Holiday shopping doesn't have to be a chore. Not if you make an adventure out of it — filled with time to browse, stop for a drink or a meal, and — who knows — pick up a little something for yourself.
With all that in mind, I recently took a stroll in one of Oak Park's shopping areas, stopped for lunch and a mani-pedi. Oh, yeah, and found a trove of presents for some of the toughest cases on my gift list. (
If you haven't been shopping lately in this near west suburb, get going. You can hop the
(Oak Park stop on the
Green Line (Harlem/Lake) or just jump in the car and head for the area around Marion and Lake streets, where an abundance of great options will make fast work of your holiday shopping to-do list.
The cheery team of Takara Beathea-Gudell and her daughter Miya Beathea keep me coming back to their two (soon to be three) Marion Street shops.
(123 N. Marion St.; 708 445-7511;
) is great for jewelry, accessories and clothing especially suited for curvy women. Owner Beathea-Gudell carries her own designs (up to 3X by special order) and lots of dreamy sweaters, scarves and the like, some by local designers. Meet her daughter Miya Beathea, who helps oversee
down the street (111 N. Marion St.; 708-848-7656) and Friday, will open
, a boutique where all fashions are less than $99, at 131 N. Marion St. (708-524-9200).
For gifts you won't find elsewhere, try
(125 N. Marion St.; 708-386-9640). There are more than a dozen vendors with one-of-a-kind offerings from fine jewelry and Bakelite (The
Gold Hatpin) to old
photos (vendor No. 8) to vintage
sunglasses (vendor No. 51).
, a Venezuelan restaurant and sandwich shop (118 N. Marion St.; 708-386-1313;
), is a frugal delight specializing in arepas, a doughy cornmeal concoction stuffed with chicken, beef, eggs — you name it. East Coast import
has a fanatic following (especially the fries), and there's one at 1115 W. Lake St. (708-358-0856;
). You can always hit the
("the Cozy" to locals) for traditional coffee shop fare, including breakfast all day (138 N. Marion St.; 708-383-1750). But my favorite is watching the chefs cook my meal — sushi, too — at
(1107 South Blvd.; 708-386-8889;
We all know what a problem it is for a weary shopper to find a tidy, welcoming restroom, but you'll find one (and maps and gifts galore, especially
stuff) at the
(1010 W. Lake St.; 708-383-4145;
). For a lengthier respite, try a mani-pedi ($35) at
(1036 W. Lake St.; 708-763-0292;
), where service is fast and delightful. For fun events, music, sales and discounts, check
Worth a side trip:
Yearning for more? Try nearby Oak Park Avenue at Lake Street (the CTA's Green Line Oak Park stop), and check out the clothing and accessories at
(134 N. Oak Park Ave.; 708-524-5450;
). There's also the
Oak Park Arts District
), Harrison Street west of Austin Boulevard. You're always welcome at
(905 S. Lombard Ave.; 708-524-2899;
). And if you want to try your hand at DIY gifting, the staff at
makes it easy and fun (145 W. Harrison St.; 708-848-1761;