Paperish Mess

The Local Look: Paperish Mess

Paperish Mess is a mess of paper-based products—in the best way possible. Founded in 2012 by Sean Murty and Lisa Muscato, the store—which is equal parts gallery, studio and handmade wares shop—is filled with works be over 100 independent artists. We talked to Murty and Muscato about how the two Buffalo natives have grown an arts business that is 100 percent Chicago.

Paperish Mess

Sean Murty and Lisa Muscato’s Paperish Mess supports work by independent artists. Photo credit: Miguel Guzman

Why did you choose Chicago?  

We both grew up in Buffalo, New York and had such a heart for locally-run businesses. About five years ago, we moved to Chicago to experience a bit of change and renewal in our lives after we graduated college. Chicago almost reminded us of a bigger Buffalo. It was familiar, but just different enough to inspire us—and it continues to do so on a daily basis. 

Being a family-run/locally owned business in Chicago means getting to know your customers, who often happen to be your neighbors! It’s amazing how many people we see out and about enjoying the neighborhood, even within the two-minute walk from our apartment to our shop. We love getting to see familiar faces and making new friends when customers come into the shop.

If you could go back in time before you became involved in running the business and share one piece of advice with yourself, what would you tell yourself?

Don’t stay still for too long! Change is good, and it keeps your mind active and motivated to run toward creative projects. When things around you stay stagnant for too long, it can be so hard to get going again and feel rejuvenated by your surroundings. Sometimes you just have to go for it and so many benefits can be reaped if you allow yourself to be active everyday (whether in business life, personal life or both!).  

What are your next steps?  

We have a wood studio where we create custom furniture pieces, record crates for vinyl storage and lots more handcrafted goodness. We are planning to expand more on this in the next few months. We also host pop-up shops in our back gallery when there isn’t an art installation already in the queue. Our next pop-up will be on July 18 with two awesome vintage clothing shops, 41SouthVintage and RE VNTG. We always have something new going on though—our personalities are the type where we can’t stay still for too long, so we are always thinking up fun, new ideas! 

We want to be in the know!  Name one person, place or thing that you think is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets—a secret until now, of course.  

We might be biased, but the last Friday of every month, about 20 different shops along Chicago Avenue in Ukrainian Village stay open late and offer discounts and deals for After Hours on Chicago Avenue. It’s a really fun time to get together with friends and check out something new or splurge on something you’ve been admiring for a while—but with a discount!

Q&As are edited for clarity and length.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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