All in Your Business: Studio 8 Gives New Life to Old Treasures

20150106_133754-croppedBy Julie Chyna

The giant octopus on the Studio 8 sign tells shoppers that they’re in for something unique. Oak Park’s newest vintage shop features upcycled, repurposed, refinished, refurbished, or fine-the-way-they-are furnishings and décor.

20150106_133636“To me, it’s all about lines,” says Melody Kratz, Studio 8’s owner. “If the piece is scratched, I can refinish it. If something is broken, I can fix or rebuild it. These pieces have history and soul to them. Everything here is perfectly imperfect.”

She adds: “I love midcentury lines and antique elements. They really don’t make things like they used too—solid wood, with dovetails—you don’t see that anymore. But that’s why these old pieces are still around. They just need a little love. Some pieces I don’t have to do much to them—they just need to be cleaned up a little to see how great they are.”

Like Kratz’s artistic process, the path to Studio 8’s opening last December was also organic. Kratz has a long career in the arts, including an art history degree and years of work as a portrait photographer. When her children were small, she refurbished furniture and other pieces at home to make some extra money. As that business grew, it became increasingly difficult for her to do the work at home.

As she was out looking at potential office spaces for her husband, she came across the storefront at 1125 Garfield, part of the H.J. Mohr & Sons property.

“I just couldn’t get it out of my head,” Kratz says. “I kept thinking about all the potential in this space. I just loved the building and its vintage feel. So I finally decided, ‘Maybe I should open my own store.’ It was an opportunity for me to combine my interests and talents—it was an evolution of what I’d been doing for years just because I loved it.”

She says that the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation was very helpful in getting Studio 8 off the ground, holding her hand when she needed assistance navigating the process of launching a new business.

“Loretta Daly [the Village of Oak Park’s business services manager] was also so supportive,” Kratz says. “When I was interested in this space, she came out and looked at it too, and she was as excited as I was. She understood what I had in mind, so it was great to have someone on my side who ‘got’ it.”

Studio 8’s pieces come from a variety of sources—resale shops, the Mom Mail list serve, even alleys. Kratz hopes that as Studio 8 grows, more people will begin bringing her pieces that she might buy to refurbish, but also says that “hunting is a big part of the fun of it.”

Shoppers can see Kratz’s works in progress, which stand on a platform in the center of the store.

20150106_133741“There’s not a lot of room in the back,” she says, “so why not paint in front of everyone? People can see what I do. That’s why I used the word ‘studio’ in the name—because it’s still my art studio in addition to a shop.”

Studio 8 is already expanding, with March’s merger with Oak Park Vintage Market. Vintage Market’s specialty is refurbished and antique jewelry and other smaller pieces, while Studio 8’s focus is on furniture and décor (although there’s a pair of cowboy boots for sale purely because Kratz loves vintage cowboy boots).

“We work together well and it felt like a perfect fit,” says Leah Goodwin, Oak Park Vintage Market’s owner.

After that, Kratz has big plans for her neighborhood as well as her own business.

“This corner has so much potential,” she says of her location near the Harlem and Garfield intersection. “Between the post office across the street and all the traffic to and from the expressway, there’s a lot of visibility—and there’s free street parking! I want Studio 8 to be the start of a resurgence for this whole area.”

Follow Studio 8 on Facebook here.

All in Your Business profiles an independent Oak Park business in each issue of The Oak Parker.