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Chamber of Commerce Party Highlights Optimism on Economic Recovery

The annual get-together at Giordano's was a good time for businesses to compare notes on how strong the upswing has been since the bottom of the recession almost three years ago.

Optimism for continued economic recovery mixed with the usual year-end good cheer Thursday at the annual holiday party at , 5990 Dempster St.

“Last year and this year (are improved),” said Bea Lipski, seven-year owner of , 6038 Dempster St. “I’m hoping 2012 will be better.”

“People have a positive attitude in this town,” said Jim Simkins, second-generation co-owner of , which opened in Morton Grove in 1939 and moved to its present site at 6251 Dempster in 1946.

The business is likely the oldest continually-running business on Dempster and a senior member of the chamber.

“A lot of us grew up with the people in this town,” Simkins added. “So it’s OK. It’s kind of tough all over, but it works. Things are coming back.”

The nature of the local business owner is to look on the sunny side, anyway.

“Just in Morton Grove in general, people are trying to remain pretty positive,” said Jacky Liston. Serving as executive director of the chamber, Liston was by far the busiest person at the party. “I’ve never seen people be negative about the economy. From what I’ve seen, I do feel things are on the up(swing).”

But as in past recessions that weren’t as severe as the most recent downturn, the job market is the lagging indicator of progress.

Lucky to get director’s job

Liston graduated from college in December, and had worked for the chamber since 16. She got her job through “dumb luck … But I have so many friends who are working at Home Depot who have masters degrees.”

Some 150 were in attendance out of the 190-member chamber, said Liston. “Our golf outing is probably as big,” she said, but the chamber party is the top indoor event.

One particular blight on business no doubt became the object of curiosity directed at Larry Strybel. He’s the owner of , the last surviving occupant of the empty Riverbank Plaza strip mall, on the south side of Dempster by the north branch of the Chicago River and the Metra tracks.

The loan on the mall’s property is now held by MB Financial after first foreclosure on an individual investor, then the loan-holding bank folded. Strybel has to take time explaining while he’s still thriving in the ghostly-quiet property.

“Everybody comes in and asks, 'you’re the last one here, what’s going on?,'” he said. “The secret is we’ve been here for 22 years. The secret is you have to find a niche in whatever you do. You go and really attack that niche. Sometimes it’s difficult, you have to try two, three, four things before it works.”

Fourth generation in town

Fourth-generation Morton Grove resident Chris Minx represented the U.S. Postal Service. Attending in his letter carrier’s uniform, he’s worked a myriad of routes around town.

Even though the Postal Service is considering huge cuts to compensate for the loss of business in the Internet era, Minx said it’s “business as usual” at the local post office on Waukegan Road despite doing more with less.

“When I first started, Morton Grove had 6,000 deliveries, now it has 9,000 – and it has seven less routes. That’s a lot,” he said.

Minx’s favorite route is his present one, between Austin and Ferris, stretching to Lincoln Avenue. That was the part of town most familiar to great-grandfather Paul Minx, first of the long line in the family to reside here. The first Minx owned Paul Minx’s Tavern, on the ChinaTown site.

The party is a perfect place to network and compare notes about the challenges of running small businesses.

“It’s a nice place to meet people that you might only see a couple of times a year,” Lipski said. “They’re down to earth, they’re warm, they’re very accepting. Also the diversification — there are a lot of different kinds of people."

Among the party attendees was Morton Grove’s senior real-estate agent, Nick Marino, owner of the agency that bears his name, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year in its offices on the northwest corner of Dempster and Menard.

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