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Creative writing classes and spy gear definitively not at the Boring Store

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The exterior of the Boring Store, located on 1331 North Milwaukee Avenue, is a brilliant display of reverse psychology. The large billboard on it's front, with the image of a square looking man with a toothbrush mustache and shopping cart, proclaims itself to be a market for bland, inoffensive, and wholly uninteresting products. It explains in great detail that it has nothing worth buying or selling, no reason to take a look inside, and that it in no possible way is it a secret agent supply store in disguise.

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A suspiciously specific denial like that is near-impossible not to investigate. And that's part of the brilliance of the Boring Store, a non-profit store that sells gadgets, gizmos and creative kits to sponsor 812Chi, a creative writing center for young Chicago students; it's a center within a store that's disguised as a different store.

Most stores in the Chicagoland area that go under the label 'spy store' don't have as many James Bond or Mission Impossible gadgets as people hope: usually they're white-walled shops that sell mundane equipment like surveilance cameras, safes, fake rocks to hide keys in, and pepper spray–in short, survival equipment for the safety-conscious urban dweller.

The interior of the Boring Store, though, was clearly designed by people who understand the appeal of super-spy/detective fiction. It's walls are brightly colored and curved, and props like robots, stuffed animals, and giant globes festoon the place. There are safes and secret compartment objects for sale, but also gag gifts, multi-tools, office supplies disguised as robots, and a clothing rack stocked entirely with trenchcoats.

There's also items meant for creative middle/high school students, such as a make-your-own pinhole camera kit, and a bookshelf to the side filled with poetry collections, fiction anthologies, and art books that discuss surreal conspiracy theories about cold fusion and whether giraffes have control over our mirrors (they do).

One of the anthologies on this shelf, The Compendium, is an annual publication filled with stories submitted by Chicago students. Many of these stories were written during one of 812Chi's free writing events, hosted in the backrooms of the Boring Store. Among the events the store hosts are after-school tutoring sessions, daily morning field trips from nearby schools, and weekly workshops that any student between the age of 6 and 18 can attend.

The goal of 821Chi, as a “Nonprofit Writing and Tutoring Center”, is to help students strenghten their writing skills and create a setting where kids can freely express themselves and awaken their imagination. That's likely why 821Chi chose to sponsor their program with a melodramatic spy goods store: a vibrant, fantastic enviornment like that automatically make the mind dream up stories, search for hidden secrets, and imagine the sorts of strange characters that would frequent a place like this.

Currently, The Boring Store is in the process of moving to a new location down the block, sopeople who want to check out the place's atmosphere should check out it's very cool website. Just be sure to pick the right code phrase to be allowed in.

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