Wednesday, April 13, 2011
FLOWER POWER ON WEST OAK STREET By Jerry Pritikin
I love Chicago in the Spring time. Walking around the near north-side during this season has been a favorite pastime of mine for over 50 years. Oak Street remains one of my special destinations via Oak Street Beach, Rush Street or Michigan Avenue. Over the years it has hosted the Gold Coast Art Fair, had the now closed popular Esquire Theater and was home to some of the City's best one-of-a-kind shops. Time has changed the landscape. Oak Street is now home to upscale coffee stops, designer clothing stores, internationally-known jewelry houses and multi-million dollar condominiums.
My first apartment was on the 1500 block of N. Dearborn Parkway back in the late 1950s. Many of my friends lived on some of the nearby fashionable streets (Ritchie Court, Astor St. and E.Lake Shore Drive). They had apartments in old mansions, high rises or coach houses. Now I am living on Maple Street west of LaSalle Street. My 13th floor apartment has floor to ceiling bay windows that look south down Wells Street and due west. Over the 15 years that I have lived here I have seen the skyline change dramatically. At least a dozen new high rises have altered my view. From this vantage point the brown line "el" looks like a toy train. Those big windows turn my living room into a skybox overlooking the Walter Payton Preparatory High School's softball field.
Today was bright so I strolled over to nearby Washington Square, aka Bug-House Square, opposite the historic Newberry Library, to enjoy the sun. Other people were also out - walking their dogs or pushing baby strollers. Even the homeless people sitting on benches with their worldly processions tied together in plastic bags seemed to be enjoying the day. The big cascading water fountain has yet to be turned on and the floral garden, not yet planted, was naked with not a single flower in sight. Only a few of the park's trees had noticeable buds on them.
There was still a chill in the air so I stayed only a short time in the park. On my way home I stopped at the new flower shop at 106 West Oak Street. Yellow flower petals on the sidewalk welcomed me into the store where I was greeted cheerfully by Christine Noelle and Amy. These friendly young ladies are true artisans. Their unique floral studio is a welcome addition for this end of West Oak Street. It is housed on the ground floor of a 6 story vintage red brick building. Large plate glass windows brighten the interior and the classic high ceiling adds to the ambiance. I recall going to a beatnik party in that building in the late 1950s (bongo drums, chianti wine and students from the Art Institute). A few years ago I had a photo exhibit in what is now a fine antique store next to The Floral Studio.
To find out more about The Floral Studio, visit the web-site www.christinenoelledesign.com or better yet, visit the shop in person.