A Forest Park lingerie store recently announced it could no longer overcome dwindling sales and will join the nearly half-dozen stores in town that have either shut down or changed hands during the spring and summer months.
But Oak Park resident Eden DeGenova, owner of Baubo’s Garden, isn’t going away all together.
DeGenova said she will close the store at 7234 Madison St. once she liquidates its inventory of fine lingerie, lounge ware, and other intimate items. It will be a “bittersweet task,” she wrote, in a letter to customers on the store’s website (baubosgarden.com). But Baubo’s is only “transforming” – it will continue to exist.
The brick-and-mortar operation may have fallen victim to economic calamities, but DeGenova plans to revamp Baubo’s website, where she will continue selling lingerie. She will also continue to publish and distribute an e-newsletter, which aims to further the store’s concept and philosophy: catering to the feminine body, mind and spirit.
Catering to the customer is the core of DeGenova’s business philosophy. She explained that she always aimed to make her store “intimate” and “comfortable” for customers.
“Almost like a bedroom,” she said.
On a recent afternoon at Baubo’s, DeGenova explained that, since opening in 2006, she has built strong relationships with many of her customers – some of whom would just come into Baubo’s to chat.
“It was a comfortable, welcoming, inviting place. Once in a while I’d come over and pop in and keep her company,” said Oak Parker Harlene Ellin, a customer and friend of DeGenova’s.
“She’s the kind of person people feel really comfortable talking to and confiding in,” Ellin added.
“I’ve heard all kinds of stories,” DeGenova said with a suggestive smile.
She is also interested in spirituality, mythology and, to a large extent, empowerment.
“I always tell [customers] that your beauty comes from beyond your underwear,” DeGenova said.
She named the store after Baubo, the Belly Goddess in ancient Greek mythology. On her personal blog, the Wisdom of Baubo, she writes, often anecdotally, about empowerment, spirituality and other topics.
Although diminishing business was a major factor in her decision to close the store, DeGenova said she also wants more time for herself.
Horseback riding, playwriting and music are a few of the hobbies she plans to spend more time indulging in after vacating the store – whenever that is (an official date hasn’t been announced yet).
“Rest,” she added, emphatically, when asked about additional plans – something she has lacked in her five years in Forest Park.
Baubo’s departure means more change for Forest Park’s commercial landscape, which has seen plenty of it in recent months. Stores like Two Fish and @workdesign went under during the summer, while other Madison Street staples such as Boulevard Fine Art and Chix with Stix left to make room for two new businesses. Last week, Yearbook, a home accessories store, opened in the old Chix with Stix location, and Modest Skate plans to move into the former Boulevard site.
Dave King, owner of Oak Park-based David King & Associates and a major player in local real estate, doesn’t think it’s anything to worry about.
“The change in businesses is not untypical for the size of a community such as Forest Park,” he said. “There are businesses opening and closing in Oak Park and River Forest [too]; it’s just the natural flow.”
That may be, but it’s not sufficient to keep the doors open at Baubo’s, DeGenova said. “There’s not enough [business] to make it worth staying,” she said.
She’s familiar with change, however. DeGenova opened Baubo’s after working as a horticulturalist for some 20 years.
“I needed a change,” she said.
And that’s precisely the juncture where she finds herself now.
“With her, you know that she’s going to do something cool; she’s just on to her next thing,” said Ellin. “You haven’t heard the last from Eden DeGenova.”