By John Hubbuch
In most towns in America the announcements that Potbellys and Johnny Rockets were opening restaurants would be greeted with near universal applause. But not in Oak Park. David Hammond in his excellent blog "Local Eats" and many of his readers were not so enthusiastic about the arrival of these well known chain restaurants preferring a local establisment in these pemium spots. Galena was offered up as a model for us: there are no chains in Galena only quaint cozy local places. Galena is not right next to one of the great restaurant cities in the world, but I digress.
Now I would like a restaurant that serves only fried chicken and sushi while English Premier League games are playing on the big screen TVs, but I realize that leasing space on Lake Street ain't easy with whopping tax bills and no very good place to park. You have to pay six figure build- out allowances to the restauranteurs that will take you years to recoup. The business plan will have to support a long term lease, and you would need the personal guaranty of a high wealth individual just in case the restraurant fails---as most of them do. I suspect it was a happy day when the buildins' owner Mr. Shaker received the calls from Potbellys and Johnny Rockets.
But there is a larger point here as well. It is the belief that Oak Park is so special that we are better than every other community. Our schools, snow removal, public discourse, economic development and restaurants have to be better than every other town in the country.
This Oak Park exceptionalism derives no doubt from the successful , innovative way we avoided resegregation and the influence of Messrs Hemmingway and Wright.We should be proud of our history. But that happened a long time ago. History matters, but so do a lot of other things. Think about that when you are eating your sandwich at Potbelly's and Johnny Rockets.