Chicago's Button Maven Is Anything but Buttoned Up About the City She Calls Home"I love having guests and showing guests Chicago. I am very proud of the city."
"Chicago is historically a buttony city." This factoid comes from Christen Carter, founder of Busy Beaver Button Co. She didn't start her business in Chicago, but when she moved from San Francisco, she brought the company with her. That's when she discovered Chicago's button roots.
Busy Beaver is now headquartered in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, operating out of an old building stocked with furniture Carter bought from Parisian Novelty Co., what was once a 100-year-old Chicago button company. She continues its traditions at Busy Beaver. She even opened a little button museum where folks can see the cool things the company has created over the years, including a glow-in-the-dark Obama button ("Globama") that made it into the Smithsonian Institution, as well as pins that have been donated from private collections.
"I am a visual person," says Carter of her personal style. "I both love and hate shopping." As might be expected from someone who makes custom buttons for a living, she's all about the details when she does venture out to the stores.
When the quest is for clothes, Carter heads to designer Robin Richman in the Bucktown neighborhood. "Her stuff is well appointed. Everything is well considered. Even if it is not really my style, I always think it is beautifully done and interesting. Plus, they design there, and support other small designers. I leave feeling very inspired."
For furnishings and more creative inspiration, Carter can't say enough about POST 27's modern design finds, both vintage and new. She not only heads to the Grand Avenue store to shop, but also makes a point of attending its annual interior design festival. The Edgewater Antique Mall and Broadway Antique Market, located near one another in the Edgewater neighborhood, are other favorite places to troll for vintage home goods. Sometimes her shopping trips involve a little bit of business and pleasure combined — Busy Beaver has a booth and sells custom pins at both the Renegade Craft Fair and Pitchfork Music Festival.
Not all of Carter's Chicago must-dos involve a cash register. In fact, many of her favorite Windy City activities are in the great outdoors. Exploring Lake Shore Drive by car or bike is an essential experience for any Chicago visitor, she says. "I love how the water and the street are parallel to each other. I also love sailing, although I don't get to do it very often. You get a great point of view from the water."
Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown is another offbeat outdoor stop on Carter's city tour. From there she makes sure visitors take in the Museum of Science and Industry in Hyde Park, the Field Museum, and the Chicago Cultural Center, a building she counts as one of the city's most beautiful. "I love having guests and showing guests Chicago. I am very proud of the city."
If her home ever starts to overflow from all those guests, she plans on sending them to Longman & Eagle, a gastropub in her neighborhood that is opening an inn above the restaurant.
Check out Christen's Chicago.