There is always plenty of talk around Oak Park this time of year about how difficult it is to send a child off for their first year of college, so I was prepared for the worst. But to my surprise, we got the boy loaded up, off to ISU, got back home and not a tear - after all, with non-stop texting, what is there to miss? It was not until I stopped by to pick up my son's last check that I got a little emotional.
A year ago today, I met Kellie Scott who was just opening her new store, Divine Consign, a consignment shop of high-end and designer furniture. After talking to her and learning that she walked away from a legal profession to open a store selling her passion, designer furniture, I mentioned I had a son going into his senior year at OPRF. He really needed to work to pay his share of car insurance, and she said she would at least need some help getting set up. Now this is the son my wife and I thought had the potential, but never really seemed to manage to do what his parents asked without the asking becoming more of a chore than the chore itself.
So I am still not sure exactly what Kellie did with that kid, but because of his experience at Divine Consign, we now have a son who worked every day after school and all day Saturday and Sunday for the past year, and was never late or had to be woken up on the weekends to get to work. Kellie also managed to instill confidence and self esteem as she played off the strengths of his Germanic genes to figure out how to fix, re-assemble and clean up the furniture as it came into the store. I had also always thought that his shyness with adults would be a hindrance as he grew older, but after a few months working there, I would walk by and actually witness my son explaining to a customer exactly how they should load the furniture in the car. I then got that hollow stare that clearly says, "OMG, dad, please don't even talk to me, I'm at work."
So I'm not saying it takes a village to raise a child, but when I ran into Kellie on the sidewalk one day last fall, I asked how the kid was working out and she said, "Oh, great, he scrubbed the whole restroom yesterday without even being asked." You already know what my response was, the standard, "No, I mean how is my kid doing, because my kid still doesn't know how to replace a roll of toilet paper."
My appreciation here does not just go out to Kellie, but to Rene, Heidi, both Julies, Caitlin, Elisa, Aria and all of her staff. They created an environment that neither his parents nor high school could: to teach the responsibility of a first job with people that can be kind, but still expect and demand the best of you. So I congratulate Kellie and her wildly successful first year, but with that thought, I have been wondering why we have not seen one feature article about the store in either local paper since she opened. I suspect that hearing the word "consignment" did not conjure up the idea of sales taxes filling Oak Park's coffers, but we now have a retail store that filled a very narrow, yet deep vacant space, and then within the space of two months, leased another larger space around the corner. Based on the numbers my son related to me, I would not even hesitate to say that the store produces more sales and generates more sales tax than any non-restaurant business in the area. Not to mention that the store has quietly built a wide reputation among interior designers and furniture people from around the city, people who eat at the local restaurants and fill our parking meters.
It just seems to me that if there are feature articles about tattoo parlors and yet another coffee shop, we should be reading about and promoting a successful business model right here that is producing significant sales taxes and garnering press in the Chicago Tribune, Crains Chicago Business and Chicago Magazine. Congratulations Kellie, keep it up.
Eric Brightfield is a 20-year resident of Oak Park, managed youth baseball teams for six years, is president emeritus of the American Society of Architectural Illustrators and the founder of ImageFiction, an architectural computer imaging firm in Chicago.