A look inside the windows: The News gets a closer look at the Macy’s Christmas displays

Amelia Mehring poses with her grandfather, Aqui Rivera at the Macy’s window.

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

 

The weather’s cold. Snow flurries dance through the crisp air.

And even so, a crowd of people gathers on State Street, pausing to peer into a window, to catch a glimpse of Santa.

It’s the Macy’s window displays and they are working their annual magic.

For locals, there is plenty in downtown that gets, well, regular. There’s no reason to visit the Bean every day. Few locals take selfies with the skyline.

But the windows at Macy’s attract the tourists and the Chicagoans alike because whether it is a first-time visit or a longtime tradition, there’s something in those windows everyone wants to see.

“We come every year,” said Karen Rivera, who visited the windows with her husband, Aqui and their granddaughter, Amelia Mehring.

“We used to bring her father, when he was a boy,” Karen explained.

But what most people don’t see—what they can’t see—is the planning. Brian Pelusa is the store’s visual manager and the man behind the windows and even though Christmas window displays take up a small amount of time and space in the Macy’s year, there’s a big deal. It’s a lot of work getting folks coming back, year after year, for generations.

“The planning and execution process can take anywhere from nine months to a year,” Pelusa wrote in an email. “Usually once the holiday windows are unveiled for the season, the brainstorming begins for the next year’s windows.”

Macy’s of course is a chain, so the store on State Street is part of a larger, national conversation that includes things like themes. After the stores agree on a look, the decorations are shipped out.

“This year’s window displays were packed and shipped in 20 pallets/crates made up of 15 double length and five standard sized skids,” Pelusa wrote. “Also, we typically use about 50-60 pounds of fake snow in each year’s displays.”

The installation team is four or five people and then Pelusa’s visual design team includes four people and they add the finishing touches.

When Pelusa is designing the windows, he has to bear in mind the history of the tradition. He explained the store has offered displays since the 1870s—and over those years, they have developed a reputation.

“Macy’s was the first store to feature holiday windows created for the pure fun and joy of the season and, with that, began a tradition that still lives on today in numerous cities including New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Salt Lake City,” Pelusa wrote. “In Chicago specifically, we’re celebrating the 51st anniversary of our annual holiday window display at Macy’s on State Street.”

This doesn’t mean the display itself is old. While some of the iconography like Santa may remain consistent, Pelusa said the general themes do change.

“Each year a few new elements are added,” he said. “This year, we are excited to continue to celebrate all the Reasons to Believe.”

Besides that, each window has its own theme and color palette though there is at least one constant feature used to tie the all the displays together visually.

“Borders are placed around the windows to add to the overlying theme and to reflect Macy’s particular branding style,” Pelusa said.

Pelusa said so much work and care goes into the windows, he understands why they attract people. There’s a lot to take in and he has some advice on how to do it right.

“There are so many meticulous details in each window — from the sculpting of the caricatures, to the props, to the backdrops and more,” he wrote. “I’d recommend that viewers get up close to the glass and look at every inch. Then step back, so they’ll see the small details start to pop out, showing how exciting the entire window is.”

Finally, for anyone looking to spruce up their own windows—or a room in their home—with Christmas spirit, Pelusa has some advice.

“A good tip that I would recommend to anyone decorating their home for the holidays is that lighting and color go a long way, but when you add music plus a fragrance, such as a candle or potpourri, the decorations become even more captivating since they will touch on all your senses,” he wrote.

Check out the window displays through Christmas at 111 North State St.

Get your gifts close to home: Shop Streeterville

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Streeterville hosts the Mag Mile and a slew of name-brand national retailers in addition to some local hidden gems. Why not shop at both? Here is a list of some of the must-haves in Streeterville.

 

Kriser’s Natural Pet

Kriser’s Natural Pet store, 356 E. Ohio St., is a national brand that started right here in Chicago. Be sure to support this success story for all your pet presents.

This year’s hot ticket items include HuggleHounds holiday pet toys retailing for around $15. If you’re a more practical pet parent who want to keep your dog warm, try a coat from Canada Pooch. Prices vary depending on size and style. Of course, you’ll want a dog coat with some matching boots. This season Pawz rubber boots are the way to go, with most boots costing around $15.

