Oberweis Ice Cream to close in Oak Park

Lease renewal is the culprit, according to company's president

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It was an almost 20-year run for Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy Store in Oak Park, but the shop at 124 N. Oak Park Ave. is expected to close in the coming months, according to president and CEO Joe Oberweis.

Oberweis said in a telephone interview that the company could not reach an agreement with the landlord on its lease renewal.

"We tried to work out a renewal, but we couldn't do it," he said.

Oberweis was unable to say exactly when the shop's last day will be, and added that it's possible the landlord will come back with another offer – but that is unlikely, he said.

The store, which made its Oak Park debut in 1999, is one of 42 locations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri.

Oberweis said Cook County's increase in the minimum wage played a role in the store's profitability, but he does not expect any other closures.

"In any sort of restaurant business the primary driver is cost and labor," he said.

Businesses like his often pass the cost on to the customer but, according to Oberweis, the rapid increase of the minimum wage has made that more difficult.

"We went from, not long ago, a minimum wage of $7.25," he said. "Now it's at $12 and will be at $13 and that's very difficult."

He described the company's workforce as made up largely of young people earning extra money.

"We're not hiring people who are supporting a family," he said. "Many of them are 16- and 17-year-old high school students trying to earn some extra money."

Oberweis said the company has loved being in Oak Park and that the closure doesn't mean they'll be out of the village forever.

"If we find a good spot in the vicinity, we'll be back," he said. "We have no desire to be out of Oak Park or anything of the sort."

The news comes less than a week after Red Mango yogurt and smoothie shop, 1044 Lake St., closed its doors. Owner and Oak Park Village Trustee Jim Taglia said Red Mango was profitable, but he did not have time to keep running the business with his other responsibilities.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 11th, 2018 11:20 AM

Ms. Lopez, Oberweis himself said he prefers to stay in Oak Park, and is closing shop because of a rent increase. That pretty much shoots down your argument that a higher minimum wage was at fault.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: September 11th, 2018 9:10 AM

Mr. Dwyer, Most companies with multiple locations evaluate each independently regarding profit and loss. Ms. Kenilworth stated "Anyone with a basic grasp of math knows that the $1 per hour increase in the minimum wage is a tiny percentage of costs, " I was refuting her statement and demonstrated accordingly. Corporations don't routinely make business decisions based on the net worth of the owners. Do you think the net worth of the Walton family comes into the equation when Wal Mart decides to either build or shut down a store? No, and it doesn't for Oberweis as well. It is clear most Oak Parkers don't like the guy and have a high level of distrust, why would you then so conveniently believe his statement ""If we find a good spot in the vicinity, we'll be back," he said. "We have no desire to be out of Oak Park or anything of the sort." So his wages are up 33%, which in turn causes his FICA and workers comp to go up and his landlord raises his rent. This situation is not unique to Oberweis. I suspect we will see a few more closures by the end of the year.

Nick Polido  

Posted: September 11th, 2018 8:03 AM

Maybe this vigorous debate on the have and have nots can shift to the Imagine Pool Group proposing a 148 million dollar pool and upgrade tonight to the Board of education: https://intranet.oprfhs.org/board-of-education/board_meetings/Special_Meetings/Packets/2018-19/20180911%20Special/Concept%20Cost%20Estimate%20-%20CORRECTED%20-Seq%201-3%20Draft%20Master%20Plan%20-%2009-0.pdf

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 11:43 PM

Nice try, Ramona. But as is clearly stated toward the end of the article, Oberweis, who is worth tens of millions of dollars, and does not run a "small ice cream/ dairy business, is quoted saying, "If we find a good spot in the vicinity, we'll be back..We have no desire to be out of Oak Park or anything of the sort." Doesn't sound like a fair wage is chasing Mr. Oberweis out of town. And in fact, as is clearly stated near the top of the article, the decisive factor was- gasp! - what he saw as too high a rent demanded from a fellow capitalist.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 10:25 PM

