Prairie Bread Kitchen to close

Owner says high taxes and construction projects made it difficult to continue

March 22nd, 2019 3:25 PM

By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It's been a 24-year run for the bakery and lunch spot on North Marion Street, but the owner of Prairie Bread Kitchen said he is closing up shop sometime shortly after Easter. 

Owner Doran Payne has owned the restaurant since 2009 – the business opened in 1995 and was later sold to Payne – but he said he's shutting the place down for a number of reasons, including the skyrocketing tax rate for the location.

Payne said his tax bill has at least tripled in the last six years, but construction and streetscaping projects downtown over the last few years have also hurt his business.

"I think the construction and all that will be very good for the area and very good for Oak Park, but whether the journey through that is comfortable is another question," he said.

Payne, a Forest Park resident, didn't have the numbers immediately on hand but said the tax increase is "a tough pill to swallow."

"Property taxes in Oak Park are no laughing matter," he said.

Construction from the two high-rise developments within blocks of the restaurant over the last few years, in addition to the repaving of South Boulevard have also driven away customers.

"I don't think people understand the type of disruption (business owners) have to deal with," he said, noting that the street closures and construction have driven people away from his business.

He noted that when streets are closed and traffic congestion ramps up because of construction project, "customers find new places."

Once the projects are complete, it takes time to build back that customer base, he said, adding that it takes time for large buildings to get fully occupied and also for customers to learn about his location.

"The construction is over and people say it should be easy, but it doesn't work that way," he said.

Having said all that Payne reiterated that he believes the new high-rises in the area will have a positive impact on Oak Park businesses.

"Cities and villages and towns have to change," he said. "All of these things are good for the area."

High taxes and disrupted patrons were only part of his decision to close up shop – Payne said he now has two small children that are taking more of his attention.

Also, he was facing a lease renewal and had to make the tough decision on whether to keep going with Prairie Bread Kitchen.

"It's been a good run and now we move on to other things," he said. "I'm looking forward to being on the other side, the customer side, (of the counter), and visiting fellow (business owners) around," he said. "It's good to be a patron.  

Payne said he's uncertain whether he will open another restaurant in the future, but for now, he's planning on taking a trip with his family to his native Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.  

"We're going to regroup and set the reset button," he said.

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  • Mark Graham from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 25th, 2019 5:47 PM

    Downtown Oak Park is very congested and parking is tough. Compare this to across Harlem in River Forest where there are large surface lots. It is great I guess if you live in a new apartment in downtown Oak Park but tough for driving in. Also all the new rental units are one of the reasons Oak Park home prices are falling, especially for old homes under 2200 or so square feet.

  • Haney Ned (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 25th, 2019 4:33 PM

    Stop public pensions! Stop giving teachers pay increases! Oak Park is already paying too much for under qualified teachers at every level. The good teachers should gut the system and get rid of the bad. If not, get rid of the whole bunch and start over.

  • Bruce Kline (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 23rd, 2019 1:49 PM

    I agree Tom. Time to blame everyone else except the guy in the mirror. And yeah, Oak Park and it's captains are into the "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" strategy.

  • Tom MacMillan from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 23rd, 2019 11:50 AM

    If it was just property taxes it would be enough to kill yet another local business. But also having know nothing Trustees who think it is their role in life to decide what the local wages should be is a business killer too. Mission accomplished Trustees, we have more non-existent jobs at the bread store. Time to blame Trump or Rauner, oh wait, the I-am-a-professional former city planner did that already.

  • Marc Martinez from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 23rd, 2019 10:23 AM

    Dan - it is always appealing to some people to tell them that there is a way to dump their tax burden onto someone else. Sure, feel free to overspend because business, or rich people or down-state-ers will pay the tax bill. But there is no good reason for anyone outside of the village to pay for the local schools. We already dump the bloated pensions cost onto the rest of the state. Why should they also pay for teachers that earn twice the state average? And if they increased funding would that just be a license to spend more and not reduce local taxes? All of our taxing bodies need to understand that they need to stop finding new ways to spend money and stop increasing taxes.

  • Les Golden (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 23rd, 2019 8:06 AM

    That's right, Dan. It's Trump's fault. Everything is Trump's fault. Right. Everything. Blame it on Trump. Trump. Trump. Trump.

  • Alex Garcia (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 5:38 PM

    Oak Park continues to hemorrhage residents and businesses. Are you listening current and prospective elected officials in the village?

  • David Montgomery (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 5:37 PM

    I'm curious. How has Maya's property tax bill changed over the period cited by the owner of Prairie Bread ? Has it tripled too !

  • Jim Coughlin (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 5:08 PM

    Dan Lauber offers a well reasoned analysis. I continue to ask if the Village board will ever call for an independent review of how Oak Park' TIFs have impacted property taxes?Have the TIFs been a boon or a bust for our community? Hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been spent with scant oversight and zero accountability. It's too late to take any corrective action since the TIF districts have or are about to expire. Taxpayers deserve to know the facts!.

  • Bruce Kline (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 5:05 PM

    OK Dan, show me what part of Governor's Pritzker's graduated income tax proposal duplicates Ms. Netsch's "income tax - property tax swap" proposal.

  • Bruce Kline (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:57 PM

    There are consequences to outrageous property taxes and rents. And this is one of them.

  • Dan Lauber from River Forest (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:52 PM

    This is heartbreaking. My wife and I have been enjoying lunch at Prairie Bread Kitchen at least weekly for years. Last year we lost Brueggers Bagels (their last store in Illinois). Has anybody else noticed that the number of vacant store fronts in downtown Oak Park has grown substantially in the past year or so -- a sure sign of the upcoming Trump-generated recession. The property tax problem rests with the Illinois General Assembly which has refused to accept its constitutional mandate to cover at least half the cost of public education -- perhaps in part because the income tax rate would have to be raised to cover it. (Dawn Clark Netsch proposed a income tax - property tax swap when she ran for governor in the mid-1990s and was punished at the polls for her efforts to make the taxing system fairer in Illinois.) Oak Parkers and River Foresters value their public schools and have been willing to pay higher taxes for them (about 70% of our property tax bills), but political demagogues blame the village governments for the high property tax instead. Place the blame for high property taxes where it actually rests. (This doesn't excuse some of the imprudent things the current Oak Park village board has done -- especially the ridiculous "road diet" for Madison Street which makes so little sense as the board seeks to intensify development along Madison.)

  • Mary Pikul (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:48 PM

    I want to add that this has a domino effect. I go out of my way to go to Sugar Beet JUST for Prairie Bread. This brings my business to Sugar Beet because while I am there I get other groceries.

  • Mary Pikul (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:44 PM

    I am completely disappointed. We LOVE their bread! This cannot be happening. When these construction projects go up shouldn't there be a tax break or something to help local businesses affected? There seems to be help to the developers but not the existing businesses. The trustees need to take responsibility for this.

  • Janet Saeger (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:10 PM

    "Taxes have at least tripled over the last 6 years". Oak Park claims new developments bring in much needed tax relief. Really? Somethin' ain't right.

  • Heidi Ruehle-May (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 3:48 PM

    Sorry to see them go, they were always so great to work with as caterers and always had friendly interactions at the counter. Oh, and delicious food!

  • George Smith (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 22nd, 2019 3:46 PM

    Tax bill has *tripled*. Keep that in mind, voters. Oh and this bodes well for the lovely Madison "Road Diet"

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