By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Women’s History Week and a few years later, in 1987, Congress formally established Women’s History Month. Since then, women’s contributions to the United States have been celebrated every March. In the Oak Park Arts District, the 5th annual WOW! Women Owned Works event will take place on March 20 to promote women-owned businesses in the district.
Gail Coughlin of Elevate Creative (321 Harrison Street) came up with the idea for the event in 2017 after the former president’s inauguration and the subsequent Women’s March. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to celebrate all the women-owned businesses in the arts district—the most of any business district in Oak Park,” says Gail. “It was not a happy time and I wanted to bring something positive to the neighborhood.”
Yellow was chosen as the signature color for the event. “It’s happy and cheerful. It’s bright and attention-grabbing,” says Gail, then adds with a laugh, “Yellow is an underrated color.”
This year’s event offers an extra reason to celebrate with the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first woman Vice President. It also happens to fall on the first day of spring which offers some hope for warmer weather after an especially cold and snowy February. And the WOW! event comes almost exactly a year since Governor Pritzker issued Illinois’ stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“Business owners are exhausted. We are tired of thinking of ways to promote our businesses and to keep our customers engaged on top of the constant worries of daily life—home, school, kids, and health. This event will give us something to celebrate. Every year we’ve had more participating businesses offer sales and promotions and more customers know about it,” says Gail.
“My business was forced to close for three months last spring and so we amped up our online store. It’s been going really well. Our focus is hair, skin, bath, and body items that are eco-friendly, health-conscious, and women-owned. We have a full complement of beauty items,” says Gail. Elevate Creative will offer a free gift with purchase during the WOW! event.
At Studio 144 Boutique (144 Harrison Street), owner Marcia Brown Jackson is excited to celebrate being a woman-owned business in the Arts District. “Since yellow is a refreshing color we decided to go with our ReFresh Sale where you can refresh with skincare, bath and body, fragrance, candles, and more. We will also be giving out skincare and fragrance samples while supplies last,”says Marcia.
Bead in Hand (145 Harrison Street) and owner Kim Humphrey have participated in the WOW! event in the past and will once again showcase jewelry handmade by the staff. They will also have a sale on yellow glass beads and a free gift with a $25 purchase. “Since the pandemic began, we’ve created a number of do-it-yourself kits that can be purchased through our website and then shipped or held for pickup. They are projects that don’t require special tools and have fairly easy-to-follow instructions,” says Kim. She’s focused on getting through the pandemic and is especially looking forward to the time when Bead in Hand can hold classes again.
Tamekia Swint, the executive director of Styles 4 Kidz (235 Harrison Street), sees the WOW! event as an opportunity to get to know the residents of Oak Park and build community after moving into the Arts District last summer. They will have a selfie station near their front door and door prizes and candy for families that stop in. Tamekia is hoping to raise awareness for her non-profit that “expects to serve 900 kids and 400 families this year.”
At Purple Sun Arts (142 Harrison Street), owner Ann Viernes can’t wait to “celebrate the end of winter, the beginning of spring, and the vernal equinox.” Her store will offer sunny decorations, Yellow Ribbons rose giveaways, and registration for her long-awaited Cosmic Smash Booking art journaling sessions. Ann is looking forward to the end of the pandemic and a much-delayed grand opening.
The Oak Park Arts District WOW! Women Owned Works event will be held Saturday, March 20, from 11am-4pm although hours will vary by business. Follow #WOW!2021 and #shoponharrisonstreet on social media and visit www.oakparkartsdistrict.com for more information.