pop-up #1, the windy city
Standing at the pump on a cold and rainy Chicago day, we were fueling up before hitting the road for our next stop, Cincinnati, Ohio. Although I was bone tired and had a 5 hour drive ahead, I couldn't help but smile as I reflected on our stay in the windy city. This first tour stop was anything but smooth, and yet, it felt good to have one under our belts. In this week’s post, we’ll recap some of the happenings of our Chicago adventure.
Setting up our first pop-up..uf!
Although we’d done extensive planning of the storefront prior to picking up the Airstream, we wanted to wait until picking up the vehicle before pulling the trigger on any store furniture. The result, however, was that when we finally arrived in Chicago, we had a store to build. Between a handful of stops at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, Home Depot, Target, Hobby Lobby, and Marshalls, we finally had the guts of the storefront.
On Saturday, 10/18, we set up the storefront outside the Airstream for our first pop-up. The store didn’t look exactly as we wanted it, but we had cozy socks, mildly sunny weather, and a lot of excitement. Over the next few hours, we sold a few dozen pairs to curious passersby, and although the sales weren’t groundbreaking, we were moved by the number of people that lingered to tell us their own experience with cancer. Whether it was the mom whose son had been recently diagnosed, the woman who’d recently lost her mother, or the valet guy whose brother was in active treatment, we were speaking face to face with people who understood why we were there. These people reaffirmed the whole socks with stories podcast project.
Support in surprising places
A Tuesday in a Walmart parking lot
After an evening trip to Walmart for a few supplies, we returned to the Airstream to find a middle aged man waiting for us. Friendly and outgoing, the man excitedly told us about how the sock-wrapped airstream had captured his curiosity such that he felt he needed to wait for us to return to purchase socks, and patiently waited as we retrieved two pairs from the depths of the truck.
A Thursday by the laundromat
As you might expect, parking a large truck with a 23’ trailer attached can be challenging, and while we were waiting for our clothes to finish their wash cycles at the laundromat, we parked on a neighborhood street nearby the laundromat. After about 20 minutes, a middle aged man approached us from his house across the street.
Man: Hey what are y’all doing out here?
Jake: Hey there, sorry to be parked out front of your house. We’re just waiting for our clothes to finish up at the laundromat. We’ll be out of here in 30 minutes.
Man: Oh okay, I saw your big metal vehicle and computer and wanted to make sure you weren’t hacking into the houses on the block.
Jake: Right...Understandable... We’ll be out soon!
10 minutes pass by and the man re-approaches the vehicle
Man: I just watched y’all’s video and I’m wondering if I can buy some socks?
Saturday, 6:30 am at a local coffee house
Without an office, we’re doing much of our work (like writing this blog) at coffee houses, and although we’ll occasionally find ourselves in Starbucks, we’ve been making an effort to explore local shops. On this particular day, we were prepping for a special pop-up north of the city, and stopped into Reprise Coffee Roasters. When Adam, a friendly barista, saw us pull in with the sock-wrapped Airstream, he asked us what we were up to, and by the time he’d poured our coffee, he’d asked us if he could buy a couple of pairs for him and his girlfriend. After tasting the coffee and chatting a little more with the staff, we bookmarked this coffee shop and returned several more times before leaving the city. :)
A special pop-up with co-designer Reese!
One day after launching our first pop-up downtown, we made our way north into the Chicago suburbs for a special event. Throughout the course of her treatment, our co-designer Reese and her family had found exceptional support from their Winnetka community. When their church community heard we were in town, the good people at Sacred Heart invited us onto the grounds to host a pop-up after Sunday Mass. Churchgoers were excited to know that for every pair purchased, we were donating a pair to children nearby at Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Lighting the night with Reese
By the time we’d packed up the truck and Airstream at two pm, we were drained and ready for a nap, but in just a few hours, we had another event that we’d marked on our calendar. At four pm, we would be walking alongside Reese and her extended family who’d made the drive up from Iowa at Light the Night, a fundraising event to raise money for blood cancer research. During the opening ceremony, the MC introduced Reese and her twin sister, Quinn, on stage and couldn’t help but getting choked up as he recounted how Quinn had remained by her side throughout her battle. As I felt a tear on my own cheek, Reese gave a big wave to our little fan section. It was almost as if she was saying, “don’t worry, I made it out!” Reese’s mom, Jennifer, remains active in supporting families impacted by pediatric cancer and runs the blog, Defeating Childhood Cancer, for anyone interested in seeing a mother’s perspective.
The donation at Lurie Children's Hospital
For each of the pairs we sold in Chicago, we were excited to follow up with an equivalent donation at Lurie Children’s on the Tuesday of our departure. Setting up a table in the Anthony Rizzo hematology oncology clinic, we had a few hours to interact with families and distribute a few hundred pairs of socks. Beyond the excitement of seeing families surprised by the quality of the socks, it was meaningful to interact with people at various stages of their journeys. Reflecting on my own experience in the hospital, I was sensitive to try and “meet people where they are.” For some, that may mean a cheery smile could be just what they need, but for others, positivity may be too far from the reality they’re experiencing.
Finishing up at the pump
Getting back into the car and loading a Cincinnati RV campground into Google Maps, I was excited to hit the road. Our first tour stop wasn’t winning us any appointments on Ellen (Ellen, if you're reading this, we DO want to be on your show), but we’d shared a lot of impactful experiences with Reese, her family, and strangers who resonated with our mission.