Necklaces, earrings, and bracelets sit on the left side of the window resting on glass jewelry displays, and on the right side of the window you’ll see pastries and crepes set on decorative food displays.
This is the place where Omar Valencia chose to set up his shop. His multi-purpose space—Oxala—has been located at 1653 W. 18th St. in the neighborhood of Pilsen for seven years.
“I’m an artist, I wanted to open my own store, have my own work,” said Valencia. “It was important for me to be able to work for myself and show my own art, and also to open a space to help other artist showcase theirs too.”
Valencia has all different kinds of goodies in his store, from handmade jewelry and candles, to imported teas and organic pastries.
Originally from Colombia, Valencia chose Pilsen for the location of his store back in 2005 because he wanted to open it in a neighborhood where there were a lot of Hispanic people.
As time went on, the neighborhood began to experience change and people of other ethnic backgrounds began to move in—now the majority of his clients are white.
“People in the community are not used to drinking tea, it’s not really their preference,” said Valencia.
He sits behind his glass counter, with rings and earrings being showcased beneath him on black velvet trays. His red pullover sweatshirt goes with the décor of the shop and his scruffy salt and pepper beard becomes highlighted by the light underneath him.
Omar Valencia is an artist—he opened this store to create a space where local artist could sell their work and he could make money selling his candles and paintings.
Business for Valencia is going well. He decided to try something new on Sunday’s and came up with “Tea Time @ Oxala.”
“ The crepes are my favorite,” said Claire Griffin, 27, of Chicago. “I like that they’re handmade and ready to be devoured.”
According to the flyer, guests of Oxala receive a set menu of gourmet entrees and pastries, crafted by chefs in Pilsen from surrounding kitchens in the neighborhood.
Oxala also has a variety of teas such as La Luna, Il Sole, Il Guidizio, and Il Mondo. In the stores tea book, Valencia created a list of choices that are illustrated by a tarot card to go with the purpose the tea serves.
“La Luna is a special blend made of bayberry, white oak bark, and organic holistic herbs,” said Valencia. “ Each strand of tea takes a certain amount of time for the leaves to steep, in order for it to take affect.”
Valencia imports his teas from places such as India, China, Japan, and London. He even has a tea called the London Fog. Its leaves come from Kenya and Assam.
“It’s a gallery space but at the same time you can come in and not only look at jewelry, but you can get good quality tea that’s healthy and inexpensive,” said Ariel Ball, 24, of Little Village.
There was tea tables set-up in the back of the shop with handmade wooden decorations of the sunset on the walls, blue transparent flowerpots with sunflowers tucked inside of them and lamps with dim lighting to fill up the room.
On the right side of the wall, nestled up in the corner was a shelf with organic teas from around the world and not far behind, a kitchen. An oil painting of a woman in a pink gown hangs on the wall next to one of the few tables Valencia had arranged in the room.
“I started off with the idea that this would be a space to play with clay, to put up art, and to share the work of others,” said Valencia. “But I have a new vision for the space and that is to shape the image of all these things into one and change the concept of my original idea.”
For “Tea Time at Oxala” visit 1653 W. 18th St. during their Sunday brunch from 11am-4pm.