Chicago's only undercover spy supply store, entryway to the creative writing center 826CHI, is RELOCATING & REINVENTING.
Our new identity will be built to outfit and engage locally shopping operatives, while functioning as a fully-interactive center of hands-on learning for the youngest agents amongst us. We'll bring the imaginative spirit of 826CHI out for public access, while expanding the method of our programs out to our storefront space.
When award-winning indie author Dave Eggers joined forces with educator friend Nínive Calegari in 2002 to open 826 Valencia, a creative writing nonprofit and tutoring center in San Francisco’s Mission District, city zoning regulations put them in a peculiar spot; the ideal location for their space was on a street strictly zoned for retail. They had to sell something.
Thinking creatively and inspired by the exposed wooden skeleton of their mid-renovation new digs, they opened The Pirate Store, which to date sells any necessary equipment for the seafaring brigand—everything from peg leg oil to monkey leashes, from eye patches to Scurvy-Be-Gone.
Their capitalist tomfoolery backfired, in a way; and in a way it succeeded beyond their dreams—because The Pirate Store turned out to be the best possible support system for their bustling, budding tutoring center. Not only does its sales provide considerable financial support to the organization’s operations budget, but kids are excited to go there. Who wouldn’t want to go to a pirate store? Suddenly, tutoring isn’t such a bad thing—not if the environment is fun. And the imagination is already unlocked and ready to whirr after moving through this mind-boggling, otherworldly environment.
And adults love it too; through the now eight chapters with ten individual tutoring centers and storefronts across the country, thousands of volunteers have been recruited and hundreds of community partnerships built via the walk-in, imagination-sparking wonder of their oddball worlds—time travelers, robots, superheroes, space travelers, bigfoot researchers, un-naturalist explorers, and—in Chicago—spies.
PUTTING THE ‘front’ in STOREFRONT, but uncovering the UNDERCOVER
After seven years hiding under the guise of “The Boring Store” it’s time to confess. We are spies; and we aim to outfit secret agents from far and wide from our new headquarters in Wicker Park—just one block away from the old address. We’re older, we’re wiser, and we’ve got a new lease on a life of secrecy. And now it’s time to build a brand new spy shop, one that best engages a growing community of allies in its efforts at espionage—and that best initiates those spies to the secret mission of our nonprofit writing center.
This project will help build the store’s role not only within the burgeoning community of international operatives, but within our organization itself by better engaging our families, better educating our students, and better welcoming newcomers whether as volunteers, community partners, or donors.
We’re building the store as an epic interactive installation in order to expand our programmatic arm into the public sphere, giving anyone walking in off the street access to a creative experience. Not only will people be welcomed into interaction with our students’ writing, they’ll be able to write themselves, and share their writing with our students through a variety of new conduits and channels. We’ll also be able to reach hundreds and thousands more children than we can see in a year of programming by building a wealth of interactive elements that teach aspects of the world of espionage in a hands-on environment. Much as 826CHI programs are designed to help the students engage with the world around them through new eyes and new experiences, our secret agent supply store will be designed to help orient operatives of all ages in the world of Spy.
TIDBITS OF THE PROJECT SPECIFICS
Our new space needs to engage the young, the permanently young, and the impossible-to-impress. Here are some components (Please note, exclusive intel is available to project backers. These are just a few of our plans):
- Restoration of the fully interactive 1970's British supercomputer, CECIL. Once a fixture of an MI-5 office building lobby and programmed as part watchdog, part watercooler conversationalist, CECIL (or, The Commonwealth of England Counter-intelligence Logicenter) has been fixed up (after core-memory extraction, of course) and rigged to sell and display our t-shirts. He will also pair you with the perfect mustache and calculate your threat level for you.
- Revamped Whisper System with built in booby-traps
- Junior operative training station with 3-dimensional eye-spy, latch practice, and other hands-on exercises.
- Permanent writing station
- Pigeon hatchery
- Built-in lurking spots for stealth practice
- Dead-drop spots for message delivery and retrieval
- Pigeon Post Office
- & More! Become a backer for all-access clearance to our master plans.
& THANK-YOU'S, from us:
Rewards for this project span from new, allyship-signaling swag including our Brand-New T-shirts, to the very rare opportunity to participate in 826CHI programming through Adult Field Trips, or even to take home a piece of the old Boring Store on the occasion of its shuttering, or leave your name, somewhere within our walls.
We hope you'll join us in this--and future--operations of Inquiry, Wonder, and Imagination.
Risks and challenges
One of the hardest challenges we face as a nonprofit organization that is trying to create a thoroughly interactive, fun environment is that it's not "necessary" to daily operations. We've got a very big to-do list to get our tutoring center reopened this Fall, and one of the greatest potential impediments to this project will be ensuring that it remains on schedule.
We've committed to working through this by restructuring the store staff in order to ensure we have a third more manpower behind this project's execution than we usually operate with. Additional staff members have agreed to come on in a volunteer capacity to see this project through to completion, and because of that, we believe wholeheartedly in our ability to deliver--we have an incredible volunteer workforce that believes in the value of our storefront space.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (36 days)