Kriser’s Natural Pet store is open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. most days. For more information, call 312-951-1331.

 

Sephora

For the finicky and fabulous person on your list, check out Sephora, a high-end beauty store with a variety of makeup and skin products. This year, the store offers two new products that are flying off shelves.

First, customers are going crazy over the Charlotte Tilbury Stars in Your Eyes Palette. This is a limited-edition eye shadow palette retailing for around $75.

The next big thing this season is the Pat McGrath Labs’ Mothership V Eye Palette. Pat McGrath Labs made news this year when its value soared north of $1 billion, and it’s easy to see why with this flashy, tasteful offering, retailing at $125. There are two Sephora locations in Streeterville, 605 N. Michigan Ave. and Water Tower Place at 845 N. Michigan. The 605 N. Michigan Ave. location will not have special hours for Black Friday, but it will offer specialty miniature sets for sale for a limited time that day. The store is open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information, call 312-649-9343.

 

The Cubs Team Store

The Cubs Team Store, 668. N. Michigan Ave., is the go-to place for all your Cubs fans — for men, women, boys and girls, they have something for everyone. Jerseys are always popular, and this season the top jerseys to buy include the Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo jerseys. The jerseys retail for $135 each.

Looking for something for the little ones? The Cubs Team Store is now offering small Oyo Sports minifigures and buildables (think Legos) for $15 and TY-brand Cubs dolls for $10—perfect for stocking stuffers.

Last year, the store opened early for Black Friday, though no announcement for this year has been made as of press deadline. The store is open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information, call 312-280-5469.

Get gifts close to home: Shop the New Eastside

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The New Eastside is home to museums, restaurants and retail merchandisers. With so much to choose from, it’s not hard to fill that Christmas list while shopping close to home. Here’s a glimpse at what’s available:

 

Graham Crackers Comic Books

This Chicago staple is home to all manner of comics and graphic novels. This holiday shopping season, the 77 E. Madison location is the place to get both familiar and newer titles.

The store is offering the first volume of Deadly Class for $9.99, which comes out in late November. The first volume of Saga is also out this fall for the same price.

Batman fans won’t want to miss Batman White Knight, a popular title wherein Batman reverses his role with the Joker and the villain becomes the hero, for $19.99.

Of local interest, fans of graphic novels can get Ironheart, a comic featuring Riri Williams, a hero straight from the streets of Chicago who develops her own Iron Man armor to combat villainy and save the city.

Also out this year is Skyward, a science-fiction title that begins in a Chicago of the future, when the earth is losing gravity and only the wealthy can afford to remain on the ground.

The store is also offering a variety of popular Japanese titles, including My Hero Academia.

The New Eastside Graham Crackers will have special offers and discounts for Black Friday, though specifics had not been announced by press time. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. most days. For more information, call 312-629-1810

 

Fannie May

Fannie May is the place to go for holiday sweets, and New Eastside shoppers don’t have to go far to get the good stuff, with a store at 343 N. Michigan Ave.

The go-to treat is the Pixie, the store’s No. 1 seller since 1946. The treat combines caramel and pecans with milk chocolate and retails for $24.99 per pound. Of course the store also offers dark chocolate options, sweet and salty combinations, specialty items and unique assortments.

If Santa needs something a little different, Fannie May offers a variety of sweet stocking stuffers ranging from $5 to $20. The store is open most days from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 312-453-0010.

 

Blackhawks Store

Just as hockey season begins to heat up, the city’s favorite hockey team is offering a selection of merchandise for your favorite hockey fan this season. For men, try a fanatics rinkside adjustable for $30 or a 47B knit break cuff for $20. Or how about a jacket for $55? For women, there’s an Antigua cowl neck for $60, a drink bottle for $49 and a New Era knit cap for $26. Finally, for the little fans, check out the holiday plush bear for $25 or the NHL cap for $28 or a

NHL raglan shirt for $30. The store is open most days from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is located at 333 N. Michigan Avenue. For more information, call 312-759-0079.