A Chamber of Commerce is charged with, among other things, drawing new customers to existing businesses. That’s why chambers often organize events and it’s why those events are located smack dab in the midst of a business area.
A week back, the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce brought a major summer event — MusicFest — back to Madison Street after an absence of a few years. And the event, not surprisingly, earned a mixed bag of reviews.
Despite being the first year for MusicFest and in spite of dodgy weather — mighty hot and intermittently stormy — everyone interviewed by the Review’s Tom Holmes agreed that Star Events, the chamber’s producing partner, did a good job. Everyone agreed that knuckleheaded behavior by frustrating teens was eliminated by the perimeter fencing, the small admission charge and the top-notch work by both private security and the Forest Park police.
After that, opinions diverge. Some fest backers said that many Madison Street businesses had strong weekend sales including several restaurants. Retail seems to have taken a harder hit with Rich Schauer of the namesake hardware store and the Hallmark saying he’d have been further ahead if he had closed for the weekend.
However, his suggestion that the event ought to be moved off Madison to the park or the Altenheim defeats the very purpose of exposing non-residents to Forest Park’s main business strip. These events are more of a mid- to long-term investment and cannot be measured in a single weekend of sales.
Schauer and several others — both critics and supporters — said that communication needs to be improved. No one will argue that point. Some business owners knew that a customer could forego the five-buck admission if they said they were heading to shop at a specific store. Others did not know that. And it is a matter that would need to be only delicately broadcast lest the ruckus of past SummerFests returned.
We’re supportive of the Chamber, its board and staff, we’re appreciative to Star Events for its investment. We hope that MusicFest returns for 2016, a little tweaked, a little stronger, a little cooler and a lot dryer.
West Madison’s muddle
Meanwhile, a bit further west on Madison Street, on the orphaned portion of the stretch west of Desplaines Avenue, construction continues apace on the major street rebuild and fancifying project.
You’ve got to admire retail entrepreneurs. As squirrelly a bunch as you’ll ever encounter, they are also, to generalize, people who know how to put their shoulders in, to take the mid-term view and to innovate along the way.
That’s why Starship Subs will deliver a sandwich to you in the alley behind its place if you call ahead. It’s why Brian Boru, the Irish pub, is sharing its parking lot with the pet Emporium for the duration.
While everyone wishes the work would speed up and worries that state funding delays could stretch this project out, there is wide praise for the communication efforts of the village government which is driving this upgrade.