WEDNESDAY JOURNAL's coverage the last two weeks regarding the increasing decline or departure of small Oak Park businesses illustrates a strong warning to our community about the loss of business diversity and character.
This week, owners of yet another downtown business, Kate's Garden, announced, via personal letters to their customers, that they are regretfully closing the store next month after a lackluster year, capped by a dismal holiday shopping season. We lose not only a local business treasure, but also a good neighbor and friends, who invested in the community, support local events and programs, and knew many of their customers by name.
Every time a small business closes in Oak Park, a thread of this community's fabric is pulled away. These businesses, often owned by Oak Park residents, are what make our village shopping districts unique and vibrant. Together they form the personality of our business districts, and they are committed to Oak Park. However, Oak Park is not always committed to them.
We can take steps now to reverse this trend. Village leaders need to reevaluate the direction in which they are allowing business development to advance. They need to provide as many, or more, incentives to small businesses to open and remain open, as they are offering developers who bring in little but big chain stores with impersonal customer service that only make Oak Park more like every other suburban shopping area.
And as Oak Park residents, we can contribute to the solution by supporting these small businesses and shopping locally. Not just now and again, but on a regular basis.
Let's not wait to see yet another "Going Out of Business" sign in the window of a local, small business. We've seen it far too often already.
Jill Allread and Pamela Freese