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Aiko’s Art Materials Import Business photograph collection

Identifier: 2008.016P

Scope and Contents

Collection contains photographs and slides of Aiko’s Art Materials Import, Inc.’s stores located at 714 North Wabash and at 3347 North Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois. Also included are photographs of founder Aiko Nakane, owner Chuck Izui, employees and friends (ca. 1960s-2000).


  • circa 1960s-2000s

Biographical / Historical

Aiko Nakane was born on September 15, 1908 in Seattle, Washington to Kataro (1878-1950) and Fumiko Inoue (1882-1969). When Aiko was six years old, her family moved to Osaka, Japan where they lived for a ten year period. When the Inoue family returned to the United States, they settled in Los Angeles, California.

In 1927, Aiko married Kenji Nakane (1904-1978), a minister. The couple - teachers at San Gabriel Valley Japanese School from 1927-1934 - welcomed their son, Earle Tetsuo Nakane, into this world in 1932.

On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked and, the following month, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt authorized United States Executive Order 9066. This order led to the forced removal of individuals of Japanese descent from designated “military zones” located mostly along the West Coast. Kenji Nakane was separated from his family and sent to a camp in California while Aiko and Earle were incarcerated at the Poston Relocation Center (also known as Colorado River Relocation Center) in LaPaz County, Arizona. After several months, the family was reunited and released from camp under the order to relocate far away from the coast. The Nakanes decided to move to Chicago.

After War World II concluded, the family settled into life in Chicago. Aiko took painting and pottery classes part-time at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago while her husband was appointed to the Executive Director position at the Chicago Resettlers Committee - now named the Japanese American Service Committee. Kenji led the organization from 1953 through 1963.

During the 1950s, Aiko visited Japan and brought back beautiful handmade papers as gifts for her fellow art student friends. Her friends expressed great interest in these handcrafted papers and Aiko saw a business opportunity. For several years, she imported Japanese paper and supplies to sell to her friends and colleagues. In 1957, she founded a retail store, Aiko’s Art Materials Import, on the corner of Wabash and Huron in Chicago. The store specialized in the sale of handmade Japanese paper, books on Japanese papermaking, brushes, Mingei pottery, contemporary prints, art materials, stationary, cards and gift items. The company was incorporated in 1974.

Over the years, the store moved several times. It started out at 8 East Huron, then moved to 28 East Huron and then went back to 8 East Huron for a period of time. Aiko then moved her storefront to 714 North Wabash and its final storefront was opened at 3347 North Clark Street in Chicago in 1989. When Aiko decided to retire, she transitioned the day-to-day management of the business to her longtime employee, Charles “Chuck” Izui, who had started at the shop in 1980. Chuck purchased the store from Aiko in 1990 and ran it until it closed its doors in May of 2008.

Aiko Nakane passed away on May 19, 2004 at the age of 95.

Source: Nakane, Aiko; Aiko’s Art Materials Import, Inc.


2 boxes

Language of Materials




Stack West Wall Cabinet 0 Shelf 05 (Box 7)

Aiko’s Art Materials Import Business photograph collection
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the JASC Legacy Center Repository

4427 N Clark St.
Chicago IL 60640 United States
1 (773) 275-0097