In its annual celebration of local business, the Oak Park—River Forest Chamber of Commerce will gather again at the Nineteenth Century Club this October to hand out its highly coveted Business Spotlight Awards.

Created to recognize business excellence and leadership, the Business Spotlight Awards program allows all residents and loyal local customers to nominate their favorite Oak Park and River Forest area businesses and community organizations in six different categories. Nominations can be made through July 31 for the 2019 awards at

In 2018, over 200 local businesses and organizations received more than 600 nominations. A committee of chamber members reviewed the nominations and narrowed it down to ten finalist in each category from which six winners were selected.

Here are the 2018 Business Spotlight Award winners:

Customer Experience Award
Lively Athletics, 109 N. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park

“We were overjoyed to win the Spotlight Award for Customer Experience. When we saw the other finalists in the category, we were thrilled to be considered on the same level – these are some of our favorite businesses in Oak Park! Winning the award was amazing. We work so hard and have such a great staff. Putting the customer at the front and center of our business has always been our goal. We’re so grateful to the Chamber of Commerce for organizing these awards and making it such a special night for local businesses.”

— Anne and Kate Pezalla, co-owners

New & Notable Award
L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park

“We are so flattered and honored to have been nominated in five different categories for the OPRF Chamber of Commerce Business Spotlight Awards. We won the “New And Notable” award and we are so excited about this! We appreciate the love as this new and notable cafe continues to grow in the OPRF community.”

— Reesheda Washington, owner

Community Character Award
Escape Factor, 7228 Madison St., Forest Park

“We’re thrilled to be recognized by our community as the quirky characters we are. Escape Factor’s unique, one-of-a-kind experiences have our customers exploding in laughter and high-fiving their teammates during birthday parties and team building events alike. We’re silly, but fun. Puzzling, but smart. The positive response from the community continues to inspire us to create more challenges and adventures for years to come.”

— Jonathan Biag and Dexter Cura, co-owners

Local Legend Award
Hephzibah Children’s Association, Oak Park

“We are so honored to have been recognized as the Local Legend by the Chamber. We have a long history dating back to 1897 and we love this community. We are so glad that the community loves us back.”

— Merry Beth Sheets, Executive Director

Small Business Superhero
Distinctive Coaching for Business Success, Oak Park

“I asked one of my clients who nominated me as the Small Business Superhero why she did. She said it was because of how I have helped her and her business grow, hire and train more people and see so much revenue growth in such a short period of time, while giving her, her partner and her family better quality of work and quality of life. Then she added, ‘For being a business saver and a lifesaver. That’s a Superhero.’ Hearing her words and being able to serve business owners and leaders like that makes my heart soar!”

— Jason Rosado, owner

Excellent Eats Award
Spilt Milk, 103 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park

“We are so thankful to our wonderful staff, who work so hard to make Spilt Milk’s food and atmosphere worthy of the Excellent Eats award! Also, we are very thankful to our dear customers, who nominated us. It is especially meaningful to receive an award knowing it came from the feedback of those who support our bakery every day!”

— Meg and Molly Svec, co-owners

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