Hurray For Potbelly's and Johnny Rockets

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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.

                                                                          

                                                                                        

 

Reader Comments

4 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

John Hubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: March 8th, 2011 11:22 AM

One man's french fries is another's tofu. And unfortunately, the Oak Park Economic Diversity Train left town a long time ago.

DC  

Posted: February 25th, 2011 12:31 PM

Take your pick. I think there is a good mix of local vs chain eateries, esp. when you look at what is available in say, a 3 mile radius. Exceptional? Both Hemingway & Wright eventually left OP for other pastures...

Former OP Shopper and Diner  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 2:11 PM

I suspect Downtown Oak Park, the tourist board, and any number of agencies which go to great lengths to promote the specialness of OP would beg to differ. For me, a call for sympathy for the plight of property owners doesn't make a "Wreck" or double cheeseburger any more appetizing. Nor does the idea of Marion & Lake becoming a dining mecca for the 16 to 25 set. All the more reason to eat among the grown-ups west of Harlem.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2011 12:13 PM

What you're calling "Oak Park exceptionalism" is in fact the last local vestige of hope for the future. You seem to think a world in which the rich get richer, the poor get trampled, and everyone else accepts less and less, all in the name of competitiveness, is inevitable. Oak Park has been a rare ongoing experiment in trying to make and maintain a community which works for everyone who chooses to participate. The ultimate alternative is a world of elite enclaves surrounded by poverty.

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