Dose Market has created a venue to bring together for artists, designers, chefs and entrepreneurs with a “Made in Chicago” ethos—and for those looking to support them. “Dose was named very organically on a stoop at Sheffield and Armitage in Lincoln Park,” says April Francis, one of the founders of the ever-dynamic marketplace. “There were two of us (dos) and we wanted to deliver just the good stuff—a dose.”
Dose celebrated its fifth birthday this past Valentine’s Day. Francis recalls their early days. “A friend of mine, a real estate guy, said ‘hey, you should start a market at the River East Art Center,'” she says. “The business plan came together essentially overnight—I could see the whole thing—and I was able to bring all of the brands, stores, designers and chefs that I loved and had been working with for years into one gorgeous spot,” she adds. The initial team consisted of Francis, who already had more than a decade’s experience in festival-type production under her belt, two unemployed girlfriends and “the real estate guy” who suggested the space.
The market features an assemblage of vendors ranging from new and vintage fashions, unique jewelry and accessories, bright-patterned textiles, hand-crafted home goods and small-batch treats. The market will appear in pop-up spaces and almost always features a different theme each time. There’s a “Love Dose” for Valentine’s Day, a “Mama Dose” around Mother’s Day, a “Holi-Dose” at Christmas time and the forthcoming “Arts Dose” just in time for EXPO Chicago.
Dose has a strong commitment to spotlighting emerging talent in the city. The market is mindful of its very Chicago-oriented aesthetics. “The Chicago scene really is unique in that it is small but varied—you can wrap your arms around it,” Francis says lovingly. “I created Dose specifically for designer friends I had in Chicago, to solve a problem that I was seeing: the lack of retail opportunities for those making exceptional things. So, in terms of art and entrepreneurship, it has operated as a bridge and an engine powering small Chicago businesses, allowing those who are producing extraordinary things to connect directly with their desired customer.”
Elevating Dose to its current state wasn’t easy. Three of the market’s four founding curators stepped away just thirteen months after its launch, and a car accident proved to be another setback for Francis. Yet the market has seen steady growth. “From the tech side to the physical marketplace, it has been a totally organic project focused squarely on being a solution and that is how I operate: resourceful, spare, efficient and celebrating what’s truly good,” Francis says. “I love organization and color and, most of all, delightful products made with love. I believe the curation of each market reflects that.”
Francis juggles Dose among many other ventures: she’s also a stylist, a blogger and a fashion consultant. She applies a few words of wisdom to help her across all endeavors: “The best advice is to not overthink. Just do. I am certainly a doer but I can certainly get stuck when I think too much. And stuck just isn’t good for progress.” (Vasia Rigou)
Dose Arts, September 25, Morgan Manufacturing at 401 North Morgan, $10, dosemarket.com