Within the quaint and unincorporated town of Hygiene resides an eclectic shop teeming with a rotating selection of original art, vintage clothing that spans decades, fragrant apothecary, furniture, fine jewelry and more.
Low Rider opened in November 2022 in a former gas station that sat vacant for years. The brick building near the fire station was once a welding shop and even had a stint as a video rental store.
After a little over a year in business, the hub of creativity is going strong as a trusted purveyor of radiant relics and fresh finds. The woman behind the den of bohemian charm is Susan McGrady, a lifelong traveler, collector and lover of antiques.
McGrady was mostly raised in Illinois, but her family moved around quite a bit due her dad’s job with Exxon and the mining industry. As a child, she relished in having her cherished items close by.
“When you’re moving all the time, when you’re 5, 4 or 3, you don’t have memories — so these things you collect kind of create comfort where you don’t have it,” McGrady says.
While living in Chicago as an adult, she partnered with her daughter, Lauren McGrady, to create Rider for Life — a space with a concept similar to Low Rider. Before long, visitors were seeking out the pair’s room-styling expertise to transform their homes.
Take the back road
McGrady bought the building at 7507 Hygiene Road after she discovered it while dropping another daughter’s items off at a nearby storage unit. Much like her gut-instinct to not part with an eye-catching heirloom, she felt the call to purchase the building.
“I always say you have to be open to the possibilities because it totally changes your journey, if you’re willing to change your journey,” McGrady says.
Low Rider only displays about 10% of what McGrady has in several storage units. She doesn’t go to estate sales, auctions or tracking down pieces online: The maximalist credits her many discoveries to “traveling down back roads,” almost as if the pieces find her.
“There’s so many little places in these dusty towns,” McGrady says. “As you can imagine, in some the population is down to 300 people. There’s probably still an antique store there and someone who has stories to tell.”
Soon, McGrady plans to road-trip to Alabama and is excited to see what she uncovers to add to her ever-evolving arsenal of treasures.
While Low Rider welcomes in patrons who have just completed a trail stroll at nearby Pella Crossing or lunch at beloved corner store and sandwichery The Mountain Fountain, the shop has also evolved into a sought-out destination for those craving the unexpected.
But McGrady and her team aren’t just providing a platform for established artists — they’re also helping the next generation of creatives find footing with youth pop-up markets where kids and teens can sell their own work. From a session on styling holiday frocks to mixology lessons and a class on how to grow psilocybin mushrooms, the space also hosts an array of diverse community events.
With this manifold mission in tow, McGrady sees Low Rider as a place to inspire those seeking something to enhance their space, and at the root is a strong emphasis on reinvention and community she never wants the shop to lose.
‘A style of contradiction’
McGrady lives on three acres on the other side of Highway 66, and her home is just as vibrant and varied as the essence of Low Rider. A wild turkey named Stella pays McGrady and her husband daily visits for an offering of organic sunflower seeds — a far different scene from life in the Windy City.
Much like McGrady’s personal style, Low Rider is a hodgepodge of refined and rustic.
“It’s a style of contradiction, but in that contradiction you always find tension that’s calming and balanced, so it’s masculine and feminine, dark and light,” McGrady says.
Many of the pieces in her shop are steeped in storytelling, and McGrady sees Low Rider offering a lending library program of art and design books in the future. She also has plans to debut a creative writing series.
In addition to the main dwelling, McGrady has extended her concept to a venue across the street that currently holds a holiday pop-up of sorts. Among original artwork by faraway and local creators, visitors will find vintage suitcases, animal hides, ornaments, a weathered pair of retro ice skates and a nativity set from the 1950s.
In early January 2024, the space that currently holds the holiday pop-up will be filled with furniture for a week-long floor sample sale, followed by more artist pop-ups.
Back at the main shop, old-school velvet-covered horse riding caps, dynamic sculptures by Margaret Josey-Parker, paintings by Butch Anthony and playful footstools designed to look like hens by The City Girl Farm are just a few of the items that make up a truly varied assortment.
An ultra-modern chair by Dutch designer Dirk Vander Kooij can be found next to a desk from the 1800s, one of McGrady’s many thoughtful juxtapositions. Nostalgia radiates from each decked-out corner of the well-appointed shop, often sparking memories in patrons.
“Objects act as a conduit for shoppers to share their history with us,” says Emily Canova, creative consultant to Low Rider, who has helped foster the shop’s success.
With a range of price points and a revolving line-up of inventory, McGrady hopes to attract folks from “all walks of life.”
“When customers walk in, I want them to feel energized,” McGrady says. “But mostly, I want them to feel at home.”