Small business is hard. Exhilarating. Demanding. Sometimes frustrating. One thing it is not? Static. Staying the same is not optional. Especially these days when technology is disrupting long-successful business models.
Change or die is a fair motto for small business in 2020.
Forest Park’s Madison Street is a perfect reflection of this reality. This week, Maria Maxham, the Review’s editor, reports on three businesses — Schauer’s Hardware, Team Blonde and Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore — which are actively evolving. We could add a fourth in Panda Café and we can point to our own business at the Review, though we are no longer situated on the street.
Rich Schauer, the amiable owner of the eponymous hardware store, has announced the closing of the Hallmark store just next door. You might still care enough to send the very best, but the very best party invitation might be sent by Evite, the very best birthday greeting might be on Facebook. Sure, we’re suckers for a hand-written note on a clever or loving card. Remember that when you need to send us a sympathy card.
Schauer is realistic though about the future of that business. And while he is not ready to go public with plans for that space, which is owned by his family, he is excited about bringing something new and compelling to the street.
Team Blonde, one of the women-owned businesses which launched during Madison Street’s last great flowering early in the century, is currently building out an expansion to accommodate inclusion of hair stylists focusing on kids. The stylists, and their followings, will arrive from an Oak Park business that recently closed.
Centuries & Sleuths, owned by the always gracious Augie Aleksy, is 30 years old, 20 years on Madison Street in Forest Park. The shop, which specializes in history and mysteries, recently won recognition — and 500 bucks — from famed author James Patterson who gifted 500 independent bookstores across the country. Indie bookstores hit a trough in 2009 as recession and e-books took a hard hold. Since then, by hanging in and growing their influence as community gathering points, independent bookstores have grown by 35 percent.
Centuries & Sleuths, with its full calendar of author events, book club gatherings and special projects, fulfills the community gathering role.
Another evolution is at the corner of Desplaines and Madison where the restaurant we’ll always think of as Venture, has again rebranded, this time as Panda Café. Early social media comments are positive and we’ll hope for staying power.
Finally, we’d note that your 103-year-old Forest Park Review is also reinventing itself. We’ll still be in print, we’ll still be online, we’ll still sell ads and subscriptions. But with the new year, the Review is now part of the recently formed Growing Community Media nonprofit. We will be turning more to our readers as partners in funding independent community journalism. Don’t worry. We won’t be shy in telling you how you can actively participate. For starters, there is a Donate button at ForestParkReview.com. Join in.