Surviving Roosevelt construction at the Wine House

Opinion: Editorials

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

When we did our survey of Roosevelt Road businesses to see how they were impacted by the construction, the owners of Amy's Wine House were not available for comment. We finally caught up with Amy Storey and Mark Calahan, to see how they had survived the streetscape reconstruction.

They had recently moved their restaurant to 7235 Roosevelt Road and were glad to get established at their new location before the earth movers started rolling. They knew the project was imminent but had no idea how it would impact their business. Amy was grateful for the communication they received from the village. She singled out Tim Gillian for responding to all of her questions and e-mails.

She also attended meetings at village hall to see the plans and exchange contact information with the construction company. The architect passed out his business card and described how the sidewalks would be re-done but there would be no bump-outs. Amy would have welcomed a bump-out.

She would have been satisfied with a sidewalk, though, when the project started in April. Mark said they endured a three-week period, without a public sidewalk. He got especially worried when the project stalled in June due to a lack of state funds. Fortunately, the trucks returned after the budget impasse was settled. 

This didn't mean the dust settled. Mark had to dust the tables and wash the floor every day. He received some valuable help from his 8-year-old daughter, Elsie. Mark was also grateful to the restaurant's customers, who are a hearty bunch. They did a fair amount of complaining about the construction, but it didn't deter them from dining there.

They grumbled about the parking and worried about being ticketed on the side streets. Mark was grateful their residential neighbors didn't protest when patrons parked in front of their houses. It also helped that many of the restaurant's regulars take pride in walking there. They make a point of telling Mark they walked over. They come from Forest Park, Berwyn and south Oak Park and many have to negotiate the "angry intersection" of Harlem & Roosevelt.

Westbound motorists stuck at this intersection were especially angry after crawling down Roosevelt for miles. When the light changed, they turned Roosevelt into a drag strip. Eastbound traffic was more sedate and the partners were grateful for the back-up that gave drivers plenty of time to check out the restaurant. 

They drew customers from the traffic jam and others came thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations. Despite the difficulty customers had in navigating the construction, the partners didn't see any drop-off in business. Amy never saw the construction as an obstacle and thinks the project will be worthwhile in the long run.

In the meantime, the partners find creative ways to fill the place. They host painting parties, wine tastings, and provide live music every Saturday. The cozy restaurant is a perfect gathering place for book clubs, or a women's night out. 

It was also the perfect place for my family to honor the memory of my late brother Dan. He and his fiancé, Tam, were good friends of the owners and regulars at the restaurant. Instead of tapas, they served us the "Dan Special" a simple dish of chicken and rice. What can I say, he was Irish. 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

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