Credit: Isa Giallorenzo

I’d been meaning to stop by Tusk since last year’s Expo Chicago, where at least three really stylish (and artsy) people told me I just had to check it out. But it took me a while to make it, since the shop never seemed to be open. The reason: owner Mary Eleanor Wallace is a nurse on the west side by day, and runs this charming storefront in her off-hours. Wallace shares the building with her photographer boyfriend, who runs a studio there, and the couple’s artistic inclinations are apparent in every detail of this minimalist space, from the papier-mache light fixtures to the wooden display furniture Wallace designed herself. Her impeccable taste landed Tusk in the pages of Elle magazine only a few months after she opened the store last July, and the shop will also be featured in the upcoming Wallpaper city guide. It’s no wonder: walking into Tusk is akin to visiting an art gallery. The selection of vintage pieces is small but carefully curated; then there are books, accessories, and clothing made by designers such as Debbie Carlos and Sarah Shikama. Wallace’s knack for surrounding herself with creative types has also ended up spawning some of the coolest boutique parties around, many of them benefitting local arts organizations.