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It's not often that you see not-so-subtle references to asses and 'hoes' in a newspaper ad, depending on what publication you fancy. But an Oak Park restaurant is pulling out all the stops, trying to drum up attention during a months-long construction project on its block.
Poor Phil's Bar & Grill, 139 S. Marion St., has been open for more than 30 years. But it's never seen the street shut down the way it is now, said owner Dennis Murphy. Oak Park just got started earlier this month on a $5.5 million construction project — adding brick streets, granite sidewalks and an overhead canopy of decorative lights — that will keep the street shut down to traffic until November.
Murphy was searching for a way to captivate and steer patrons over to Poor Phil's, particularly the young crowd. So last month, he placed a newspaper ad proclaiming that "da hoes is comin!" to South Marion, and "da hoes gona start workin' marion street," also making note of the 100 beers they have available.
The ad is actually referring to the backhoe construction vehicles that would soon be trolling up and down Marion, but the racier connotation was, of course, intentional.
"People can make of it what they want," said Murphy, who claims they've only heard one gripe about the ads. "I've gotten nothing but compliments from anyone who cared to say anything about it."
A few weeks later, they ran another newspaper ad, proclaiming "kiss my asphalt goodbye!" and "I'm gonna lose my asphalt this summer!" Murphy is brainstorming for the next one, which may say something along the lines of "Marion holes? Buck 'em!" urging customers to leap over any of the big craters in the street. They also have staffers wearing construction vests dubbing them as the "Village pub, grub and suds department."
Murphy, 69, was frightened of the construction's possible impact, but said so far business has been steady.
"My worst fears about this project have not materialized, thank goodness, and I'm really quite pleased with the way business has held up ever since this thing began," he said. "It really scared the pants off me. I didn't know what to expect."
The South Marion Business Association just submitted a marketing plan to village hall last week, requesting about $37,000 in assistance, helping to keep attention on the street. Those include $3,000 for a billboard, $7,000 for discounted valet parking and $10,000 for newspaper ads. And much of the marketing could come from donated support, said Mary Jo Schuler, president of the business association and an owner of Greenline Wheels and the Marion Street Cheese Market.
"It is our goal to derive maximum benefit from every dollar by supplementing it with a lot of elbow grease and in-kind skill and talent," she said.
The village board is expected to take up the plan soon, possibly next week, according to Business Services Manager Loretta Daly. But she said it's likely that village hall would support such a plan.
"We recognize that, whenever we do construction in an area, there's a direct effect," she said. "We want to be as supportive as we possibly can be of anything that's going to help mitigate that."
Crews have finished removing the pavement and breaking up the sidewalks on South Marion, and are now moving to replace a 90-year-old water main under the street, according to Village Engineer Jim Budrick. He expects the work to wrap up on schedule, by Thanksgiving.
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