Marion Street Market has closed its doors permanently. We wish the owners well.

Small business is hard – especially the restaurant business.

So sorry to see Marion Street Market close this week.  No one likes to see any establishment go out of business.  This one in particular was created by local folks with mission and intentionality.  The owners’ vision was no less than to support an earth-friendly but foodie-grade culinary experience, provide jobs, extend support to the community, contribute tax dollars and prove that business could have a heart and be successful at the same time.  Good stuff.  Good people.  But small business is hard.

The cold beauty of capitalism is profit, pure and simple.  All the best intentions do not guarantee success unless revenues exceed expenses.  On the journey toward profitability, are there enough investors willing to provide the capital required until that bottom-line turns day-glo green?  For how long?

I don’t know why Marion Street Market closed.  I do not know what set of circumstances forced the owners to make this heart-breaking decision.  I assume investors did not foresee a near-term future in which revenues exceed expenses and they were no longer able to fund shortfalls.  That’s usually how these things go.  You plug the losses with additional cash infusions up until the moment when you can’t.  It happens that quickly.  One day you are full of hope and the very next day it’s over.  Welcome to the independently-owned restaurant industry.

Indie-restaurants can be successful.  Lots of local examples.  But it is hard.  Margins are thin.  Rent is higher than ever.  Customers are more demanding. Not only do we expect good value and phenomenal service, but our culinary I.Q. is growing.  There is nothing exotic about kale and we pretty much expect a sashimi-grade tuna appetizer, expertly prepared and flown in fresh.  Yet despite educated consumers, the business model is less profitable than it used to be.

All the best to the owners and staff of the former Marion Street Market.  Thank you.  They gave it a go and gave it their best.  Here’s hoping that another entrepreneur with similar community-minded values will set up shop in this prime location and beautiful venue.

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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...