Find a gift for a 40-something man who is throwing a birthday party for his 8-year-old self? It sounds like a Day-after-April-Fool’s-Day challenge.
Oh, and be sure the gag gift makes him laugh, not gag.
Meet the party invitees, husband and wife, as they poke, wind up and otherwise sample the merchandise at Possibilities, 1235 Chicago Ave. Egged on by the store’s proprietor, they seem to be having a ball.
“We should have come here in the first place,” says the wife. “I could buy a hundred things.”
Some of those hundred things were here 10 years ago, when the RoundTable came in 1998 in search of a good story for the April 1 issue.
This novice journalist made her RoundTable debut with Possibilities on April Fool’s Day – both phrases applicable– just a month and a half after the paper took its first bow on Feb. 18.
Margaret Lurie and Mary Lesch owned the store then, but Katie Coil, who bought it three years later, was already in the picture – including the RoundTable one.
In spring 2001 Ms. Coil, who had worked at Possibilities for four years, was taking an eight-month break when Ms. Lesch asked her to lunch.
Ms. Coil enjoyed the lunch — and bought the business. She was “almost 23,” she says, and will mark her seventh anniversary as owner on July 1, about the time both she and the shop turn 30.
So what has changed, we wondered?
“I wanted the store to stay quirky, eclectic, unique,” says Ms. Coil. “But a different set of eyes finds different things.” She loves “walking around with people,” she says, “but I don’t want them to think I’m breathing down their necks.” Those who just get a kick out of looking are welcome to dawdle — and do, she says.
Like her predecessors, Ms. Coil carries a wide selection of real gifts, with new emphasis on bath items, beaded purses and jewelry by small design firms.
She recommends Oprah’s favorite “Lug bag,” a multi-pocketed nylon wonder, as a travel carry-on. And she can hardly keep the clever purse hanger in stock. Though her strongest demographic is middle-aged women and girls, she says, “4 to 94, we try to have something for everyone.”
Customers earn a 10-percent credit on every purchase. On Valentine’s Day they get the year’s worth in the form of a handwritten certificate for merchandise credit.
“The community feel” of the shop is the best part of her seven-day-a-week job, says Ms. Coil. Not only does she know customers by name, but “the Chicago-Dempster Merchants Association are all very supportive.”
Possibilities aims to make shopping easy. She says it is not unusual for regular store customers to stop in en route to a birthday party. They know they will find a gift – and complimentary wrapping. Even neighbors take advantage of online ordering at www.possibilitiesshop.com.
But despite its good manners, Possibilities’ has not lost its funk.
Take the goose lamp Ms. Coil says predates even Mmes. Lurie and Lesch. She spotted one in a 1978 photo and has sold four in the last month.
Some other old favorites still draw chuckles. Squeeze one of the fine art pillows for the sound effects — the Mona Lisa giggles, and Michelangelo’s God and Adam extend their reach to the tune of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
Here, where fame invites political incorrectness, Diana Windsor’s driver’s license/ID – like Elvis’s – is good for a laugh but no drink.
But for truly bad taste it is hard to beat the gum. The Next to the Last Supper flavor, wrapped in the painting and sporting a “King of the Chews” slogan, “did well when ‘The DaVinci Code’ was out,” says Ms. Coil. Dum Gum, certified “Idiot Proof” and bearing a picture of George Bush, is a current hot seller.
There are gifts of good cheer — a book called “The Breakup Repair Kit” — and congratulations — the huge “Diamond Bling” key chain Ms. Coil ties onto every wedding gift she gives.
The prospective party guests settle on the toys Ms. Coil calls “jitter critters” for the birthday boy, who loves mechanical things. “We’ve been selling them for years,” says Ms. Coil, as she sends each little wire wind-up across the counter to do its buggy dance.
“People need laughs,” says the husband, waxing nostalgic for the remote-controlled fart machine he once bought here.
Possibilities can bring out the eight-year-old in anyone.