staff—who have sold everything from mammoth teeth to rare, hand-painted African movie posters to an actual monkey paw—have also found the expansion fulfilling.

“We have a lot of fun and we laugh most of the day,” said Margaret Roberts, an Artifacts employee for 10 years. “There’s just a chemistry that works as far as just us as people. Todd’s a very generous boss and real and easy to talk to. It’s never boring here—there’s always something or someone new coming in. It just feels like there’s a creative atmosphere and we all just get along.”

The staff at Artifacts stand in the doorway separating their old space to their new addition. November 2020. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 289.