River Otter Opens In West Town, Joining Growing Number Of Vintage Furniture Shops In The Neighborhood

Belinda Arcitec

WEST TOWN — A vintage furniture store with an emphasis on bright, post-modern couches, chairs, desks and more has opened in West Town.

River Otter, 918 N. Ashland Ave., is owned by Andy Alguire, who started buying and reselling furniture on social media a few years ago while working as a video producer.

Alguire’s pieces range from a Bouloum lounge chair and a couch shaped like a pair of lips to more traditional dressers, lamps and tables.

“I’m just trying to have unique pieces,” Alguire said. “I just buy things that I like that are fun. Some of this is very rare. Some of it isn’t. I’m just trying to have stuff that others don’t.”

Alguire opened his brick-and-mortar location after two years of renewed interest in vintage furniture brought on by the pandemic, as more people spent time in their homes and supply chain issues delayed new items.

“COVID hit, and I was luckily rolling already, up and running. And it’s been like crazy boom times for furniture … . Everybody was home, and if you kept your job, you had some extra cash. Everybody needed a desk. Wait times for a sofa were a year from West Elm or Crate and Barrel or whatever,” Alguire said.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
River Otter owner Andy Alguire takes a load off on a Bouloum lounge chair at River Otter, his new brick and mortar vintage furniture store.

River Otter is the latest vintage store to set up shop in West Town near Ashland Avenue.

Spot! opened last year across the street, joining Converso, Circa Modern, The Stoop, Dovetail and others nearby.

Alguire said he sees the area as a vintage district of sorts where customers can browse each store back to back, depending on what they’re looking for.

“It’s not competition. It’s more camaraderie,” Alguire said. “This is like a destination where people can come, and we all do our own thing. We all have different price points. We all do our own thing, kind of curate our own vibe. And so now people can come to shop neighborhood, there’s a lot of good stores.

“Me making a sale, it’s not like it’s taking the sale from anybody else.”

Alguire said the response to the store has been strong in the few weeks he’s been open. While demand for vintage furniture has tapered off a bit from its pandemic high, he said customers remain interested in durable, one-of-a-kind pieces.

“With COVID, I think there is a new openness to buying vintage stuff made well,” Alguire said. “What I always tell people is that if you’re well-educated about the things that you buy, you can buy something, have it, love it for as long as you want and sell it at what you paid for it. … These things hold their value.”

River Otter is open 12-5 p.m. weekends and by appointment.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
River Otter, 918 N. Ashland Ave., in West Town
Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago

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