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Two Fish Art Glass has announced on the front page of its website and in its Madison Street storefront window that it will close its doors in mid-July, the result of lagging sales.
The store at 7401 Madison St. had been a fixture in Forest Park since its arrival from Oak Park in 2003, and owners Tonya Hart and Cece Hardacker were instrumental in the entrepreneurial renaissance that the commercial strip experienced in the last 15 years.
"First let us say you are the best customers EVER," they wrote on their website, "and we have loved serving you the last 12 years."
In a phone conversation, Hart commended the "band of merchants" on Madison Street, which, she claimed, works together "to create business and to understand what we [collectively] are going through."
In the early 1990s with Madison Street at low ebb, Art Jones, along with several other Forest Park business leaders, co-founded Windmills, LLC, which owns the building Two Fish currently occupies. He said he is saddened to learn the shop will be closing, and noted that both Hart and Hardacker were important players in revitalizing Madison Street.
"They immediately made an impact, because they became very involved," Jones said. "They started a marketing cooperative, became involved in other businesses on the street. They brought a product that was first class ... and helped other businesses come."
Don Offermann, a Windmills co-founder, manager of the building that Two Fish occupies and vice president at Forest Park National Bank, expressed similar support.
He called Hart and Hardacker's impact on Madison Street a "tremendous contribution" to Forest Park.
"They were not only active in marketing their own enterprise, but also in marketing others," said Offermann, noting that the co-owners formed advertising cooperatives to combine resources for the overall promotion of businesses throughout the village.
"It's discouraging. ... We're sad to hear that news; both Cece and Tanya have been good business people and very helpful with the Main Street organization and the chamber," said Mayor Anthony Calderone, who has been credited with playing a big role in backing efforts that reshaped Madison Street at the beginning of his first term as mayor in 1999. Around that time, the local nonprofit Main Street Redevelopment Corporation brought new businesses to the village's main commercial drag and subsequently formed what is now a much livelier different street.
Two Fish first opened in Oak Park in 1999, before being courted to Forest Park.
Windmills was founded by several Forest Park business players in the mid-1990s with the goal of controlling key but underused properties on Madison Street. The corporation purchased a number of buildings, recruited merchants, offered borrowing options, and custom-tailored the buildings to suit the needs of that business.
Jones said Windmills held the space open for several years, until it found a merchant that was a "good fit" for Madison Street and Forest Park as a whole. Two Fish, he said, was well-suited.
Offermann said a search has begun for new tenants.
"We've begun looking and working very hard, and we will bring a very worthy tenant that is consistent with the development of Madison Street and Forest Park, so we're not going to depart from the process," he said.
Two Fish's 50-percent-off liquidation sale will continue until the store closes in July, according to its website, which goes on to say: "Help us leave with dignity and shop like you mean it, for the last time. We thank you with all our hearts and we will miss you."