Ms. Kenilworth, Evidently, you have never managed or owned a business. The state minimum wage is $8.25 and the Oak Park minimum wage is $10, soon to be $11. Now $1.75/hour may not sound like much ( 21% increase and more than the $1 you mentioned), but imagine having 5 FT and 5 PT (20 hrs/week) staff. This would equate to 300 hours per week or 15,600 hours per year and if all went from the state minimum to the Oak Park minimum you are looking at $26,250/year plus FICA (.062) $1,638 = $27,888. Now add another dollar due to the minimum wage increase on Jan 1 and your cost of labor is now $42,000 more than it was just 2 years ago. That is a LOT for a small ice cream/dairy business to absorb. That's a 33% increase. Are you willing to pay 33% more for your ice cream, or would that just drive you to Forest Park or Berwyn? Instead, we have 10 people (my guesstimate) out of work and an empty storefront on Oak Park Ave. Perhaps you Ms. Kenilworth are the one who needs to grasp some basic math. Your misguided argument is nothing more than the typical left wing, intolerant talking points from people who thinks money grows on trees.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 6:18 PM

warning: sarcasm alert - - you know those simple pictures of something in a circle with a diagonal line to indicate "no guns allowed" or "no cigarettes allowed" - - perhaps there needs to be some similar sort of a symbol that businesses owned by a Republican are required to display so that those citizens who are so bothered by Republican viewpoints can be sure to avoid patronizing it. /sarcasm

Barrington Kenilworth from Chicago  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 5:51 PM

Anyone with a basic grasp of math knows that the $1 per hour increase in the minimum wage is a tiny percentage of costs, a miniscule burden on Mr. Oberweis's revenue. His claim is nothing more than right-wing republican talking points. Shame on him for begrudging the employees who make his profits possible a dignified hourly wage.

Bryan Rekar from Chicago  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 4:55 PM

Reading the comments now after I just posted mine... disgusting. People need to grow up.

Bryan Rekar from Chicago  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 4:51 PM

Really a shame to see this go. We have very fond memories of taking our toddler there ten years ago in the stroller and even taking his baseball team there as recently as this summer. The restaurant was always well run, going back to the days of the very nice woman and her son who eventually moved to the Western Springs location. Really sad about this. This one hurts because of our family memories. We didn't go there every week, but damn it was nice to know it was there and you could count on it.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 4:40 PM

Whether you're the Dmitri Karamazov from Maryland or from Delaware, you sure are strangely interested in what's happening 800 miles away, Dmitri. Or are you just a troll who chose a Dostoevsky character to hide your identity?

Dmitri Karamazov  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 2:55 PM

...and people's avoidance of "republican ice cream" is a complete source of hilarity. Only in Oak Park will people claim to be open-minded and tolerant, and then discriminate against those they disagree with politically. Social Justice Virtue signal much??!!

Dmitri Karamazov  

Posted: September 10th, 2018 2:50 PM

It's a shame to see any local business close, especially one with such delicious ice cream and treats!

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: September 8th, 2018 8:38 AM

The property taxes and forced unrealistic minimum wages take another business. And people are cackling about how they are glad to see it go? Nice job by the village trustees stepping into things they had no business being part of.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: September 8th, 2018 2:38 AM

"We're not hiring people who are supporting a family..." That's not how wages are calculated, Joe. Good-bye, fascist ice cream.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 8:13 PM

"Personally, I would maintain the state minimum wage for workers 16 to 20 and institute the "living wage' once an employee reaches 21." Best idea I've heard on the minimum wage debate yet.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 7:31 PM

So... David King owns the building where Oberweis is located? Thought he was just the rep.

Christos Haralambidis  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 4:06 PM


Ramona Lopez  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 3:31 PM

Just looked up the property taxes on this building: 16-07-224-001-0000 and taxes have actually gone down since last year. Still up $20,000 in the last 4 years though.

Timothy Robert Coan  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 3:29 PM

Oberweis is the same company who hired immigrants at below minimum wage to clean that very same store. This should have been in your story...shame.

Marty Bracco  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 3:13 PM

Very sorry to see this. They provided a great product, as well as a very nice space for families and teens to gather. That they provided good first employment opportunities to young people was another benefit. Hopefully they can find another location in OP soon, and hopefully another good business will be able to make it in the current space.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 3:13 PM

The minimum wage, coupled with rising property taxes, is going to continue to cause havoc for businesses in Oak Park. Personally, I would maintain the state minimum wage for workers 16 to 20 and institute the "living wage' once an employee reaches 21. The demographic that gets hardest hit when the minimum wages goes up is youth of color. Lastly, as a side note, less than 5% of workers in the United States make minimum wage. Now if you watch mainstream media, one would think its 20% or 30% based on the amount of attention it gets.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 12:58 PM

This is a bummer. As someone who lives a couple of blocks away, I go there often for milk and ice cream. I can't say whether the landlord is being unreasonable, but there's no doubt in my mind that ever-increasing property taxes played a big role in this.

