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The cat sign on the shop window says everything. “I have two cats [Sweet Pea and Naomi] that I bring to the shop when I’m in,” says Adrianne Hawthorne, 36, the owner of Ponnopozz Studio and Store in Ravenswood (4839 N. Damen). “The shop has a sign in the window indicating if a kitty is in, and, if so, which one. Shoppers are always welcome to pet the kitties and socialize with them.” Joy, kindness, and sincere enthusiasm are at the heart of Hawthorne’s business. And efficiency too. Besides running her boutique (brick-and-mortar and online at ponnopozz.com), making her art (which she sells at Ponnopozz and multiple stockists), and tirelessly promoting her business, Hawthorne also has a full-time job at Google as a user experience designer. “My Google job is remote and operates on Pacific time, so I usually do Ponnopozz things in the morning and then sign in to my day job. Since I am remote, I sometimes work from my art studio. It’s hard some days to juggle them, but overall, it helps my anxiety knowing I have a steady paycheck and it gives me more room to play with Ponnopozz, which is where I run wild,” she says. No wonder Hawthorne named her shop after two imaginary friends she had as a child, Ponno and Pozzer: “The name is about returning back to the unbridled creativity that children feel,” she explains.
Hawthorne’s journey from working at Google in San Francisco—giving her all, but feeling unfulfilled—to moving back to Chicago—making art, but feeling anxious about her finances—to finally combining the two and finding some balance, is detailed in her blog, Ponno Ponderings. Available as a section in her online shop, Hawthorne’s blog is filled with honesty about her personal and artistic growth, and very useful tips for artists trying to create or manage a business. Vulnerability and generosity are evident in her musings, present in her Instagram posts as well. Hawthorne not only publicizes her own work; she’s often mentioning other artists, designers, neighboring businesses, and worthy causes. She also shares her storefront with performers and storytellers such as Sierra Carter and Kayla Mulliniks, who were searching for an indoor space to host their You Are Here series. In the second iteration of her boutique Hawthorne has more square footage to accommodate bigger events, including her workshops.
Hawthorne’s proto-shop started in the summer of 2019 in the back of a Penske truck decorated with polka-dot balloons, a bright-colored Oriental rug, and plenty of her art all over it, complete with hors d’oeuvres and the help of her ever-supportive boyfriend, Seth Thomas. “I just thought of it out of nowhere,” she says. “I remember wanting to do another art show since I had a lot of paintings that needed new homes, and I didn’t have a store yet. I didn’t want to show at a gallery but I wanted something small, interesting, and easy. A moving truck seemed unexpected and fun. It kind of reminded me of the accessibility of food trucks and I just generally thought it would be a swell idea. It turned out to be a wonderful way to sell artwork. A lot of people stopped by, many unexpectedly, and it felt (like just for a moment) that I owned my own boutique. Shortly after that show, I finally signed a lease on my first space on Damen.”
Last October, Ponnopozz moved just across the street, with extra space for Hawthorne’s art studio and even more of her well-curated inventory. The boutique is the perfect place for some retail therapy, since besides the cute kitties, there’s a cheer-up effect provided by the exuberant shop decor itself and all the colorful goods she offers. Hawthorne sells candles ($20-$28), apparel ($30-$168), jewelry ($30-$50), stationery ($5-$40), pillows ($40), puzzles ($20-$38), and other home decor items. She carries brands such as Nooworks (clothing), Chunks (hair accessories), Baggu (bags), and Poketo (miscellaneous). Local brands include K-Fleye jewelry, Nicolet Candle, Edgewater Candles, Casa 184, The Vintage Royalty, Lilla Barn clothing, Halo soap, XO Marshmallow, and Drawn Goods. Hawthorne favors gift items that are locally made, or come from small businesses. She also sells her own artwork: originals range from $40-$475, and prints from $25-$75. Her work can also be seen on a wide range of products and collaborations, such as wrapping paper, cards, clothing, accessories, pillows, and now even armchairs and a book that teaches readers how to paint tarot cards in her style (available for pre-order, $22.99). “I absolutely love seeing people experience joy in my shop,” Hawthorne says. “Ponnopozz is for all of us. It’s a place where we can be our true selves.”
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