We welcomed a new member to our blossoming restaurant and brewpub community.  Wild Onion Tied House opened last Thursday, unveiling a beautiful buildout of the historic Playhouse Theater building at 1111 South Boulevard in Oak Park.

Local history buffs will be as pleased with the building’s latest reincarnation as the craft beer crowd, which will appreciate the seventeen unique beers on tap.

Wild Onion’s owners Mike and Jennifer Kainz are just as impressive from a business perspective.  Here is a team that is writing the text book on how to open a business in our community.  They managed to move cautiously and make a splash at the same time, building an impressive set of first impressions.

Right from the beginning, the owners understood the importance of our architecture.  They transformed an E.E. Roberts building into a venue that affirms its history as an entertainment center and reintroduces a beautiful space to a new generation.  The skylight in particular is a source of pride.

Immediately, management sought to build partnerships.  Before opening, Executive Chef Josh could be found networking with Pleasant District leadership and meeting neighboring business owners.  They joined the Chamber and had fun with our ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Wild Onion’s staged opening provided time to work out kinks and build excitement.  Two nights for “friends and family” followed by a party for business and civic leaders allowed them to practice while treating community members like honored guests.  In lieu of payment, attendees were encouraged to make donations to the Community Foundation.  Recognizing (and tapping into) the premium our community puts on philanthropy was brilliant.   

Finally, timing is everything.  Though construction timelines can be fluid, Wild Onion Tied House opened just in time for Microbrew Review, our annual craft beer festival staged just outside its door.

We are delighted to welcome all the new restaurants opening here and are excited to see our community morph into a foodie and craft brew mecca.  To those planning an opening, you may want borrow the Wild Onion Tied House playbook.  Mike, Jennifer and their team understand that first impressions are everything – and they ended their first week looking very good indeed.

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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...