Apothecaries were big in the 17th century. They were the people or places everyone went to for medicine, herbal remedies and advice dispensed on the spot. Today, drugstores have that covered, especially here in Chicago, home of Walgreens. But the charm of traditional indie apothecaries can still be found at a few spots around town. These small, focused shops have the cure for what ails you, plus glam extras like hot new beauty products and pampering services (express facial, anyone?). Here are five local takes on the modern apothecary.
Opened in 1875 by a Swiss pharmacist, Merz Apothecary still does much of what it did back then: sell homeopathic remedies and upscale bath and beauty goods—many of them European imports. Sure, they’ve enhanced things to keep up with the times. Merz now has a booming online business (found at smallflower.com), a Loop location within the Palmer House Hilton and an even larger assortment of natural health products in its ornate, Old World-style space. Now owned by a father-and-son team, it added an adjacent shop named Q Brothers to its original Lincoln Square location, filled with shaving and grooming products, fine skincare lines and natural cosmetics. The expansion also made room to create a fragrance counter with hard-to-find, niche fragrances.
Small, lesser-known exclusive cosmetic and skincare lines are given their rightful throne at Arch, a luxury beauty boutique with personal, apothecary-like service. Take your time exploring—the natural light spilling through the front windows will make you look your natural best as you play with anything from Eve Lom brightening cream to By Terry dual powders. Licensed aestheticians and certified cosmetologists are on hand to not only make recommendations, but offer services like brow shaping, blowouts, lash upkeep and makeup applications.
It’s a choose-your-own adventure in bar soap, skincare and fragrance. Follow wherever your whim, or sense of smell, takes you in this small, inviting Southport Corridor shop. One of just three in the U.S., it stocks everything in the U.S. Apothecary brand. Think: home and personal goods made with healthy-for-you ingredients like oatmeal, vanilla bean, elderflower and other soothing botanicals. You can also get gift items, like candles and diffusers, in every scent under the sun.
The largest clean-beauty shop in the world has a local boutique and spa where toxins are practically non-existent and relaxation comes easy. Browse everything from tinted cheek balms to cruelty-free mascara to correcting skin serums. There are dozens of brands to discover in the open and organized space. The back-of-the-house spa offers expert facials and waxing (all using safe, sustainable products). If you’re new to the whole clean-beauty thing, but curious, book a clean beauty swap where a pro will survey your current makeup stash and pull comparable but safer products.
This rapidly growing chain retains a mom-and-pop feel in each boutique, thanks to truly knowledgeable employees and a tight selection of cosmetics, skincare and bath and body goods. It’s a great place to get niche favorites like Kiehl’s, as well as up-and-coming brands like Lune+Aster, plus test and try nearly anything you want. The real standout, however, is the spa services. Facials, massages and waxing services are done in quiet-as-a-whisper back rooms.