Shop Small, Shop Local

As I (Bryan here, speaking in first-person for once, because this is personal) find my feet in the letterpress printing world, I’m looking to build a sustainable, responsible small business that can support my family, but I’m also hoping to build a community and a support network, especially locally here in Chicago.

So the holidays are weird for me, both on a personal and professional level. I’m an atheist anti-capitalist, but I still love Christmas and many of its traditions, especially spending time with family. I really like giving and getting gifts, but I get hung-up on avoiding chain stores and shitty corporations and mass-produced planned-obsolescent proprietary landfill. I end up paralyzed by the whole process.

So here are a bunch of local (or small, family/friend-owned) businesses to support, not only during the holidays, but year-round. When you buy from these folks, know that you’re feeding good people and their families, not providing an unsustainable ROI for investors.

Let me start with my own small business, Midwest Ephemera. I don’t really have much in the way of products, but we’re here for all your printing, design, and photography needs. These are confusing and expensive services, but I love holding your hand and making you part of the process to create something special. Same deal with my shopmate C’mon Home, my success is linked to Matt’s, so don’t feel like you’re going to hurt my feelings if you think he’s a better fit for your project.

I’m sure in writing this monster list, I’ve forgotten many lifelong friends, sorry, please remind me and I’ll add you.


Field Notes (my employer) made-in-USA memo books
Beside Ourselves candles, scarves, shoelaces, greeting cards
Nerfect Mr. Walters’ awesome plushies, pins, artwork
Wolf Bait and B-Girls Hundreds of local arts/crafts in one shop
Shirts So Good obscure classic rock and pop culture shirts
Draplin Design Co. (Portland, OR) hats, t-shirts, posters, gifts
Leigh McKolay Design badass-earth-mother design


Thriftbooks (online) I sure as f**k wouldn’t be offended if you gifted me a used book (or two) instead of wasting $35 on a new one (See also: records) So cheap.
Open Books a great browsable local resource for used (and new) books
Quimby’s the Chicago book/zine institution
Matter (Denver) the mighty Rick Griffith’s bookstore/giftshop


Again, no problem at all getting a used record as a gift!
Orbit Records the new great shop in my neighborhood
Oak Park Records the old great shop in my neighborhood
Bucket O’ Blood another favorite, run by the nicest people, also books!
Jump Up Chuck’s Ska/Reggae online superstore
Revolver Records (Pensacola) my old pal Elvis
Everybody’s (Cincinnati) made me the man I am today
Shake It (Cincinnati) maybe even better than Everybody’s?


Tarnish local shop w/great gifts, esp for women motorcyclists
Vespa Club of America store, or a gift membership
Lambretta Club USA store, or a gift membership
Scoot 66 Tours (L.A.) Vespa Route 66 tours
Also: support your local scooter shops and small businesses
(Too many to list, ask for specific references based on location/needs!)


Starshaped Press amazing Chicago-centric hand-typeset prints
Chema Skandal posters, zines, slipmats, t-shirts
Kent Smith mixed-media pop culture mashups
René Arceo amazing wood and lino-cut prints
Ben Blount posters and books
Brad Vetter (Louisville) music posters
Aquarius House letterpress art prints and cards
Shea Cahill zines and such
Rob Syers (St. Louis) Gumballhead the Cat and “Space Witches”
Phineas X. Jones paintings and prints
Steven Shay mixed-media collages, lots of Chicago content
Ron Richter (NYC) paintings

Like scooter shop friends, my printer/artist friends are too many to list, let me know if you’re looking for something specific and I’ll point you towards it.

Partners in Print/Hamilton/Ladies of Letterpress all offer a few gift items, but more importantly offer classes and resources for new printers. Also, if you’re donating some cash this year, I’d love to see it go their way.


New Rose Catering meal delivery, events, or cooking classes
Heather Parker family/portrait photography
The Lincoln Lodge comedy events and classes
Crybaby Tattoo tattoos by Nina Flomp

Guitar Pedals That Make Fart Sounds

The Fart Pedal my friend Steve won Shark Tank and he’s out of control

Buy Used!

Buy used! Thrift stores are pretty picked-over these days and but ask your friends and keep an eye out on the neighborhood swap lists, people have good stuff they don’t use and are often happy to sell it. Look on Etsy and eBay for long-lost souvenirs of childhood or mementos with personal relevance to a friend. Most books, records, CDs, DVDs, video games are available used for a fraction of the price and you’re keeping stuff out of landfills. Have you ever seen how many $3 Crock Pots are stacked up at every thrift store? Who is buying a new Crock Pot?


DIY Seeburg LPC-1

This spring, as the quarantine kicked in, I finally (with a lot of help) got our Seeburg LPC-1 running, which was also the genesis of my project to reproduce jukebox lettering. Around the same time, my son came home from school with an origami piano, and the shape looked very familiar! I mutated it into a mini papercraft LPC and put the whole story and instructions on my motorscooter blog, but now that I have a jukebox site, too, might as well post it here, too!

Here’s the PDF file to print and assemble. There are instructions in the file.

Bonus: Here’s a Spotify playlist of the records on our jukebox back in March when we got it running again: