Independent retail, the sort of stores that shoppers clamor for in every attitude survey, is tough. Tough to attract. Tough to hold onto.

Madison Street is proving it right now with the unhappy closing of two longtime and active retailers. 

Deedee & edee, a women’s fashion shop, closed after the holidays. Its owner, a former Chamber of Commerce president, said business had been tough for several years. Deb Dworman noted the gradual diminishment of retail on the street and said that while restaurants are great, shopping and eating don’t always go together.

American Artworks Gallery has also closed, this shop after seven years in business. Lisa Dodge, its owner, said she is not closing due to bad business but rather to escape Chicago’s harsh winters.

Losing retail is not a phenomenon unique to Forest Park. From Macy’s closing shop in many malls around the country to a single storefront going dark on Madison, these are hard times for retail. Online shopping, whether it is the giant-sized Amazon or a highly specialized fashion purveyor, is quickly eating into local bricks and mortar.

It is possible to compete, but it takes shared energy and genuine innovation to create an exemplary shopping experience. Right now, Madison Street needs to find some retail leadership. And all of us need to move past the corrosiveness of the video gaming divide.

Doesn’t mean consensus will be readily achieved. But self-interest in building our business community is going to have to trump the frustrations.

Proviso road show

The Proviso Township High School road show rolled into Forest Park Village Hall one evening last week. And it was unlike anything seen in this village in 40-plus years. There were dozens of local people attending. No one mentioned secession as a solution. Anthony Calderone, Forest Park’s mayor, spoke with honesty about the historical divide between Proviso East and Forest Park but also offered enthusiasm about the potential for change. Six of the seven members of the District 209 school board sat in the front row, albeit with the two factions on opposite sides of the aisle.

And then Supt. Jesse Rodriguez took the microphone to speak plainly but with infectious energy about the early momentum he sees, and can measure, at the district’s three high schools. 

When the large group broke into thirds to hear from citizens, Rodriguez asked for input on what Proviso did well, what it needed to do going forward but more critically what it had “to stop doing right now.” And one of the notes that went up on the board was that the district had to stop shunning its critics. 

Great advice when you are trying to turn a school district at or near bottom by most every measure. Stay off the defensive. Listen well. Celebrate success.

It was a good evening for Proviso and a better evening for Forest Park.