Walk past the storefront of Maya Mueble in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood and its one-of-a-kind designs might catch your eye: the intricate hand-crafted iron and vinyl chairs that line up behind the glass windows burst with radiant blue and tangy-orange hues.
Sibling founders Emily and Brian Prendergast started Maya Mueble in 2011 as an e-commerce site selling chic furniture and textile pieces. The modern designs, such as avocado tree trunk tabletops and embroidered pillows made from Guatemalan garments, come from artisans in Latin American countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala.
In October, Maya Mueble opened its first brick-and-mortar store at 3754 N. Ashland Ave and more expansion plans are on the way.
“Something we’re looking into now is building our own, eco-friendly solar kiln to dry out our wood we use for our tabletops, coffee tables, along with having a plantation to plant trees into furniture,” said Emily.
She added the company would like to begin selling and distributing its products at the wholesale level to retailers in the U.S. and Europe.
Maya Mueble works with a partner in the Santa Ana region of El Salvador who handles vendor logistics and quality control and helps maintain sustainable relationships with local artisans. Mauricio Corado says the business has “generated big and positive benefits” in the community.
“The local designers are very excited and waiting for new orders,” said Corado through a translator. “This business has come and put energy into the community, improved the state of life, since it is a small business, a family business.”
The overhead risks and costs associated with transitioning from an e-commerce shop to a retail store may be daunting, but Emily Prendergast said there was never a question in her mind that Maya Mueble would eventually have a storefront.
“Absolutely,” she said, “because I am just very confident that this is going to become something big.”