In the Aug. 10 Wednesday Journal ("Loss of Bank One parking lot nips nearby sales"), it was reported that I had spoken with village trustees regarding the lack of parking in the downtown retail area. In fact, I have not spoken with any village trustees, nor have attempted such, nor did I comment that I had.
I did say that there have been multiple attempts on my part to reach any person of authority at the Oak Park Development Corporation regarding various matters, including the multiple developments under construction near Gem, A Jewelry Boutique, and solutions to counter the removal of area parking, but I have yet to receive even a return phone call. On the other hand, I have had a lengthy conversation with Loretta Daly, the village business development manager, and await her input.
My wife, Laura Kitsos, and I have invested our time, money, and dreams in Oak Park, first as nine-year residents and now as the owner-operators of Gem. We immediately found a customer base here. We offer jewelry almost exclusively from designers that live in Oak Park. We staff using area residents. We advertise locally. We would like to think that we offer character in the face of an increasingly cookie-cutter corporate retail environment.
Our store needs nearby parking. Many of our customers come in repeatedly due to the customizing of their jewelry, or in the case of others, they like to keep abreast of the new pieces. To even gain a new customer, there has to be the ability to stop in just to see what's going on, and that can't be addressed with the oft-mentioned valet parking idea. People just want to run in without any commitment of time and money before they even consider a purchase.
It is a mistake to not create additional Holley Court parking at the very time we lost the Bank One metered surface lot. Oak Park has far fewer parking spaces than the industry standard of four spots per 1,000 square feet of retail business.
Whether the proposed and agreed upon Holley Court expansion plan is perfect or not should be secondary to a commitment by the village board to invest in the necessary parking to sustain a vibrant downtown Oak Park shopping district.