On what for years was an underused corner of the vast Brown’s Chicken parking lot, will soon come Forest Park’s first Starbucks coffee shop. Talk about your upgrades.
No, we’re not particularly fond of paying $3 for a cup of Joe, but we’re enthusiastic fans of what Starbucks arrival represents in the ongoing revival of Madison Street.
Take your mind back just 10 years to Madison Street and its endless parade of neighborhood taps, junk shops masquerading as antique emporiums, dental offices and just plain vacant storefronts. It seemed like the inevitable and final decline of a once thriving retail district. In the face of regional malls and big box stores, the future of Forest Park’s main streets seemed grim. The Ben Franklin was shuttered, Rierson’s drug store was gone. And the clear expectation was that the bottom had yet to be reached.
Now, Starbucks can arrive with all the urban legend discussions of what it means when the Seattle coffee kings deign to grace your street”wholesale yuppie invasion is the most common concern, the rebirth of Madison can be traced to a hundred small acts of faith undertaken by many people many years back.
The first steps to resurgence were not taken by any national chain like Starbucks, any regional developer like the Taxman Corporation. The first steps were taken by people like Dorothy Gillian who opened a small restaurant on the street. By Dixie Paugh who moved her family’s flower shop to Madison Street from Roosevelt Road. By Robert Marani who decided that just selling beer and shots was not a high enough calling for Madison Street and so opened The Playhouse (now Francesca’s Fiore) as a music hall. By Art Jones who leveraged the power of a truly community owned bank at Forest Park National and seeded investment in the street. By Laurie Kokenes who stoked the low flames of the Chamber and never let it die. By David King, the ubiquitous DK, who made leasing retail space a calling. By a range of local government officials, specifically Mayor Tony Calderone who harnessed the particular powers of government to the engine of local entrepreneurship.
Surely our list is quite incomplete. But the point is clear. We can get giddy over Starbucks “discovering” Forest Park only because of the determination and faith and risk-taking of so many of our neighbors who saw something in the bedrock of Madison Street that could be built on.
So when you reach into your wallet to break a five on a frappuccino, raise a toast to the innovators and the believers who brought Madison Street back from the precipice.
New editor for the Review
Seth Stern, 22, has been appointed managing editor of the Forest Park Review. Stern has worked as an intern at daily papers in Marietta, Georgia and in Cape Town, South Africa as well as being a freelance writer for an alternative weekly in Atlanta.
A Chicago area native, Stern is a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta.
“Seth is a capable reporter and editor who has a good feeling for community journalism,” said Publisher Dan Haley in announcing Stern’s hire. “He will continue the Review’s tradition of keeping a strong focus on Forest Park, mixing hard news coverage with storytelling about the people and events that make Forest Park so interesting.”