Lynne Rousseau McDaniel
The goddess of WOW
Lynne Rousseau McDaniel, dealer in historic furniture and fine art; co-owner, with husband Ty McDaniel, of two Chicago-based businesses: Estate Sale Goddess and An Orange Moon (2418 W. North ); the Goddess of WOW.
Interview by Deanna Isaacs
Photos by Olivia Obineme
I’m from Englewood, south side of Chicago. In the words of Michelle Obama, south side, nothing else need be said. I went to Englewood High School. Kelly Library was our branch. My husband grew up four blocks down from me. It was an amazing neighborhood.
My maiden name is Rousseau, my father was Universal Brokerage—real estate, so that’s why I have a love of architecture. And my mom graduated from Ray-Vogue. She was an interior designer. That’s why I have the love of art and interior design.
We had art books, we had encyclopedias, and we got six newspapers delivered to our home. Our church was Saint Martin. Father John was the priest who came to our house every Sunday for dinner. The ritual is you go to church and you go to grandma’s house. But if you’re lucky, you get to hang out with Dad. After church we’d sneak over to Maxwell Street, he’d buy some antiques, then we’d go get changed and go to grandma’s house for dinner and dessert. Every Sunday.
I did my undergrad at DePaul and my graduate work at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. I always planned to be a clinician, but the call of art and antiques was just too strong. I started on Maxwell Street as a young woman in my 20s, buying and selling part-time. Fiesta[ware], sterling, vintage jewelry. Maxwell Street was crucial back then. There was no Internet. It was hustling, bustling, incredible. The way you do it, you just bump in. And then you hold your space, every week, so that space becomes yours. You run an ad in the paper. Every week, in the Sun-Times, in the small print: come to see me on Maxwell Street.
My father always said he was buying dog food. Because on Maxwell Street you could get anything, and they would have cases of dented cans of dog food. Some had a wrapper, some didn’t. He said he was going for dog food, but he would buy antique tools. That was his thing: antique tools and fishing rods, and toy racing cars and trains.
After Adler, I went directly to Dr. Carl Bell. I did an interview with him before I graduated and he said, “As soon as you graduate, give me a call. I’ll have a place for you.” Mostly I worked with mentally ill substance abusers. It was a very hard job. And the grab of art and antiques still had me. No way that I could get loose from that. This is where Ty comes in. When I knew it was time to leave my job he said, “OK, let’s figure this out.” He’s a clinician as well. He was working at Circle Family Healthcare. I met him there, did my internship with him. He wants to plan everything; I’m just dealing with things from my heart. Together we‘re a good team.
We’re 50s, 60s, and 70s—that’s a good little niche for us. I know earlier 1900s, because I started with antiques. He knows midcentury modern, so we can kinda do it all. The thing about midcentury—you know, some of the antique furniture is clunky, chunky, heavy. Midcentury modern is sleek, sexy. You can put it in one of your spaces and it doesn’t take over the whole thing.
But I cut my teeth on country. When I first started I was doing quilts—Black quilts in particular. One of the quilts I purchased in North Kenwood a gazillion years ago was a quilt of the first Black alderman, Oscar De Priest. Someone made a quilt with his face on it. It was on baby blue satin and the face was painted, and it was quilted and edged all the way around. I didn’t know who the face was. I sold it to a dealer in River North. And then one day I walked into the Chicago Historical Society, now the Chicago History Museum, and when I looked up, there was my quilt hanging. That was the beginning of selling historic items.
An Orange Moon is named for a song by Erykah Badu. When we heard that song, both of us at the same time said, “Oh my gosh, yeah, that’s it.” Our first location was on 59th Street, in Chicago Lawn. We opened there in 2009, and moved here in 2011. Having the shop, we get to meet so many people. It’s wonderful. I’ve had a customer name a baby after me; I met Blue Man Group, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve from Sex and the City, the governor of Minnesota, and a lot of other politicians. They all shop here.
Somebody told Hermès about us. And they showed up at the door. It was two well-dressed women, perfectly coiffed, and the best Birkin bags I’ve ever seen. It was probably about 10 AM, and I said, “Come on in, can I get you anything?” And they said, “Do you have wine, cheese, and bread?” They went through the first bottle before I could even pass the bread and cheese. They said they were here because they were doing a party, and they wanted our furniture to do the set in the store. They’re speaking French. I said, “So nice of you to stop by,” and they said, “Someone will call you. And price is no object.” I’m like OK, you know, people say things all the time. And then, someone called. They rented all of our furniture. That was my first foray into the big leagues.
We just did the set for Common; he was here at Ravinia. We’ve done Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, every Chicago show or pilot that comes down the pike; the set designers will come here, see something, and ask if they can take it.
When we first came here [to this part of North Avenue], there was nothing going on. We created the WOW district—West of Western. It’s from North Avenue and Western to North Avenue and California, just these four blocks. WOW is an informal group of local businesses, about 20 at the height of it. Less now. One thing I had to learn was that everybody doesn’t stay in business. They come, they give it the old college try, they last a year or two, and then they’re gone. Then you gotta get somebody else in that space. And neighborhoods change, prices go up. It’s challenging. We have two businesses—An Orange Moon and Estate Sale Goddess—and we’re not in a position where we can offer any hand-holding or financial value to those other businesses. But I know that together we are stronger. The more businesses we have over here, the more people are going to come and bippity-bop from store to store.
Estate Sale Goddess liquidates historic estates. For example we liquidated the estate of Jesse Owens, the Olympic runner. Also Lerone Bennett, fifty-year editor of Ebony magazine. And we just liquidated the estate of Etta Moten Barnett and Claude Barnett. She was [Bess in] Porgy and Bess and he was the founder of the Associated Negro Press. Museums come and buy things from these estates. They’ll say, “Please close off the library or the music room, because we want to buy the whole thing.” When they come and jockey for position, that’s really interesting.
The pandemic; oh, my god. The pandemic showed you what you were made of. Initially, I was scared. Afraid of the illness, the death. I lost my brother Leslie and my dear Aunt Evelyn to COVID. So, I totally get it. And if the city says don’t open up, you don’t open up. Financially it got hard-core. Because no one could come in, we started selling on the sidewalk. The support was amazing. We were able to keep our doors open. And then we went appointment only. We had to pivot. A lot of things were involved in that decision, but appointment only offers a one-on-one private experience.
Some people don’t understand that this is quality and our prices aren’t going to be the same as Target. No disrespect to them, because they serve a definite purpose. But this is quality. These items are going to go up in value. The same items we sold 13 years ago for $200 are probably valued at well over $2,000 now. This furniture is an investment.
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