Another blow to Cherry Creek: Panera is closing


The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.

The decision by Panera Bread Company officials to close the bakery and coffee shop on March 17 is the second departure this year from the Cherry Creek shopping center. 

Panera is opening a new bakery at Halsted and 175th streets, about 3 1/2 miles away.

Panera's departure comes shortly after the closure of the Starbucks coffee shop at Cherry Creek on Jan. 27. A potential new tenant for the former Starbucks space met on Saturday with Hofeld and building owner Vince Cryns. That deal is still in its preliminary stages.

  Workers removed signage on
  Feb. 4 from the former
  Starbucks at 18322 Governors
  Highway in Homewood. The
  store officially closed Jan. 27. 
(Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

At the village board meeting Tuesday, Mayor Richard Hofeld indicated he hasn't given up on Panera just yet. He  announced he had written a letter to Panera officials urging them to reconsider the decision to leave Cherry Creek, and he urged residents to do the same.

American Dance Center
The next stop on our stroll through the unregulated, ad hoc, eclectic Ridge Road art gallery is the American Dance Center just west of the post office.

The studio offers two forms of art: dance, of course, and a Richard Haas mural that wraps around two sides of the building exterior. 

  The Richard Haas mural on
  the American Dance Center
  building on Ridge Road in
  Homewood provides a visual
  tour of major dance styles.
 (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The display windows of the studio provide one of the popular attractions during the annual Holiday Lights festival, with dancers performing scenes from “The Nutcracker” for the enjoyment of people making their way from the shops and activities on Martin Square to the tree-lighting ceremony in Irwin Park. 

The sidewalk is often packed with people, kids riding parents’ shoulders to get a better look and just about everyone wearing a big smile. The dancers vividly express a joy of movement that is infectious, spreading delight through the crowd. It’s the kind of little thing, a crafted moment, that makes our little corner of the world a better place.

Dancers also perform at other community events. They put on a show at Fall Fest in 2016, and in July 2018 they participated in the WGN Block Party parade.
The rest of the year, area kids are learning the moves and attitudes that make their bodies into works of art.

  American Dance Center
  students performed in July
  2018 in downtown Homewood 
  during the WGN Block Party
(Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

In 2016, the village’s Heritage Commission selected the Villari family, owners and operators of the center, for inclusion in the Homewood Hall of Fame as a way to mark the dance center’s contribution to the performing arts in the village.

The center also contributes to the visual arts scene as host to one of the village’s 15 Richard Haas murals. Scenes on the east wall depict various dance styles, including Thai, Indian, Spanish, break, disco and ballroom. The north wall shows depictions of famous dancers. 

A few days before the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2016, I stopped by the studio to learn more about it. In the parking lot, I met a gentleman who was there to pick up his granddaughter from her dance lesson. I asked him what his family’s experience was like.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “My kids all went through it.”

His granddaughter was a bit shy, but she piped up finally and said she really liked ballet. 

Inside, I found similar enthusiasm. Co-founder Jack Villari seemed as excited about teaching dance as he must have been half a century ago when he and his wife, Kathleen, were getting ADC started. The evidence of that passion for teaching can be found at the biennial dance showcase the studio produces. The most recent showcase was in June 2018.

Villari assured me the event “is like watching a Broadway show.” 

The quality of the show comes from taking the art seriously, but Villari said he and his family balance that with an accessible, open-arms approach. “Dance is more than steps,” is their motto.

And while they focus on teaching youngsters the basics and helping older kids develop their talent, they are ready to teach dance to anyone. They’ve even been called upon to teach football players, who value agility and grace even in their collision-filled game.

“You have to be versatile,” Villari said.

Versatile and welcoming. 

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A great community deserves a great newspaper. The HF Chronicle was created in June 2014 as an online publication. In December 2015 we began monthly print publication, too. Our mission is to chronicle the life of our community — news by, for, and about the people of Homewood and Flossmoor, Illinois.


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