Two youngsters get on the ice at Calahan Hockey and Fitness in Forest Park. Provided photo

In this difficult environment, small business owners must be resilient, resourceful and unafraid to reinvent themselves. Mark Calahan is a prime example. The former restaurateur is now operating Calahan Hockey & Fitness at 7235 Roosevelt Rd., the former site of Amy’s Wine House. Calahan has gone from serving food and drinks to training hockey players.

He has installed a practice rink in the rear of the former restaurant. It is a year-round rink with an artificial surface. It is 33 x 22 feet and has one net. Calahan compared it to playing half-court basketball. His students play 2-on-2 scrimmages and learn the fundamentals of shooting and stick handling. He has about 40 students, including one from Forest Park.

They practice at other facilities in town, including the roller hockey rink at The Park. Calahan also trains students in a fitness program at the Ferrara Pan Fitness Factory. He is good friends with the owner, Nello Ferrara, and has befriended other hockey enthusiasts from the village. He used to play pick-up hockey with former NHL center, Tim “Buster” Stapleton, before Stapleton signed to play in Finland.

Calahan’s own hockey career included playing defenseman for a semi-pro team in Chicago. He was in his 30s, competing against 18- and 19-year-olds in Wisconsin. He was paid $50 per game but never cashed the checks. He’s been coaching hockey since 1992 and his students include his three kids, Quinn, Adelle and Elsie. The two eldest went on to play Division 1 hockey and Elsie, 12, plays on a boys Pee Wee team.

Young players gather at Calahan Hockey and Fitness in Forest Park. Provided photo

Besides coaching youth hockey players, Calahan works with a girl’s high school team from Franklin Park. He was also the junior varsity hockey coach at OPRF High School before taking his current position as JV coach at Leyden Township. Besides coaching, Calahan helped operate Gunzo’s Hockey stores on Madison and in Morton Grove. He started three hockey pro shops in the northern suburbs but the internet hurt in-person sales of hockey equipment.

Calahan continues to play hockey four times a week and he trains alongside his students. The 56-year-old leads by example, jumping atop a 20-inch-high wooden box while holding free weights. The former restaurant space is now filled with exercise equipment, including a treadmill, rowing machine and a heavy bag. The only remnants of Amy’s Wine House are the sign on the wall and the bar in the rear.

Before they opened the restaurant on Roosevelt, Calahan and Amy Storey operated Tapas 7232 on Madison. The restaurant fulfilled two of Calahan’s passions: serving food and playing music. He plays upright bass and the restaurant hosted jam nights for jazz musicians. In 2017, they opened Amy’s Wine House. The restaurant had a good run until it was decimated by COVID.

After losing 90% of their business, they closed the restaurant on Oct. 4, 2020. The following day, Calahan opened the Power Play Café at the same location. The café closed in June 2021 when Calahan started the hockey and fitness business. He admits that hockey is an expensive sport for kids to play but, surprisingly, 75% of his students come from working-class families.

Specifically, they are from Polish immigrant families. Their parents like the “blue collar” atmosphere of Calahan’s facility, where kids play outside in the cold. Their dads work hard in the trades, while their moms are even tougher. Calahan recounted how a Polish mom was on her way to his facility with her 6-year-old son, when she foiled an attempted carjacking. After the scary incident, the boy’s only question was, “Can I still go to practice?”

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.