You may have noticed the I “heart” FP signs popping up in store windows all along Madison Street and wondered who started it and why.
Mark Hosty — Forest Park resident, homeowner, businessman, former commissioner, and Chamber of Commerce board member — answered question one by admitting he had the signs printed, is in the process of distributing them to businesses, and eventually hopes to get them out to homeowners.
Regarding the question of why, Hosty gave an impassioned response: “Last year, at Healy’s [where Hosty is the manager], we were fortunate enough to have about a dozen different local charities use our restaurant to host their events, raising these groups over $100,000. That is what I love about being in Forest Park — people stepping forward to help others. I love this town. We need to show that to everyone.”
Merchants who have put the I “heart” FP signs up in their storefront windows seem to resonate in one way or another with Hosty’s intent. Bob from Scratch Deli and Café said, “We love Forest Park because not only do we have our business here and most of our clientele is from here, but we grew up in this area. We therefore strongly support our neighborhood in as many ways as we can.”
Likewise the manager of O’Sullivan’s said, “The owners of this bar, Dan and Jim Watts are invested in this community as a banker and as a realtor. All of us love this village.”
Although Cam Verbeke, who works at Mattress Firm, grew up and still lives in Elmwood Park, he considers Forest Park to be part of his “neighborhood.”
“My buddy’s dad owns Jimmy’s Place,” he noted. “With all the bars, this was kind of our spot when we were younger. I know how tight-knit this community is, so when we were asked to put the sign up, I said ‘absolutely.'”
Hosty added that focusing on the shared affection people have for Forest Park is a good way to unify merchants and the whole village.
“We needed to get our business community back on the same page,” he said, “and put the last 10 months behind us. I love Forest Park. I felt we needed to set a different tone amongst the business and building owners here.”
Business owners the Review interviewed interpreted “the tone of the last 10 months” to be related to the sometimes contentious debate over the issue of video gambling. The vast majority applauded Hosty’s effort to accentuate the positive.
The owner of Knit Nirvana put the sign in her window because “I thought it was a nice community thing to do, and I just wanted to be supportive.” Rosa, the manager of Madison Street Shoes said, “It does look nice. I see them all up and down the street.” Kate Webster who chairs the newly created Diversity Commission said, “When I see the signs, I smile and my heart glows.”
Heidi Vance, the co-owner of Team Blonde and Counter Coffee, used the word “positivity” to describe the effect the signs had on her.
“I think the signs send a message of positivity and happiness,” she said. “When I drive by and see I ‘heart’ FP — this may sound corny — it brings out happy thoughts. You see the signs and it makes you feel good.
“It’s sort of a positive in a negative season,” she added. “In this election season, even though the economy is up, people are doubtful. The signs give merchants, shoppers and people driving by a spot of good will and good cheer.”
Bill Todd, co-owner of Todd and Holland Tea Merchants, saw the signs as a way to promote business in town.
“Just like I hear that the I ‘heart’ NY campaign was beneficial to that city,” he said, “we hope that I love FP will have an equal effect in this area. We’re competing against Oak Park and Berwyn. Whatever we can do to differentiate ourselves, we’re happy to do here. We wish the campaign a great success.”
Hosty said homeowners who would like the sign for their yards should go to www.ilovefp.com, fill out the request form, and he will get you a sign ASAP.