The Oak Park Arts District is not dying, and the implication is a great injustice to the hardworking shop owners in that business district. I am the former owner of Bead in Hand, and I was so disappointed that Wednesday Journal chose to run the article last week about the Arts District with such a negative spin.
Of course the business owners wish the chronically vacant properties could be put in the hands of a new owner who could bring them back to life, and of course they wish the village of Oak Park had acted in a more timely fashion to implement more of the ideas generated in a plan paid for by the village over 10 years ago.
But despite all that, there are many shop owners who are working hard and doing what they need to do to bring business to the street. The Buzz Café has special events and welcomes all groups, Bead in Hand holds classes and special workshops and Pamela Penney Textile Arts has ongoing lessons and teams up with Intuit Dance on productions, just to name a few.
In my 18 years on Harrison Street, I saw dozens of businesses come and go. The ones that failed always started out enthusiastically but ended up disappointed. To run a small business is hard work. To get people to come into your shop, or even just to look in your window, you have to have something they want to see, something they want to buy, and you have to be open when they want to buy it. You need a hook to get them into the shop, and once they’re in, you have to make them welcome, be helpful and make them want to come back and bring their friends. You have to manage a website, write a Facebook post and Tweet about it. The businesses that do all that have success in the Arts District.
On the premise that any publicity is good publicity, I hope readers who haven’t been to the Arts District lately will now make it a point to go. There are interesting activities, unique gifts and delicious food and coffee to be had. You can park for free on the side streets and then it’s a nice walk on a beautiful tree-lined street. Find the basket tree sculptures. Go and enjoy.
San Clemente, California