We spent a sunny Chicago day at the NoMi patio at Park Hyatt with Gilt City Chicago’s curator, Nicole Banks. Truly loving what she does working with some of the city’s top restaurants, shops, spas, and more – she sat down with us to share her day-to-day, fun sales coming up this summer, and favorite hangouts in the city.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START WITH GILT CITY?
One of my favorite stories to share! Back in the summer of 2010, I was in New York for an intimate luxury conference. For two days I was sitting beside some of the best known CEO’s from dozens of top designers such as Cartier, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Tumi, and low and behold, Gilt.com. That first afternoon I had my “lightbulb” moment and realized that Gilt had recently launched Gilt City in New York. I approached the founder of Gilt.com, Alexandra Wilkis-Wilson and gushed about my love for all things Gilt and their newest company, Gilt City. I asked if I could meet with someone while I was in town to discuss the possibility of Gilt launching City in Chicago. She gave me her card and the next day I had an informal meeting scheduled for later that week with the president, Nathan Richardson. That night I locked myself in my hotel room and put together a 12-page “business plan” of how I could tackle the Chicago market. My meeting with Nate quickly came and here I was in NYC, about to walk into my dream job interview, with no time to shop for the perfect interview outfit or even get a manicure. Needless to say, Nate and I hit it off and a short 45-minutes later, he was walking me around the office introducing me to a few other key Gilt employees. Five weeks later I was back in New York for a brief two-day orientation and then returned to Chicago to launch our market. It’s been a whirlwind ever sense, but absolutely the best moment I can remember.
WHAT DO YOU DO AS A GILT CITY CURATOR?
As a Gilt City Curator, I am always on the hunt to uncover exclusive and unique experiences that we can provide to our members. We have to think outside the box and submerge ourselves entirely into the culture of the city. At the end of the day, we’re providing access to the most sought after experiences and businesses around, both new and old. My team lives and breathes the Gilt brand, but also does a superb job of understanding what our members want and making sure we’re thinking of them with each and every feature we launch. We want our members to love Chicago and it’s our job to make sure they’re able to do so!
HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHAT A GILT-CITY WORTHY OFFER IS?
In Chicago we have a fairly lean team (only five of us!), and we all really have our pulse on all of the fabulous spots in Chicago. We comb through all of the neighborhoods and are constantly on the lookout for the latest and greatest. After three years, we know what our member wants, and we customize each and every package to offer a unique or exclusive experience or opportunity to try a new business that no one else can offer.
THERE ARE SO MANY SALE SITES – WHAT MAKES GILT DIFFERENT?
Since we hand pick the 500+ local offers that we feature every year, we know that we’re providing access to the best brand partners in the city. Whether it’s a 2-hour, four hand synchronized Purva Karma massage at The Peninsula to a semi-private brunch for two with Chef Moosah in the Pump Room kitchen to an exclusive grand opening class with DJ Matt Roan at Shred415 to celebrate their newest location – we are partnering with the marquee businesses that only trust Gilt with their brand.
WHAT SALES DO YOU HAVE COMING UP FOR THE SUMMER THAT YOU CAN SHARE?
Next week we’re launching our next Guest Curator, featuring Kerry and Sarah Wood and all of their favorite spots in the city. We’ll also be hosting our 3rd annual ‘Better Than Backstage Rooftop Pool Party’ and offering a few exclusive tickets to members in July. Past performances include: 2011 – Cults, 2012 – Of Monsters and Men, 2013 – TBA.
WHAT WAS THE MOST UNIQUE SALE YOU OFFERED ON THE SITE?
In the past three years we’ve had dozens of exclusive offers in Chicago from farm dinners, to tasting menus, even a year of massages…but the two that stand out the most are: 1) Blackbird Wedding-In-The-Box: Private wedding ceremony/reception for 75 guests at Blackbird including a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings, six-hour premium open bar, floral arrangements, wedding cake, and dancing. Gilt City Price: $28K 2) Exclusive Chicago White Sox Proposal: On-field proposal at U.S. Cellular Field, engagement photo shoot, champagne toast on 100 level concourse, limo service to/from the stadium, floral arrangements, and two VIP game day tickets. Gilt City Price: $5K
WHAT LOCAL GEMS (RESTAURANTS, BOUTIQUES, EXPERIENCES) HAE YOU DISCOVERED THROUGH YOUR JOB?
Honestly too many to name! What I love most about my job is that I’m actually required to find these hidden gems and spend my time exploring the city. We’re all about ‘Loving Your City More’ and it’s so easy to stop exploring and trying new spots when you’ve lived somewhere long enough. Gilt forces me to expand my horizons and always have my eyes (and ears) open. I meet so many new and diverse friends/peers who are always turning me on to different parts of the city.
FAVORITE HANGOUTS IN THE CITY?
Photos by Nastasia Mora Photography for L&C