Downtown Oak Park (DTOP), in conjunction with Oak Park Development Corp. (OPDC), has hired a part-time professional business recruiter to bring businesses to the village.
Pat Zubak, the DTOP executive director, announced the hiring Monday night in a statement read at the village board meeting at village hall.
The recruiter, Cathy Maloney, will go to other communities looking for businesses that want to expand. In addition, she’ll attend nationwide conferences where she’ll look for national tenants to come to Oak Park.
Maloney calls herself a “retail consultant,” and says most of her work will be done out of her home office in Elmhurst over the phone and on the internet. She’ll also schedule meetings and meet with people in Oak Park. Her focus will be on independent retail and boutiques, mostly because they’re not represented by real-estate brokers, but she does also work with corporate businesses and brokers.
Typically, Maloney starts analyzing businesses already in the community, and then determines what shops would complement the existing retail mix. She mostly recruits from Chicago neighborhoods.
“I want to try and find shops that people are leaving Oak Park to shop at and bring those types of businesses to Oak Park to keep that business in the community,” said Maloney.
Zubak said that she and John Eckenroad, the executive director for OPDC, got together and discussed the hire, and then presented the idea to their respective boards, which approved the hiring last Tuesday, according to Zubak. DTOP and OPDC will split the costs of Maloney’s service, Zubak said. Nothing has been signed, but the hiring will likely become official in a meeting scheduled for today, Sept. 20.
One specific area Maloney will look at is the RSC Building on Lake Street where Lane Bryant will be located, as well as a vacant spot right next to the building. RSC has its own leasing process, which she won’t interfere with but will provide another source of leads for real-estate brokers, Zubak said.
Maloney worked with Zubak previously in Elmhurst where Zubak was the executive director for the Elmhurst City Center, and she hopes to use previous success in Elmhurst as a blueprint for success in Oak Park. Maloney has recruited 65 thousand square feet of retail in Elmhurst since starting there in 2001.
“She really does a terrific job,” Zubak said about Maloney. “She has a Rolodex to die for.”
Maloney will retain her duties as business recruiter for Elmhurst and Mount Prospect, which Zubak believes will not be a conflict of interest since the towns are so far from Oak Park. Zubak said Maloney is eager to begin working with Oak Park, which will start Oct. 1.
“It’s just a premier suburb; it’s the best of everything,” said Maloney. “It has beautiful homes, urban scenery and shopping. It’s just a wonderful community. I can’t wait.”
Zubak believes that recruiting efforts won’t be difficult because of the reputation of the village. “I truly believe that Oak Park is where businesses want to be, and I think that in our development along Lake Street we’re attracting national businesses and retail that other communities would give their eyeteeth for,” she said.
Maloney also wanted to emphasize that the recruitment process is not instant. “When you have someone focusing on recruiting retail, it takes time, but it benefits the whole community.”
If the recruitment process is successful, Zubak hopes that it could be expanded in Oak Park. “I think the idea of having a recruiter is something I’ve been hearing in the past years in all of the business districts in Oak Park,” she said. “And if the results are as positive as we anticipate, perhaps it could be expanded to a higher level throughout the rest of the community.”
Eckenroad said OPDC already works on business recruitment as a matter of routine, but believes it would be helpful to have someone focus specifically on recruitment. He also wanted to emphasize that Maloney’s hiring will benefit the entire village.
“The key is that it’s a village-wide focus, and not just one particular area,” he said.
Those with any ideas for sorely needed businesses in Oak Park can email their thoughts to Cathy Maloney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CitiFinancial, a commercial banking and loan facility, will open at 118 N. Oak Park Ave., according to David King, president of David & Associates, Inc., an Oak Park-based community real estate firm.
The 1,700-square-foot space, previously an antique store, was vacant over a year. King estimates the bank will open sometime in October.
“Activity in Oak Park is good and business is strong. We’re very fortunate to working in this community,” said King.