After their shot at success on Madison Street, the aptly-named Forest Perk Café is no longer part of residents’ daily grind, and is now the third gelato shop to close at 7501 W. Madison St.
“I was a little apprehensive about going to a place that had that business previously and just didn’t make it, but I was kind of under the impression it was because they had a personal falling out,” said Angela Gabbert, former owner.
The space has been home to Prestello’s Pizzeria, which relocated to Lyons after little over a year in Forest Park, and Paciugo Gelato Caffe, a chain that apparently closed in early 2012. The 1,400-square-foot “totally renovated” space is now available to lease for a minimum of one year on Redfin.com.
“I’m sad that more small businesses don’t make it, I’m very saddened by that. It’s just a lot of big chains,” Gabbert said. “It would be nice if more people patronized independent local businesses. Look at my name, I specifically named it that because I wanted people to know it was local.”
Forest Perk opened in October 2016, and specialized in pastries, coffee and tea, and gelato made in-house, offering seasonal, gluten-free and vegan options. Gabbert said she believes her proximity to McDonald’s hurt her business, along with parking fees in the evenings.
“If you go to Oak Park the lots tend to be free in the evening when people want to go to most of the bars and cafes, and when you go to Forest Park, unless it’s around holiday time, you have to pay for parking,” Gabbert said. “Even though the parking is inexpensive, I think that puts people off.”
The shop at 7510 W. Madison St. closed annually from January to March, since Gabbert could not afford to keep the space staffed during gelato’s off-months. This year it never re-opened. Forest Perk closed on Jan. 12, writing on Facebook, “We will try to reopen in the spring, if possible.” On April 18, Gabbert announced she was throwing in the towel.
“I would like to thank all my wonderful, loyal customers and friends for their kind support. It has been my humble pleasure to meet and serve you,” she wrote on Facebook. “I’m not entirely sure what the future may hold.”
Steve Glinke, director of the Department of Public Health and Safety, said he wasn’t sure why so many gelato and other businesses have passed through that location, but mentioned the site’s non ADA-compliance could have hurt the business.
“Coffee is in abundance here and success I think in that market is wholly dependent on finding your group. Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts or Counter Coffee, their following tends to be pretty militant,” Glinke said. “Bringing in a new coffee shop is a risky venture.
Larry Marion, owner of Rogue Wave Media who designed Forest Perk’s logos and helped manage its social media, said the store’s location was its biggest disadvantage, and that future tenants should be more active on social media and make their business entryway more accessible. He added that Madison Street presented its own challenges.
“It’s quaint, but I think it’s a bit cookie cutter, with a lot of similar shops,” he said, adding that business diversity could also help the district.