Best Chicago Shopping Of 2012: The Hottest New Stores (PHOTOS)

With 2012 nearing its conclusion, HuffPost Chicago reached out to some of city's most prolific trendsetters and experts in style, music and culture and asked them to share some of their favorite local places and things from the year. We'll be rolling them out on the daily through New Year's Day.

Forget mass-market chain stores found in Everytown, USA. Small businesses are vital in shaping the DNA of a neighborhood -- or even a city -- and Chicago continued to add new life in 2012 with a crop of excellent new shops.

To get the skinny on the best new stores that opened in 2012, HuffPost called on Chicago shopping expert Emily Fiffer, the Windy City editor for Daily Candy and one-third of the creative force behind the new pop-up food and design market, Fête Chicago.

The shopping-savvy editor rounded up her favorite new retail spots of the year, with a list that covers food, books and gifts. Bonus: many of the shops included feature items made by local talent, adding a dose of Chicago originality to stores that are entirely unique to the Windy City.

Text below by Fiffer. Check out more of Fiffer's picks at the next Fête Chicago market when it returns in April.

Best Chicago Store Openings Of 2012