Nancy Becker roams through tables and racks filled with clothing and accessories, making sure each piece is laying or hanging just right. She greets her customers with a pleasant grin, inviting them into her store–a little piece of herself.
Becker owns Una Mae’s Freak Boutique, a unique shopping destination at 1422 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park where she sells new and vintage men’s and women’s clothing and accessories in an environment completely her own.
“I have to say, for the artist in me, it is my creative outlet,” Becker said.
Becker has worked hard to create the atmosphere inside Una Mae’s– she plays her favorite music, burns incense and sells clothing she has carefully selected for the store.
“Una Mae’s is Nancy turned inside out,” said Lisa Chunyk, Becker’s best friend.
Becker has poured much of her creative energy into the aesthetics of Una Mae’s, filling it with unique pieces of furniture and art, including her own paintings and other decorative items she brought from her home.
“She brought a lot of stuff from her place that gives it that kind of cozy feel. You feel comfortable when you’re in here,” said Nick Johnson, Becker’s coworker.
Becker also takes great care when selecting the clothes to sell in her store, especially the vintage pieces.
“If I carry it in the store and I have a lot of it, it’s definitely something I’m putting out because I love it,” Becker said.
Becker, a Wicker Park resident, walks to work every day, opens her store at noon and spends much of her time at work interacting with her customers, often helping them find just the right piece of clothing for their particular style.
“I love dressing people. I love to see people happy, and find an outfit, or tell me about a date they’re going on,” Becker said.
She has always had a sense of style all her own, but does not claim to be a “fashionista.”
“I have to admit I don’t know my designers, it’s a little bit embarrassing,” Becker said.
But Chunyk said Becker has a knack for predicting trends.
“She just knows what’s neat and cool before it’s actually in the setting that makes it fit,” Chunyk said.
“Sometimes I don’t think she even realizes this awesome part of her because it comes so naturally.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in fine arts for painting from Northern Illinois University, Becker had been working at a Starbucks Coffee shop for several years, when the concept of Una Mae’s was born.
Becker and two friends courageously combined all of their savings to open a store where they hoped to sell handmade items and vintage goods.
“I thought ‘what the heck,’ I didn’t have anything to lose,” Becker said.
She has since bought her friends’ shares of the store and is now the sole owner. Becker admitted she is still somewhat surprised that she ended up in this position.
“For the first year, I felt like I was a little kid playing store,” Becker said, smiling at the thought.
But after 14 years of experience, Becker still takes pleasure in her work, whether it be buying items for the store, working the sales floor or interacting with her customers.
“It’s just been a really fun life, being in the business,” Becker said.