There is certainly no shortage of organizations constantly seeking new ways to promote Forest Park’s restaurants and shops, both on Madison Street and elsewhere. The Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Redevelopment Association have been doing just that for years, and the recent emergence of Madison Street Merchants, or M2, has taken the street’s image to a new level.
Now joining these groups is the Oak Park Area Visitors Bureau. The organization, which promotes towns throughout the western suburbs through its visitors’ guides and newsletters, has actually listed Forest Park among its 21 promotional areas since 1983.
But with the help of a $5,000 grant from the village and the assistance of several local merchants, Forest Park has become the first of these towns to have its own Web site, www.visitforestpark.com, and a promotional brochure designed by the bureau.
“We wanted to create something fun and appealing that would peak the interest of a visitor when they come to Chicago or Oak Park and basically get them to want to check out Forest Park,” said Rich Carollo, executive director of the bureau.
About 7,500 copies of the brochure were printed and either mailed to the bureau’s advertisers and associates or made available at stores and other locations throughout the area.
It was designed in collaboration with Jay Boeldt of Plan B Gallery and Jodi Gianakopoulos of Old School Records. Chris Guillen, who recently opened a photography studio at 7451 Madison Street next to Plan B and across from Old School, provided photos.
“We wanted to incorporate the feel of the street being modern and antique at the same time. We’re old fashioned but we’re aware that the cutting edge is around us all the time,” said Gianakopoulos.
Colored in eye catching shades of orange, the brochure features symbols and fonts reminiscent of the 1930s-50s, bordered with photographs from the Madison Street of today. It features a map of Forest Park spotlighting public parking sites, with the somewhat disputable caption “parking is easy.” Informational blurbs on the village’s history as well as its special events and entertainment and nightlife options are also featured, along with the Web site address.
On the site, Forest Park attractions and events are featured in much greater detail. “We want to have not only special events, but things happening internally, like classes and specials at the restaurants,” said Carollo. The site will allow local merchants to log in and add their own special events to the listing.
“We actually saw the brochure as sort of a portal to the site,” said Gianakopoulos.
Carollo said he hopes to continue expanding his organization’s promotion of Forest Park to include Forest Park specific newsletters and e-mailings, among other ideas. And the village’s merchant groups have welcomed the assistance.
“You’ve got to remember I’m from Oak Park, and here we have a million organizations trying to do the same thing. It’s nothing new to us. Together, we accomplish much more than trying to do things individually,” he said.