Spreading the love, retailers in Oak Park’s Hemingway District have joined together to participate in a special shopping event to celebrate Valentine’s Day and promote local businesses. The free event will take place Feb. 13 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., giving shoppers plenty of time to stroll up and down Oak Park Avenue and browse the offerings of the eight participating boutiques.

“I wanted to do something to support the businesses,” said Moses Valdez of Selleria Veneta, 139 N. Oak Park Ave. “We, on Oak Park Avenue, want to show people that we’re trying to be more unified.”

Called “Celebrate Love on Oak Park Avenue,” the shops participating in the event include Manouche, Gem Jewelry Boutique, Olive & Well, Filoni, Lively Athletics, the Irish Shop, Trends and Selleria Veneta.

Valdez co-owns his Italian leather goods shop with business partner Cecelia Romanucci. After a tough 2020, they came up the idea to plan an event to drive traffic to Hemingway District shops during retail’s slowest shopping period. 

“January and February, they’re the worst months of the year,” said Romanucci. “Everyone knows.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many retailers did not bring in the amount of revenue needed to recoup from state-mandated closures imposed to prevent the spread of the virus. Valdez hopes the event will show camaraderie between businesses, give people something fun to look forward to, and drum up local support. 

“Let’s get people excited to do something fun,” said Valdez.

Shoppers can print off or download a map of the participating stores from the event’s Facebook page. Each store will offer “token of love” gifts for customers. Gifts will be either complimentary or for purchase, depending on the store. They vary from store to store and include roses, gift cards, truffles or other festive items. 

Valdez said it was easy getting the various shops on board for the event. To keep everyone safe, masks are required to be worn in every participating store. Hand sanitizer will also be provided and social distancing is expected. The event was designed to keep people moving from place to place, instead of congregating together in one pace for any length of time. 

Valdez and Romanucci want people to view the Hemingway District as a shopping avenue. Working with other stores to promote that idea, they believe it is necessary for the survival of every retailer. Romanucci said it was “extremely important now more than ever” that shops work together to support each other.

“The more stores there are, the more people are going to want to shop,” she said. “The fact that they recognize the area as their shopping area is very important. We need to be around; that’s why it’s important for stores to support each other.” 

They also hope the event will inject some fun in the cold month of February, made even bleaker by the pandemic.

“A lot of people are stuck in their homes and want something to do,” said Valdez. “The event’s also to spread cheer and joy.”

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