My wife and I had our last breakfast at Petersen’s on Sunday. The food was good and the service was excellent, as usual. That wasn’t important. What was important were two families. Each family had several well-mannered and polite young children. One group of children was playing quietly at the game table in the “school” room. The other parents brought their children over to the table and introduced them to the children already playing. The larger group of children began playing together and eventually the parents exchanged phone numbers and left the restaurant each commenting on the nice friends they had just made.
This is not something that can happen in a “drive-thru,” no matter how successful the company. This is something that happens in a “place.” Oak Park is not just losing yet another faded, struggling locally owned business. It is losing part of its sense of place-something that can’t be reanimated in a corporate boardroom. A sense of place is created by the interaction of people over time.
Petersen’s [sit-down portion] is history, but it has spawned at least one last likely friendship among the thousands of others it has nurtured through the decades. On Monday the building will still be there, but the “place” will be gone. On Monday, there will be a little less Oak Park. Perhaps in years to come those parents, along with many others will say, “Hey kids, remember when you met at Petersen’s. Wasn’t that a great place?”