I have been to Aquarium Adventure and Tropiquatics...both are really nice places.... I didn't find anything of real interest at tropiquatics.... At Aquarium Adventure I did find a better selection. I bought a couple young Taiwan Reefs and a Sunshine Peacock. Prices were about $15 a fish showing minimal to no color. I would definitely go back though.
In addition to reaching breeders / dedicated hobbyists through a Wanted Ad ,in our classifieds, you can also probably find a couple of larger scale Malawi breeders via the Classifieds and set up a day of appointments. I would also try to do that around a GCCA monthly meeting and go to that as well if you can. Usually there rare Malawi fry in BAP and you can have others bring fish there.. Sorry you missed the Classic's silent auction, swap meet and regular auction. Taken as a whole, way better selection than any local fish store could hope to offer.
One other decent fish store in Lombard, Illiinois - Tropiquatics, but I'm thinking it might be too general purpose for you and more or less on the Tanganyikan side for Africans. Also, a fish store in Lake Geneva picked up quite a bit of stock from the Classic. You might want to call Broad Street Pets first, explaining what you're planning and to see if Bruce has something you might want. Lake Geneva would add time to your trip even though it's kind of in between Chicago and Milwaukee.
Scubadiver is right on with coming to Chicago to find a good shop, chicagos best shop is prob aquarium adventures which I hate to say, chicago hasnt had a good selection since the 90's, but I've noticed too that milwaukee is a shell of what it used to be in its selection of good shops.....
Lol someone would come from Milwaukee to Chicago to find a better selection of fish.
Milwaukee is known for having way better petstores than Chicago.
Aquarium Adventures might be your best option.
What chicago has is GCCA Swaps which will not pick back up till the fall.
Many people will say that out swaps along with the internet may have driven many local chicagoland petstores out of business.
You can also put a wanted ad in our classifieds.
Are you looking to be involved or commited
A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road. The Chicken says, "Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!". Pig replies, "What would we call it?". The Chicken responds, "How about ham-n-eggs?" The Pig thinks for a moment and says, No thanks. I'd be committed, but you'd only be involved.