Two stories: hate and hope

Opinion: Dan Haley

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:

Hateful: Let's start with allegedly. Frank Elliott allegedly torched his own gay night spot in Oak Park in June 2012. He allegedly scrawled homophobic slurs on the walls of the Velvet Rope before he allegedly set it ablaze.

Then the next morning he for certain stood on the curb along Lake Street as firefighters doused the flames and flooded out two neighboring businesses, and he tut-tutted that this wasn't arson, it was a hate crime.

Now if Elliott is convicted of burning out his failing business, then he will have been proved right. It was a hate crime. A self-hate crime. For the operator of a gay bar in a welcoming town such as Oak Park to allegedly attempt to deflect responsibility from himself and splatter it on the community is pitiful and pathetic.

From the start, this crime was assessed as arson. From the start, there were suspicions that Elliott was responsible. Police and fire investigators have worked this case hard. When a month later the Journal began reporting on various lawsuits against Elliott and a previous owner of the business for non-payment of obligations, the concerns were made stronger.

When a business is caving in on itself, options can seem narrow. But to allegedly play the hate-crime card raises this sad case to a troubling level.

Good energy: You are unlikely to find two people with more potent and positive combined energy than Jill Salzman and Sarah Corbin. Together they are on the verge of bringing Oak Park a business model that infuses and ripples and welcomes small-business growth and innovation. No, it is not a brew pub.

It is a small-business incubator and, yes, I'll use the trendy term, a co-working space. The pair is working to gather sponsors/investors in their nonprofit venture, and they are narrowing in on a 10,000-square-foot space in Oak Park to lease.

If all goes well, and I'm confident it will, Work Wright will open in the first half of 2014. What is an incubator and co-working space? It is a place where entrepreneurs and innovators gather together to work their own business plan but do it in an environment of collaboration, active learning and mentoring, resource sharing and even a place you can bring your kids for child care while you work.

Have to tell you that I've known Jill Salzman for two years and have cultivated the friendship and the alliance because she is unfiltered small-biz joy and acumen. The founder of The Founding Moms, Salzman has gathered together and inspired women across the world — yep, across the world — into local chapters of her group. She is one of those people who make extraordinary things happen using tools and tech that are cutting-edge and profoundly connecting.

Also have to tell you that Sarah Corbin used to work here at the Journal. Still does, sort of. You can see her small-business love on display in today's My Holiday Home section where she is our local shopping guru and blogger.

So why are they building this energy-absorbing and diffusing hub in Oak Park? Because they live here and they love Oak Park. And, they say, Oak Park is "about to have lift-off in economic development."

I'm betting they will be at the center of it.

Contact:
Email: dhaley@wjinc.com Twitter: @OPEditor

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