Thirty years ago, Oak Park would have given its right arm to have a large corporate retailer suing to get into our local market. So maybe this is progress.
But things aren't always what they seem. Of course, you can't tell that to the mindless media in Chicago and New York (the Today Show, for example), who have jumped on this story and want to customize it into anti-fat bias. How ironic?#34;sexy, progressive Oak Park has something against overweight shoppers. What a lovely farce.
Unfortunately, that's not what this is about.
While it's perfectly valid to ask the Oak Park village board, and Village President David Pope in particular, why they don't want Lane Bryant clothier to join the retail mix on Lake Street, an equally valid question is why RSC Development, and owner Richard Curto in particular, have from the beginning been so insistent on bringing Lane Bryant in?#34;even though the board made it clear on several occasions that they had other retailers in mind. In fact, RSC signed an agreement with the village that included a specific list of potential retailers the village wanted to see in those spaces.
Curto, who is now crying foul and fanning the media frenzy, is being less than straightforward.
For the record, we don't have a problem with Lane Bryant on Lake Street, but the prospect doesn't exactly thrill us either. It appeals to a niche of potential shoppers, and like the village board, we'd prefer something that appeals to a wider segment of the population?#34;Crate & Barrel springs to mind. In principle, we don't believe the free market should entirely determine what large corporate chains come here to do business because the free market hasn't been especially good to Oak Park in the past. Exerting some control (but not too much) makes sense to us.
Besides, RSC is clearly not allowing the free market to take its course. It's been steering Lane Bryant our way from the beginning.
This controversy isn't about discrimination or the merits of Lane Bryant. It's about both sides needing to be more forthcoming about their hidden agendas.
New manager pick is promising
While it's obviously too early to know for sure, the initial impressions of Oak Park's new village manager, Tom Barwin are promising and positive. It's nothing less than a minor miracle to see the current village board unified about anything, but on such a crucial hire it's downright reassuring?#34;especially when the new manager gets high marks from almost everyone he dealt with back in Michigan. If the board does nothing else right?#34;and sometimes we wonder?#34;let this be the decision that hits the bullseye. We've got our fingers crossed and our hopes raised. Barwin will have his work cut out for him, but so far, we like what we're hearing.