Too Little, Too Late

Getting Down to Business

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By Cathy Yen

Executive Director OPRF Chamber of Commerce

Saturday I stopped in to say goodbye to my friend Jose. After five and a half years, he made the difficult decision to close his restaurant, Aripo's.

It was packed.  Tables were full.  Jose came out to say a quick hello but couldn't chat long. He had to make another batch of their specialty masa arepas to keep up with demand.  He was "slammed" Friday night, too.  Crowds of people coming by to get their last taste of his scrumptious Venezuelan food before he closes for good on November 22.

He is receiving hearty online support as well, with comments bemoaning the loss of this mom-and-pop restaurant in Downtown Oak Park.

If only.

If only there were crowds of people last weekend.  Or last winter.  If only people had been posting and yelping and blogging for years about this Village gem.

My heart goes out to Jose, as I remember living through the same outpouring of love, too little too late, when I closed Great Harvest in 2009 due to lack of business.  It is like attending your own funeral.  You've just made a tremendously hard decision, lost a chunk of your savings, fired your employees and lost your own job as well.  And yet, despite your despair, you have to smile and accept the well-wishes from people who can't believe you are closing even though you secretly can't remember the last time you saw them in the store.

Sure, there are plenty of regulars who rode the wave with you.  But sadly, not enough.

Go ahead and argue that he (or I) didn't have a good business model, didn't market enough, didn't have the same consistency as the chain down the street.  But then don't ask why small independents are a dying breed.  Independents start with a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis corporate-owned or franchise stores.  The only path to overcoming that and eventually succeeding is full-on community support.

It takes customer commitment for small business to succeed.  Please, if you love a local store, shop there now.  Tell your friends.  Don't wait until they are shutting their doors.

Email: Twitter: @OPRFChamber

Reader Comments

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Jontisha Graves from Oak Park  

Posted: February 7th, 2016 12:44 PM

I'm still sad Aripo's is gone. I crave the la suave and will miss this little gem on Marion.

Aaron McManus  

Posted: November 17th, 2015 10:26 AM

Too many small business owners are just a slow season away from closing, with no buffer zone, savings or reserves. I'm not saying that's their "fault" - business is tough - but it's also not the customer's fault. It would have been great if they'd communicated with the public, maybe done a "help save our business from closing" campaign to sell gift certificates... if they wanted to stay open, there's a lot of ways to do it.. but you have to start on the campaigns long before you're about to close. If you let things get so tight that you have to just up and close your business with little notice... no one can help you when it's too late. I'm looking forward to talking with you more about what we can do to help more businesses prevent unwanted closures! The planning services that Oak Park's business incubator can do a lot to help businesses stay open and healthy.

Lindsay S. from Berwyn  

Posted: November 17th, 2015 8:26 AM

It's a little strange to be promoting yourself in the comments of an article that talks about another small business owners misfortune. Why not make a statement about all small businesses in the area instead of just yours?

Marci Hughes from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2015 8:00 AM

Sad news for Oak Park

Anne Ramsell Dowd from Forest Park  

Posted: November 16th, 2015 9:45 PM

Tough reality and couldn't agree more. Jose and Laura are wonderful people and were a great addition to the local business landscape. It is indeed sad to hear they are closing their doors. My husband and I own a retail store (Refind Home in Forest Park @ 7511 Madison) and know how hard it is to remain open through one of the toughest small business climates. So we ask that everyone stop in to support us this holiday season, as we need the support more than ever! We are only open on weekends right now because business was too slow to stay open during the week this summer/fall, but we will be open every day for the two weeks leading into Christmas in hopes that we can push through to the next year. We carry a great variety of locally-made gifts that support not only our store, but the local artisans and manufacturers in Oak Park and surrounding towns. Plus, we are donating a portion of all sales to Housing Forward this year.

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