He’s spent the last couple of years looking for a new location for his custom guitar shop, and Danche Ivanovic has finally found it — but not in Oak Park.
Frustrated with what he felt turned into a runaround by the village over the lure of Madison Street Tax Increment Finance District (TIF) funds for a new store, Ivanovich said he’s closing up his shop at 906 Madison St. at the end of May and moving to 7232 Madison in Forest Park.
Ivanovic has been in discussions with the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC) for months concerning the relocation. He hoped the village would contribute some of its projected $17 million from the Madison Street TIF toward his efforts to purchase a property on Madison at the long-shuttered All Types Fireplace & Chimney at 844 Madison.
Wednesday Journal published an article about his efforts to relocate in January, where Ivanovic revealed he might have to leave Oak Park. The news sparked a flurry of interest from customers, friends and officials in Oak Park and Berwyn, Ivanovic said. The Berwyn Development Corporation began courting Ivanovic in January, showing him available storefronts in their city and offering him TIF funds to relocate.
None of the sites worked for one reason or another, Ivanovic said, and that’s when he found out about the 3,500-square-foot space in downtown Forest Park.
Ivanovic has been working to expand from the 900-square-foot space he and his wife Zdenka have rented for the last eight years. Finding a bigger space would allow the couple to offer more classes in guitar-building and playing, and potentially become a dealer for Fender and Yamaha guitars.
Ivanovic also was visited separately in January by OPEDC’s Viktor Schrader and Village President Anan Abu-Taleb. Both aimed to help the Ivanovics.
“We had a meeting with Anan and he was nice,” Ivanovic said. “He walked in and said, ‘How can I help you?'”
Ivanovic said he was frustrated with Schrader, whom he said initially discussed putting together a business plan to take to the village board to request TIF funds to help purchase the potential new location at All Types. The business plan and TIF request never happened, Ivanovic said.
“(Schrader) said he would do his best,” Ivanovic said, disappointed that the proposal was never made.
Schrader, who had been working for a few years to find a new location for the Ivanovics in Oak Park, said in a telephone interview that he and the Ivanovics never got to the point of presenting a proposal.
“Really it was just a discussion about what they needed in commercial property and what they needed in financial assistance,” Schrader said. “Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to find a property in Oak Park for them that fit their needs.”
Ivanovic said the All Types location would have cost $400,000 to renovate and the taxes on the property ultimately would have run well over $30,000 a year, compared to the approximately $10,000 a year they’ll spend on property taxes annually for the new location.
“I think ultimately it was not a realistic location for them,” Schrader said.
Zdenka Ivanovic praised Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone, who she said worked with Forest Park National Bank to help get them a loan to build out the new store.
“We’ll miss the streets of Oak Park and the trees around, but we’re looking to the future and the future of our children,” Zdenka said.
Calderone said in a telephone interview, “I’ve never made it a habit of poaching other communities’ businesses,” noting that he was initially contacted by the Ivanovics for help.
“I saw this as one of the first tests in reaching out to our local community bank, which is an active participant in our economic development committee, and it seemed like it worked,” Calderone said.
He noted that the guitar shop will take the place of the restaurant Tapas 7232, which is relocating to the former Frank’s Shoe Repair shop in Forest Park at 7235 Roosevelt Road.
Abu-Taleb said there are no hard feelings toward Calderone, Ivanovic or the Berwyn Development Corporation.
He added, however, that businesses looking for TIF money “need to have some skin in the game.”
“We have to be very responsible with the taxpayers’ money …” Abu-Taleb said.
On the question of Berwyn’s attempt to steal Danche away, he said: “I think we need to stay above that. I don’t view it as stealing. I think business people want to minimize their risk and increase their bottom line.”
Abu-Taleb said he believes neighboring communities should not think of one another as competition. “I don’t think twice about spending money in Forest Park or RiverForest,” he said. “Without them most of our businesses would not be sustainable. Without us, most of their businesses would not be sustainable.”