Garett Auriemma  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 11:40 AM

I'm so glad Mr. Oberweis knows the intimate details of each of his stores' employees' home lives. Many of those "high school students" he so casually dismisses could very well be "supporting a family"--it's sadly not uncommon in many homes for the teenagers bearing the brunt of keeping the family afloat financially. And even if they weren't--who is he to judge that someone is not worthy of a minimum wage? I love their ice cream, but I always purchased it with a side of guilt for knowing that I was putting money into the Oberweis' coffers. Knowing that I was at least keeping some local people employed was the only mitigating factor.

Marsha Borders  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 9:12 AM

You need to pay minimum wages. Thete is something very wrong in the fabric of a nation as rich as ours when people cannot earn a livimg wage. Kids have goals too Try paying for college and getting saddled with mounds of debt. O guess our values come down to money. That should stop defining us

Martin A. Berg from Oak Park  

Posted: September 7th, 2018 8:55 AM

I have not darkened he door of Oberwise ever since its namesake owner's racist political campaign, If given the choice between racist Oberweis ice cream and no ice cream, I have happily chosen the latter. And boo-hoo regarding the comment about the increase in the minimum wage:it's called social justice. Now Oak Park no longer has this embarrassing name on a major commercial street. Good riddance!

Bruce Kline  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 11:16 PM

Yeah Ben and Jerry's was right next store to Purees' Pizza. And as I recall since 2000, B&J is a subsidiary of a large multinational corporation: Unilever (which by the way was involved in a huge toxic waste scandal in India).

George Smith from Oak park  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 10:24 PM

People forget that Ben and Jerrys WAS in Oak Park and we drove them out too.

Glynne T. Gervais from Oak Park  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 7:53 PM

So glad to see them leave. I have boycotted them since they came here because of the racist views of the owners. Bring on Ben and Jerry or Brown Cow

Laurie Beasley  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 7:51 PM

To heck with their reactionary butts. I would never buy their ice cream.

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 6:54 PM

Karen - Ben and Jerry's is a franchise. It's a mere $37,000 franchise fee, a few hundred thousand for build out, plus 7% of gross sales to cover royalties and marketing costs. And as you're paying $15+/hr for wages plus generous health benefits, you can stand proud knowing you're changing the world...one scoop at a time.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 6:31 PM

"Good riddance to a bad neighbor/cheapskate". Sure, go ahead and dress this up in your SJW rhetoric all you like. That doesn't change the fact that yet another business has left Oak Park.

Dion Ewald  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 6:14 PM

I'm with Jennifer. How much of Mr. Oberweis' net worth would he deem "Extra"? Good riddance to a bad neighbor/cheapskate.

Karen Yarbrough  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 5:36 PM

Glad Oberweis is out. Would love to see a Ben and Jerry's there.

Jennifer Malloy Quinlan  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 5:20 PM

"extra money"? I don't know about him, but my kids save every penny for college. Not very "extra".

Sheryl Oder  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 5:06 PM

I loved to stop by for a soft serve cone. It was a friendly place. I will miss it. I do hope they find a new location in central Oak Park.

Rachel Benoit  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 4:59 PM

Interested to know if this is the same landlord whose high rent drove away Cafe Fresko

Klara Gabor  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 4:44 PM

I had some bad ice cream from Oberweis and their customer service was horrendous. I never purchased their ice cream again, either in an Oberweis store or grocery retailer. No loss to see them go.

Connie Banks  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 4:40 PM

OMG they carry the best ice cream. I'm so broken hearted they will close. If they relocate to another location, hopefully there will be parking.

Mary Pikul  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 4:20 PM

...and I'm sorry we lost Oberweis due to high rent which is probably due to high taxes which is probably due to referendums passing.

Lynn Taylor from Oak Park  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 4:20 PM

Yay! Maybe Brown Cow or some other company that does't carry the baggage of the Oberweiss family. Ice cream parlors have a place on the Avenue but we have never given them our dollars.

Mary Pikul  

Posted: September 6th, 2018 4:17 PM

Okay someone else open a Red Mango please. You'll make money!

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