Exactly nine years ago today, I moved into my Forest Park home. Also celebrating a Forest-Park-versary this month is a place that helped draw me here. Ten years ago on May 20th, Jodi and Peter Gianakopoulos opened The Old School Records at 7446 W. Madison.
Jodi was working in Oak Park when they were scouting locations for the store. She says, "I found out that Forest Park had antique shops, an old fashioned bakery, a great hardware store and an Army Surplus—I came over to go there." Madison Street had numerous vacancies at the time and they couldn't resist the high- visibility spot on the corner of Madison and Beloit.
Like Jodi, I also visited the Army Surplus store regularly as well as Centuries and Sleuths. When I noticed the new record store—with a name that made me think these were folks who shared the same affection for vinyl as me—it drew me right in and quickly became my only record store. Peter and Jodi always chatted with me whenever I made a purchase. Their musical knowledge is far more vast than mine, but included in it is my two favorite genres—punk and grunge. They seemed to have a nugget of information about every album I bought and our discussions made us fast friends. I went to the baby shower for their daughter, Evi, and they hosted the pre-release event for my first novel.
This is the sense of community that makes me proud to live in Forest Park. I could feel it in my early visits to Old School as well as during my first few months of bartending at the Beacon, and that's why I chose to put down roots here. Jodi also speaks highly of Forest Parkers, saying "Cultural tolerance here seems to be the norm and people are savvy in their tastes without the pretentiousness that sometimes beguiles me in the city. We can all relax and have a good time out here."
According to Peter, "getting to know the community" is one of the biggest perks of owning a business in Forest Park, and over the course of the past ten years they've enjoyed making more friends, having a bigger presence in the community, and watching their customers' music tastes grow with theirs. "There are lots of things our customers have taught us and vice versa," he explains.
The Gianakopoulos' business and family have both grown since they opened in 2003. Jodi says that her children are her other full-time job while she remains the community relations, promotions and marketing person for the store. She's been particularly focused on collaborating with other businesses. She enjoyed showcasing the talents of neighborhood kids at Summerfest and coordinating the visual and performance artists at the Progressive Dinners hosted by Forest Park's Main Street Redevelopment Group. Most recently, she is thrilled to partner with Pineapple Dance Studio for the Madison Street World Music Series, which will continue this summer. "We had nine fabulous shows last year and are looking forward to the next round," Jodi says.
There are also anniversary celebrations in the works that will be announced on The Old School Records' Facebook page. Jodi's hopes for the store's future are "more friends, more art, more love, more new music, and more of the old tradition of shooting the breeze at your neighborhood record shop with the people you know and have yet to meet." We are lucky to have such a cool business in town, so I encourage everyone to stop in, wish Peter and Jodi a happy Forest-Park-versary, and tell them so.