March 22nd, 2019 3:25 PM
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.