The first thing you'll notice upon entering Alchemy Arts (1203 W. Bryn Mawr), an occult supply store in Edgewater a block off the Bryn Mawr Red Line stop, is the smell—a ripe, heavy, calming blanket of herbs, smoke, and catnip. The shop's floor is packed with rotating display stands of incense, roots, and oil. Surrounding a ceramic sphinx in the corner, candles burn. And of course there is a cat present, staring into your soul.
Frieda, a stray brought in by a customer years ago, is as friendly as Alchemy Arts' owner, Ken Kwilosz. Thin gray hair slicked back, wearing loose blue jeans, a plain black T-shirt, and sneakers, he looks like a mechanic on his day off. But the Dumbledore glasses and diet Dumbledore beard give him away. He is happy to lead you to whatever you're looking for, be it a scented homemade candle, a love potion, or a book on dark magic. As I walk in, he puffs his e-cigarette, says hello, and goes back to bagging herbs.
A jewelry case features Wiccan pendants next to cross necklaces. And despite the ominous books that line the walls (sorted by category: healing, Egyptian, shamanism, astral, spell craft, hoodoo, the satanic scriptures, et cetera), the shop is warm and inclusive. The community gathers for weekly tarot-card readings, and in the past the shop has hosted book clubs.