I am writing in response to last week's One View by Jay Arbetman, "Harrison Street is hip, but sadly neglected." I don't know what Mr. Arbetman's connection to Harrison Street is, but as a long time business owner on Harrison Street, I would like to offer a different perspective. While I agree with some of the things he said (we are a unique shopping district and an important gateway with lovely goods and services), I disagree that we are so completely unknown. When I opened my shop in 1993, I was immediately welcomed by people in the neighborhood who were so happy to see a business open on Harrison Street. In the 12 years since then, the Harrison Street Arts District has grown from an area with just a few arts-related businesses to a shopping destination with a variety of retail shops and services. There has been a growing recognition of the area both nationally and locally.
I also believe that Mr. Arbetman has overstated the village's neglect of Harrison Street. We have always been helped indirectly by the village through the Oak Park Area Arts Council and the Oak Park Visitors Bureau. More recently, the village has established a sign program that paid for the open flag signs and all the brackets supporting the projecting shop signs along Harrison Street. Artists for a public art bench program supported by the village are being solicited to paint benches that will then be placed along Harrison Street. A marketing program for all shopping in Oak Park, called Great Neighborhoods of Oak Park, is soon to be launched by the village and we expect the additional promotion of the area to be of benefit.
It is true that in the past the village has spent money on what it believed Harrison Street needed, without asking us first, rather than using the same funds more wisely on what we knew we needed. But rather than dwell on what the village hasn't done for us, the Harrison Street Business Alliance works hard to promote our area and looks forward to working with the new village board. We are optimistic that the new board will view the village's relationship with Harrison Street as a mutually beneficial partnership and take the merchants' views into account before making decisions which affect us.
We thank all of you who have already found us and we look forward to meeting the rest of you. Our next major event, What's Blooming on Harrison, is this coming weekend, May 19-22, and all the shops on Harrison have special events and extended hours, along with artist vendors, music and food. Please come! Details can be found at www.harrisonstreet.com
Owner, Bead in Hand
Membership Chair, Harrison Street Business Alliance
Editor's Note: Jay Arbetman is not a member of the Harrison Street Arts District business association, as listed bellow his name last week. WEDNESDAY JOURNAL regrets the error and apologizes for any confusion.