Incoming Transmission: 826CHI Member Spotlight

Posted by: Unknown on Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Incoming transmission:826CHI icon


Spy supplyists at The Boring Store have relocated to 1276 N Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park, and upon their grand reopening will operate under a new name: The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co.
The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co. Logo
Behind this clandestine storefront’s grappling hooks, stakeout books, and rubber nose disguises lies an entity unbeknownst to many: 826CHI, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and helping teachers inspire their students to write. 826CHI is one of eight chapters across the nation, each boasting a themed retail component and collectively serving more than 30,000 young people each year.

As 826CHI anticipates our 10th year in operation, we aim to set ourselves up for another decade of engaging, innovative programming for Chicago’s students. We’ve been dreaming of expanding our organization’s capacity, quality of service, and impact for years...and now it’s a reality! A trifecta of generosity paved the way for our move toward greatness:



A Buttonhole camera snapped this secret survey of the new store
  • Kendra Curry-Khanna, 826CHI’s Deputy Director, stumbled upon a retail space for rent during her morning work commute—just half a block south of our original location at 1331 N Milwaukee. It features more square footage and lower rent.

  • Chicago’s most saintly landlord, Lee Stansbury, graciously offered to cover the costs of this space’s basic build out to our organization’s needs and preferences—he’s owned the building for 30 years (formerly Diana Shoes) and is deeply committed to the Wicker Park community; and

  • A team of world-class architects and designers from Gensler agreed to devise a Master Plan for our new home—entirely free of cost!

To facilitate this move and the ongoing fortification of our organization, 826CHI has embarked on a Capital Fund: 826CHI Forward. This fund has three phases: BUILD, FURNISH, and FORTIFY, each of which focuses on a necessary aspect of our growth and maturity.

Welcome to the new 826CHI!
Imagine the espionage!

Visitors to our new home will immediately immerse themselves in the story of our work. The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co. will feature hands-on exploration into the world of espionage and, simultaneously, tip visitors off to the creative work happening behind the store. Enter our Writing Lab through a secret door and find:

  • Our Exhibition Wall, which showcases our mission to promote project-based learning: Poems to beloved family pets, hand-drawn maps of fantastical worlds, high-schoolers’ essays answering the question, “Who Am I?”’

  • A Parent Nook and Volunteer Hub, complete with ultra-comfortable seating that encourages community-building and informational flyers of all varieties and colors;

  • A traditional front desk, where we will conduct methodical and more sophisticated student and volunteer check-ins, thereby more efficiently collecting data and tracking our successes;

  • A Writing Lab, for both group learning and one-on-one instruction;

  • An additional classroom space, perfect for holding volunteer trainings, meetings, or running more than one program at a time; and

  • A Publishing Center—in addition to churning out more than 3,000 books filled with our students’ writing each year, this space will also allow our students to participate in the physical creation of their books.

826CHI is incredibly grateful for all who have supported this wonderful step forward for our organization—most of all Jessica Statz and her Gensler design team, and Kapil Khanna and the good people at Forum Architecture. These wonderful people are not only kind, enthusiastic, and generous, but inexplicably talented and in-tune with our mission. Before we began to talk of acoustical ceiling tile and secret bookshelves, Gensler held a vision session with our After-School Tutoring & Writing students and volunteers. We learned that our students wanted more quiet, comfortable places to read, splashes of color around the space, and an expanded library. Gensler took these suggestions to heart to create a plan that directly addresses the needs of our programs, desires of our students, and allows the space itself to become a tool for education.

826CHI icon

826CHI is so excited to serve Wicker Park and the surrounding communities for the next 10 years to come, and would love for you to visit us in our new home in the late fall! For more information about 826CHI’s move and Capital Fund, visit To receive intel on our fall 2014 Grand Opening (and otherwise-classified daily exploits), sign up to receive our monthly newsletter, and stalk us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Onward!


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