A Midsummer Night’s Premonition

While I was in college my parents introduced a friend and me to a lovely outdoor venue hosting a little stage where a theater troupe performed Shakespeare. Being an English major, a lover of all things green, and Shakespeare being a beloved bard, I considered this quite a treat.

It was a lovely summer night, with a few spirited stars pushing through the evening sky. Austin Gardens, I soon discovered, was the locale: a perfect backdrop for one of my favorite plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I remember looking up at the verdant setting from our picnic blanket and announcing that I was going to live in Oak Park someday.

Fast-forward to 2007. I’m finally moving in to a cozy studio in Oak Park. Friends and family come to visit and are forever declaring how charming this town is. So family-friendly, so many great restaurants, so many chic boutiques!

Now let’s skip ahead to the year 2010. I’ve graduated to a condo. I’ve also realized that Oak Park is a perfect fit in more ways than one: my love of style and fashion is thoroughly satiated by the local boutiques.

In the fall of 2010 I joined OakPark.com and the Wednesday Journal as the Local Shopping and Fashion blogger and columnist. I was thrilled.

Think Big, Shop Small

The purpose of each write-up and every article is to inform the community’s purchasing decisions.

It was my hope to help consumers set their compass to local, independent shops, to support the entrepreneurs who have taken a leap of faith in opening their own stores, who work assiduously without vacations or holidays, who continue to weather the storm of a depressed economy, and who truly are the heartbeat of America.

I like to use the word support. We can choose to support the merchants with our dollars, every time we make a purchase, if we elect to shop small before defaulting to the mall.

Why Entrepreneurs?

Writing about entrepreneurs is a subject very close to my heart. My grandfather invested his time, energy, and funds into realizing his own dream many years ago. He opened his own martial arts studio (a dojo) and a corresponding retail shop selling martial arts gear.

I saw how his passion, drive, and endless hours of hard work put him on the path to success.

I know there were many obstacles my grandfather encountered. Eventually he became a Sixth Dan Shihan, a distinguished sensei in the peaceful martial art known as Aikido. All this he accomplished and more with the support of dedicated students and loyal shoppers.

He was an entrepreneur with a vision and the confidence to believe he could achieve anything he set his mind to.

Meeting of a Great Mind

Over the last year I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down to interview some of the entrepreneurs in the community: all incredibly talented and hardworking individuals.

I’m amazed at the level of commitment, the dedication, the sacrifices these proprietors have made and continue to make at their places of business.

They research the best products to bring to their shops, they provide us with well-edited lines of inspired products (many made in the USA), they offer an array of eco-friendly and environmentally-conscious merchandise, they feature handmade goods by local artisans.

And let’s not forget: so many items are just plain fashion-forward: avant-garde apparel, fresh footwear, and stunning accessories can easily compete with the neighboring boutiques in Chicago.

Can you find items like these somewhere else? Not all big box shops have put in the time and thought to bring you products that are not only good, but good for you and good for the environment: fair-trade merchandise, upcycled products, and handcrafted goods.

You’ll get high-quality products at local boutiques; you’ll receive unparalleled customer service; and you won’t lose your shopping partner in a sea of racks at a large department store. You also don’t have to circle endlessly to find a parking spot (but don’t forget to feed the meter!).

Fall Fashion Guide

For the first time in twenty years, the Wednesday Journal will punctuate the autumn season with our very own Fall Fashion Guide.

The style guide will showcase the magnificent fashion apparel offered at local independent retailers, while focusing on trends seen in the larger fashion community.

Our community offers a vibrant and eclectic collection of boutiques, and we want to generate excitement about what goes in in the shops. We’ll unveil styles and designs that consumers crave and the looks they want.

A thrilling exploration of all that local merchants have to offer, the guide will be an exhilarating examination of peerless selections.  We’ll be providing a road map to incredible apparel and accessories – and we’ll be taking the mystery out of looking great.

From precisely-constructed cosmopolitan designs to artistic, comfort-conscious clothing, it can all be found right here at a neighborhood merchant.

Our Very Own September Issue

In September, clothes will come alive on models, all local residents, including the fashion-forward men and women presented in the Friday Style Inspiration blog posts featured on the Shopping Blog at OakPark.com: Abbi Togtman, Kate Palm, Jessica Childs, Victoria Kraus, Miya Beathea, Shanon Plovanich, Eileen Leiden, Sarah Matthews, and Sabrina Chang all look spectacular.

Historic and unexpected Oak Park and Forest Park locales will create fascinating backdrops. Yes, Austin Gardens was employed as a neighborhood locale for a photo shoot. How could I resist? Thank you to the Park District of Oak Park for permission to use this location and the historic Cheney Mansion. We are also grateful for permission to use Classic Cinemas Lake Theater, Hemmingway’s Bistro, the Oak Park Library, and Louie’s Grill in Forest Park.

Local talent was sourced to style and fit the models, including wardrobe editors, Danielle Donates and Lauren Metz, hair and makeup artists Frank and Alisa Paganis and Michael Onsouvahn of Pagani Hair Salon, David Kindler brought his lighting expertise to the fashion shoots; photographer Jay Geil, Creative Director Becky Lomax, and Content Manager Evan O’Brien of the Wednesday Journal all lent their experience and skill on the day of the shoots.

We’re delighted to draw your attention to the fact that fashion and retail are a hugely important and enjoyable part of this community’s economy.

Meet some of the men and women who own the shops we’re showcasing in the Fall Guide:

Heather Anderson of Muse: The Making of a Dream

Nick Heitzman of Chameleon Offers Up Fresh Apparel for Him and Her

Meeting of a Great Mind: Sanem D’Angelo of Sanem’s

The Stars Align for Kellie Scott of Divine Consign

A Singular Woman: Deb Dworman of deedee & edee

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