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Oak Park Shopping

hot dog stand

The area referred to as “Downtown Oak Park” consists of the stores and buildings east of the intersection at Harlem Avenue and Lake Street—near the western border of Oak Park.  There are of a variety of shops, restaurants, boutiques and professional spaces, and this section of the city is bustling with changes and growth.  Development, re-development and new tenants abound.  From the opening of Marion Street to the Whiteco Building, this section of the village is undergoing a major facelift to add to its already interesting atmosphere.

Pat Zubak, executive director for Downtown Oak Park, a downtown business association promoting the development and expansion of the community’s main district, says, “The area is in transition once again. In the 1960s we were in our heyday—an exciting mix of national retailers and local independents, with just a few places to stop and grab a quick bite.”  Zubak is quick to point out the shift in focus today, and notes, “Now, in 2007, we are quickly on our way to achieving a different great mix—because the 1960s consumer no longer exists.”

“The Marion Street renaissance,” as it has been termed, calls for opening up what was once a pedestrian-only area by running a street through it, thus connecting Lake Street to North Boulevard.  This will allow vehicles to gain access without going all the way around the mall.  The project features a brick paver street, bluestone sidewalks and granite curbs; as well as a slice of additional parking.

New tenants to Marion Street are excited about its fresh look, and about the energy in the area overall.  TAKARA, which features beautiful, artistic clothing has recently relocated here, and owner Takara Beathea says that this section of the village is the perfect place for her store.  Her daughter and business partner, Miya, agrees, describing the district as “a thriving, inviting area with charm.”

In addition to TAKARA, Downtown Oak Park is busy
welcoming other businesses into their new spaces here.  Some of these storefronts include: Vestio, carrying classic clothing and sportswear for men, Bottega M, which features missy and young contemporary clothing and Carriage Flowers.  Fitness Formula Club, a 50,000-square-foot health club will also be located here, and their offerings include family recreation and spa services.  Trader Joe’s is coming to Downtown Oak Park, setting up shop on Harlem Avenue, just north of Lake Street. 

The eclectic mixture of businesses here makes for a unique shopping experience.  There are smaller, boutique storefronts with specialty items sitting side-by-side with recognizable “brand” names.  “Our national retailers are the GAP, Borders, Pier One, Lane Bryant and Old Navy,” says Zubak.  This mixture also applies to the food and beverage choices in the area, where selections range from Chipotle to the family-owned Mancini’s Pizza and Pasta Caféé.

ice cream shop

Those looking for a place to grab a bite to eat after seeing a movie at the Lake Theatre will now be able to choose from an even wider variety of options.  Visitors to the area can check out the ambiance at Bar Louie, settle in at the Sushi House or pick up some delicious carry-out from the Moveable Gourmet—all recent additions to the already established dining in this section of town.

Downtown Oak Park is one of the best places in the village to explore, and has a little something for everyone.  Pat Zubak puts it well when she says, “Downtown Oak Park is poised to ride the tide of change.”  Whether it’s shopping, taking in a movie or relaxing with friends over a delicious dinner, this area has re-invented itself and come into its own.

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