Book Bike delivers small-business stories

Ride along with the Book Bike as we share the unique #OakParkStories of small businesses, starting this National Small Business Week, April 30-May 6.

The idea is to turn outward and amplify voices from the community, said Neighborhood Services Librarian Sarah Yale.

“To start, we intentionally reached out to local small businesses in areas not given as much ‘love’ as those in downtown Oak Park and the Hemingway District,” Yale said. “As we go through the Book Bike season, we hope to share the stories of small businesses in any Oak Park business district who’d like to participate.”

Getting down to business

At each visit, library staff talk with business owners, as well as customers and community members. They share relevant library materials from the Book Bike, plus information about related library and Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce events.

“We value community partnerships and fostering opportunities to share the skills, resources, and stories of the people who live and work in our village,” said Business Services Librarian Bridget Optholt. “The business owners we’ve talked with so far deliberately opened their small businesses in Oak Park to help create the type of community they want to live and work in. That means a community that works together, is diverse, and aspires to ensure that each citizen has resources to help them succeed in whatever capacity that means for each individual person.”

Follow the library on social media to see more stories as the project continues throughout the Book Bike season. Small business owners in any business district who’d like to participate can request a visit, and we’d love to hear community nominations.

Please note: responses have been edited for use on this page.

Book Bike outside Happy Apple Pie Shop with Owner Michelle Mascaro

Happy Apple Pie Shop: Owner Michelle Mascaro

Happy Apple Pie Shop, 226 Harrison St., is a blended work environment where people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities work together to create delicious pies. It’s kid-friendly and open six days a week.

What do you want community members to know about your business?

  • We believe communities change when people open up small businesses.
  • We try to be as green as possible, using compostable materials and local and/or organic ingredients whenever possible, all while trying to keep our pies affordable for everyone.
  • One way we do that is by fostering creative local partnerships. The shop uses a minimum of 200 pounds of apples every week, which means we have a lot of leftover apple peels. We give the peels to a local goat farm in the neighboring Austin community, which then feeds them to their (very happy) goats. In return, the goat farmer provides fresh goat cheese to use in Happy Apple recipes like fresh quiche, resulting in less food waste and delicious eats for all.

What unique service or product do you provide for the community?

  • We provide workplace opportunity and training for those who might otherwise find it difficult to find employment near home, including teens and individuals with intellectual or physical disabilities. Currently, we employ around 20 part-time pie makers!
  • We collaborate with other local organizations that share similar social business missions, by selling their goods along with our pie. These include Knockout Pickles from Opportunity Knocks, an organization that also provides work and social activities for adults with mental and developmental disabilities; greeting cards created by a local resident of UCP Seguin; and coffee from Aspire Coffeeworks, which also provides jobs to adults with disabilities.

Why did you choose Oak Park for your business?

  • I live in Oak Park and saw a need for a small business that employs people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, because I want them to have the opportunity to work local, with their friends. This is their community too. I want them to be able to work and serve in the community they live in.
  • We like being located in the Arts District because there is plenty of parking for our customers, so it makes easier for them to visit us. There are so many families passing by—going to the local shops, the neighborhood park, the Maze Branch Library—and we’re looking forward to serving them more!

What kind of community do you want to live and work in?

  • I want to live in a community where everyone has a say. Where everyone is celebrated, and where you can find whatever resources you need to be successful, whatever that means to you.

Book recommendation?

Book Bike inside Kinslahger Brewing Company

Kinslahger Brewing Company: Owners Keith Huizinga & Steve Loranz

With a tasting room at 6806 W. Roosevelt Road, Kinslahger Brewing Company offers its flagship beers (all lagers), along with a variety of seasonal and experimental brews, housemade sodas, and nitrogen coffee. Snacks served include Knockout Pickles from Opportunity Knocks, freshly made pretzels from Spilt Milk, and locally made cheeses.

What do you want community members to know about your business?

  • We aspire to be a truly community-based business. Our business model is a little different from other organizations and breweries in town in that we have invested in south Oak Park by putting a substantial amount of capital in buying and building this space here. Every piece of our business is very deliberate. We are a manufacturer of beer, but more than that, we are a place where anyone can come and enjoy sitting in this space with others.

What unique service or product do you provide for the community?

  • We love to educate others about what we’re doing here—experimenting with ingredients in our lagers to create some really unique brews. By limiting ourselves to lagers, we’re actually able to experiment a lot more. It’s like a playground for us—wide open for exploration.
  • The taproom space looks the way it does because we want it to be an asset to the community—a space for neighbors to gather and get to know one another. That’s why the brewery in the back isn’t the main focus and why there are no TVs, for example. We have games and books in the back for people to share and enjoy.

Why did you choose Oak Park for your business?

  • We’re residents of this community. We want to serve our friends and neighbors.
  • We love being on the south side of Oak Park. People thank us for opening up a business like ours down here, because there aren’t many other places like it serving these neighborhoods outside of the downtown Oak Park area. The south side neighborhood of Oak Park really likes that they can walk here. And anyone can ride their bikes and park at the bike racks right in front of our establishment. We are bike friendly and family friendly! There is something for everyone here, even if you don’t drink beer.
  • So many people are getting together to put together smart projects and supporting innovation in this community, like the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation’s Entrepreneur Leaders in Philanthropy, which gives seed funding for the “Big Idea.” People in Oak Park want to be involved, rally around the projects and organizations they think are valuable. It feels good to be a part of that kind of community.

What kind of community do you want to live and work in?

  • We want to live and own a business in a place that promotes diversity and values the contributions of its citizens—a truly welcoming community.

Book recommendations?