After a gorgeous weekend, my friend Sandy posted on Facebook: “beautiful weather three days running is making everyone feel so happy, hopeful and kind.”  Everything seemed easier and friendly in the glorious sunshine.

Even doing business in Oak Park.  Was it just the weather? Or are we more than that?

A brief window into my weekend:  Friday through Sunday evening, my family ran ceaseless errands in Oak Park.  Between the three of us, we parked in Downtown Oak Park and shopped – three separate times. We hit up spots in the Hemingway District twice. Parked there too.  We went through a bank drive-up with no wait. We bought groceries at both Sugar Beet and Carnival and sundries at a drug store, each time parking in dedicated lots.

I walked through the Pleasant District on South Marion and “Southtown” near the Eisenhower.  I marveled at the line already forming outside Hole in the Wall.  My husband found easy street parking near a local soccer field. After all the running around, we treated ourselves to dinner – delivered to our home from the Arts District.  

All weekend, the streets showed signs of life: families with strollers, people with dogs, teens with friends and millennials with brunch plans.  Restaurants were busy; shopkeepers upbeat.  The parking was tight but ultimately unremarkable.  Our commercial districts felt lively but not crowded.  Busy with room to grow and prosper.

We walked.  We thought about valet. We parked.  We chose a delivery service.  We worked from home.  We hit up eight different business districts.  We had a great weekend.

Was it the weather that made everything so easy and glorious?  “Happy and hopeful” as Sandy posted.  Or did the weather remind us of what is already here?

Yes, construction brings density.  Yes, it will get more crowded.  Yes, more people means more traffic.  Yes, parking will get tighter.  Yes, sometimes it rains – or snows.  We have challenges ahead.  Managing increased volume and limited geography takes optimism, creativity and compromise.

Let’s stay “happy and hopeful” as we figure this out. Our future is as bright as a spring day.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...