People returning to downtown La Grange for the first time in years often cannot believe their eyes.
Gone is the gloom that existed in the 1990s when the central business district bottomed out in its fall from stature as a primary shopping destination, during which many of its once-stalwart retailers succumbed to competition from the glitzy new malls and shopping centers that sprawled across the outlying countryside.
Gone is the mentality of doubt and failure that followed an ill-fated attempt to "mall" itself back to health by enclosing a portion of Calendar Ave only to see it turn into a haven for wayward teens and derelicts.
In their place is a vibrant retail and service core, revitalized over the past decade by an entrepreneurial spirit whose mantra is that you beat your climate-controlled, cookie-cutter competition by embracing the qualities that make you unique, and by offering customers a level of personal service that also seemed lost in the past.
As a result, downtown La Grange today hums with a distinctly urban vibe, but still retains its suburban ease and charm.
The most perplexing choice visitors face is where to eat. A walk down almost any block offers a variety of dining options: Italian, Thai, Mexican, Continental, Mediterranean, steakhouse, brew pub, coffeehouse, sushi bar, diner.
In between the restaurants, you will find fashion-savvy boutiques, salons for hair and body, galleries of handmade art and furniture, kitchen designers, purveyors of fine carpets and rugs, and several confectioners devoted to candy, ice cream and nuts. There's a movie theater, as well, where tickets are only two dollars.
You may also be surprised to find stores still providing everyday necessities such as books, music, videos, prescription drugs and groceries. There is even a full-service hardware store and, of course, a couple of banks to help you finance your fun.
To take a closer look at all that downtown La Grange has to offer, explore the links in the column to your left. Doing so is likely to tease you enough that you will come out and experience the central business district firsthand.
If anything, the visit could be good for your health. With its classic urban street grid and broad sidewalks, downtown La Grange is eminently walkable.