East Chicago Avenue

Opinion: Editorials

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When you think of retail meccas in Oak Park, we guarantee that Chicago Avenue east of Ridgeland is not popping to mind as a choice destination. There's Domino's and a 7-Eleven, a place that sells ice cream bars by the case and a State Farm guy. Go further east toward Austin Boulevard and the disconnect between Oak Park and Austin comes into sharper relief even though there are some good shops there.

Now though, a woman who has made a mark buying beat up or ignored homes in Oak Park and then making them shine at a nice profit has turned her intense energy to retail and commercial spaces.

Colleen Maia is the proprietor for the past two years of Bee Home and Garden, a treat of a gift shop at 128 Chicago Ave. She took a two-story, mixed-use building slipping into decay and gave it life and an ascendant property value. Now she is at work on a string of other adjacent buildings in similar dire straits. Based on her prior successes, look for much better days ahead on this faded strip.

While it is exciting to see outside developers arrive in Oak Park with their major projects for already notable intersections, it is positively gratifying to see a neighbor with entrepreneurial spunk and a way with a sledge who can bring new eyes and energy to a neighborhood we've driven through for 25 years while trying not to look too close.

Reader Comments

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NEOP  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 2:24 AM

Hope Anan will put his power where is mouth is. He promised to attract businesses and help them stay, so now lets see it happen. Glad to see Chicago Ave. getting some attention. There are plenty of people this side of town that would happily support a "district" that offers quality businesses. The only reason I go is for the 7-11, but I would much rather be attracted by eateries, coffee shops and decent stores.

Gabriela from Oak Park  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 5:29 PM

Bee is fantastic, and Colleen has got the magic touch! I also live near this stretch of Chicago Avenue and would welcome a cafe, etc. It's my understanding that village regulations make operating a simple coffee joint prohibitively expensive for entrepreneurs without oodles of cash. I hope the Wednesday Journal will encourage local government to look for creative ways to make this kind of venture more accessible to locals who want to grow a food service business.

Donna  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 1:36 PM

Yes, in this much neglected side of Oak Park, Bee is a wonderful addition. Colleen has great taste.

Francesca from Edwardsville, IL  

Posted: August 20th, 2014 12:15 PM

Oak Park is lucky to have Colleen Maia! I grew up on Lombard, just south of Bee, and it is a wonderful, beautiful addition to an already awesome neighborhood.

Cheryl from Oak Park  

Posted: August 19th, 2014 10:27 AM

Great news! Thank you for sharing this. I live in this area of town and would love to see a café, pub or something like that. I think we are all eager to see some biz development "up here" in the corner. We'll support it!

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