Looking to keep a good place to eat in Western Springs
Hinsdale 11/20/07 Western Springs Columnist: Vicki Gonia Doings photo by Steve Johnston
Updated: August 21, 2012 7:36PM
I guess it’s been a few weeks since I’ve sat at the stop sign heading south on Wolf at the tracks. I had no idea that the restaurant 800 West had closed. Yikes. The blinds are shut tight and there is white paper covering the entrance doors, with signs declaring “We are permanently closed.”
It’s a shame. Granted, I’d only eaten there a couple of times, when they first opened. For one reason or another, I hadn’t made it a habit to eat there. It may be because I worked in that space as a waitress when it was La Dolce Vita, and ate there more often than I worked, and I can’t think of it as anything but. I walked in expecting to be able to order my favorite La Dolce Vita dish, cavatelli with vodka sauce, to which I’d request a bunch of italian sausage be added.
But that wasn’t 800 West’s fault.
Now that three separate restaurants have been in and out of that space in a handful of years, there will be talk of a “curse” on that space. That’s rubbish, of course. Spaces aren’t cursed. It’s just a symptom of the times. There are only so many restaurants an area can support, and we have a lot of restaurants around here.
As I type these sentences, I’m hearing the voice of a gruff campaign strategist from the early nineties whisper in my ear: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Well, yeah, it is. I was in Hinsdale having dinner last week with my friend Julie Anderson Krzyzaniak, who is a real estate agent. As we walked from the restaurant to the car, she pointed out to me all of the empty space available on one block of 1st Street. Yikes. It was shocking, to be honest.
It made me recall what La Grange was like back in the early ’90s (I lived in a house on La Grange Road back then, when I was in college while working for my father’s company, which had a factory in La Grange over back along the tracks, on Beach Street). La Grange was dead. When we drive through La Grange today, and are confronted with the wealth of choice as to which restaurant we’d like to eat in, or which artsy jewelry or clothing shop we want to browse in, it’s hard to believe it was once deader’n a doornail.
I know I run around waving the “Shop Local” flag all the time, and of course, I’m still waving it. Of course our dollars can help keep the businesses we love in town and thriving. But our dollars are not unlimited. Even the wealthiest or most comfortable of us are being pickier about where we spend our money. We have to be! And if we want to keep our town economically happenin’, we’re going to have to spend as much of our available money here.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I could list ten businesses off the top of my head that I’d love to see open in Western Springs, and which space I think would be ideal for them, but none of that matters if the money to open those businesses is lacking, and the money to keep them open isn’t what it used to be. It’s terrifying, frankly, to think about getting some money together, opening a business, and despite my best efforts, watching it fail.
Hey, but don’t let my sad-sack, depressing, paranoid attitude stop you! Go for it!
Jeez, I need to snap out of it. It’s not as dire as I’m making it out to be. Western Springs is home to a number of wonderful and successful businesses old and new. The economy will improve (it always does, eventually), new businesses will come in and find success, and we’ll all be happy campers. Right? Right!
There are still homes being bought, sold and built in town. Our core businesses seem to be doing well (the day I don’t have to try to time my visit to Casey’s or Kirschbaum’s right so that I miss the biggest crowds, I’ll know something is really wrong). The world is not ending. We are not going to turn into the La Grange of the late ’80s/early ’90s. I am being a doomsayer and probably just need a couple of cocktails and some anti-anxiety medication.
All that said, anyone interested in partnering up to open a restaurant? I hear there’s a nice, big space that’s just opened up in downtown Western Springs, with great parking right next door, and optimal placement right on Wolf Road and the tracks. Anybody? (I’m half serious, here. I’ve always dreamed of opening a restaurant.)
Readers can contact Viki Gonia by leaving a message at (708) 824-8027 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.~.