I hate malls. The offerings are generic, and they lack community charm. That is why I have so enjoyed, since moving to Oak Park seven years ago, shopping in my hometown. I shop primarily in the privately owned shops for the distinct gifts I can get there. The Downtown Oak Park holiday shopping program-where local gift certificates are proffered to reward bountiful shopping-was a wonderful perk for me …

That is, until last year.

With nearly $1,000 in receipts, I had shopped enough-at places like Alphabet Soup, Fitzgerald’s, Crescent Moon, and Taylor’s-to earn two certificates. My delay in cashing them in, however, turned into bad luck when both of my aging parents fell seriously ill around the holidays, taking away much of my time and attention. So I was late to claim certificates, and my pleas for an exception were refused.

But that is not the point of this letter. I understand that, bottom line, I was late. The program rules were clear. The fault is mine. And it is not why my shopping in Oak Park is now minimal.

When I walked into the downtown office with my receipts that wintry Friday, I was greeted by two surly employees. One was playing solitaire on the computer. The other was (and I’m being kind here) brusque and dismissive. And the person in charge doesn’t work on Fridays.

How wonderful it is to pay exorbitantly high taxes and put my dollars into our local economy for such exceptional service!

We were attracted to Oak Park because it was unique-diverse, charming, cosmopolitan. But now it’s turning into just another suburb where historical buildings are dwarfed by ghastly dime-a-dozen developments, where small businesses and middle-income families relocate because they can’t afford to stay here, and where mom-and-pop shops give way to large chains. To top it all, it looks like the indispensible CertifiedLand might be chased out.

So I’m doing my holiday shopping almost entirely over the Internet this year. After all, I can buy Borders and Gap online. Oak Park is going away. And that makes me sad.

Mary Stanton
Oak Park

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