When I was young, my mother and I would shop in Oak Park along Lake Street because wonderful stores were there. I remember the trip to buy my going-away outfit, when I was to be married.

I was fortunate, during my Illinois Senate tenure, to represent part of Oak Park. I chose to dig in and represent Oak Park in its entirety, enjoying learning about all the village had to offer.

Although I still can be found patronizing the Lake Theatre, a favorite, my shopping in Oak Park has gone far afield as various shopping areas have established themselves. As many people know, I am big into resale, thrift and consignment. I enjoy the hunt of finding clothes I like at bargain prices. (I took that same approach as the state’s treasurer for three terms.)

Now that Oak Park has decided to get rid of its 10-minutes-for-25-cents parking, I can have some decent time to shop without being tethered to a parking meter with a pocket full of quarters.

I love to buy and sell clothes at Fashions Anew on Oak Park Avenue.  Zita Marciulionis and Julie Zukauskas are the friendliest people-great to chat with while one is looking through the always-changing inventory. The prices are fair when buying, and the checks come promptly when selling. I have gotten some really great suits and formalwear there.

By the way, Fashions Anew has the biggest jewelry collection that I can recall at a consignment shop. One would be hard pressed not to find something either for oneself or for a gift. And yes, there is nothing wrong in buying resale for gifts as one can get bigger, better gifts for less money.

I came across the Brown Elephant on Harrison Street, because I was a regular at the Brown Elephant Resale Shop on Halsted Street, near Wrigley Field. To my delight, this satellite store opened in Oak Park, making it easier for me to stop on my way home from the city. There is always something to browse at the Brown Elephant – clothing, framed pictures, books, shoes, collectibles. The clothing is pretty upscale for a resale shop. The sizes tend to be a bit smaller than I am, but again, it is the hunt. I have had some marvelous finds here for $25 or less, and wear them year after year.

One should never overlook the Economy Shop. I enjoy going there and would go more often if it were open more often. I realize that it takes time for the various groups that stock the shop to get things in order. It’s difficult sometimes for me to get there on any appointed day, but my visits have been exceptional. I wish that I had known about the Economy Shop as a young mom, as the children’s clothes are numerous and varied. The basement, with its books and appliances, is incredible-a wonderful world of stuff.

I love to plan an Oak Park tour of these places, then ducking across Harlem Avenue to get one of my favorite hot dogs with everything on it (except peppers) at Parky’s in Forest Park. No one has a better dog, and I can even get seconds there at discount for my real pups, who are also Parky’s fans.

Forest Park’s Madison Street has now become incredibly trendy, a far cry from my days at the Forest Park Review. The new condos bring in a new bunch of young folks who will support dress shops. I have to admit, I am a Brown Cow and La Maison de Bonbon aficionado. And I love to look through the Army Navy Store for things like pea coats. Amazing what one can find there.

Judy Baar Topinka is a lifelong resident of Riverside. She’s a former state legislator, the first woman to be elected state treasurer and the first Republican woman to be nominated for governor of Illinois. Before heading to Springfield, Judy was a reporter, editor and publisher of newspapers in the Near West suburbs. She’s always been a shopper.

Bonbon bonanza

French cremes called Stegers-which won mention in Christine McFadden’s Chocolate Bible-are the only treats made on the premises at La Maison de Bonbon in Forest Park. In dark chocolate (shown), they’re $19.99 a pound. In milk chocolate, they’re $18.50 a pound. An assortment is $19.50 a pound. These six bonbons cost us a little more than $2. At 7353 W. Madison, 708-366-0777. Noon-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

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