Café gets liquor license on its third attempt

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

In an on again, off again issue of approving a liquor license for Sonny’s Slots and Café at 8841 W. 87th St., it seems the third time was the charm. The Hickory Hills Council approved a Class E Liquor License for the facility at the council meeting last Thursday.

The action increased the number of Class E Liquor licenses in the city from nine to 10.

Previously, the license had been granted to the café owner several months ago, but was removed when he announced the business would not be opening. When he returned a second time with the request, it was denied because there was additional work required on other properties in the Plaza. The approval at the June 9 meeting came after Mayor Mike Howley announced the required work at the Plaza was near completion and everything was up to code.

Also approved was an ordinance approving a Class 6b tax incentive for property located at 7731 W. 98th St. Village attorney Vince Cainkar explained that the tax incentive reduces taxes on industrial buildings, particularly on those which have been vacant for an extended period of time.

The prospective buyer of the property is Mariesa Errico, a Hickory Hills resident. She and her family have a contract on the property, contingent on the approval of the Class 6b incentive.

“We are planning on converting it into a wholesale bakery. Our products are sold to hotels and restaurants in the Chicago area; we are not a retail bakery,” she said. Currently, they anticipate 35 to 50 employees, with expansion plans that could bring that total to 100 employees in the future. The family presently owns a bakery on the North Side of Chicago.

An Intergovernmental agreement was approved calling for Hickory Hills to join with Hometown and the villages of Summit and Bedford Park in police dispatching efforts. The dispatch center will operate out of Hickory Hills.

A second ordinance introduced by Cainkar was an intergovernmental agreement to establish a Joint 911 Authority with the villages of Summit and Bedford Park. Cainkar stated that the plan has to be in place by July 1 in compliance with state law.

“It is good to be keeping this local. And the contract can be terminated after one year with a 60-day notice, if the city thinks it is not working,” Cainkar said.

In a third intergovernmental agreement, approval was given for the city to join in the establishment of a Southwest Major Crimes Task.

“Formation of this group will reduce the number of call-outs for our department,” said Hickory Hills Police Lt. Tim Stevens. “We will continue to be a part of the South Suburban Major Crime Task Force for the time being, to see how this works, but this new group could be a benefit to us. As members of the South Suburban Major Crime Task Force, we are often called out to assist in communities as far as University Park, Richton Park and Harvey. With a Southwest task force, the call-outs could be fewer."

Chicago Ridge carries and runs with torch for Special Olympics

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

torch walkers photo 6-16

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Trustee Sally Durkin (from left), Donna Betsanes and Debbie Badon, led the group of walkers coming from Chicago Ridge to Palos Heights on June 8 in support of the Special Olympics Torch Run.



The Chicago Ridge and Palos Heights police departments sponsored legs of the annual Special Olympics Torch Run across Illinois on June 8, and crowds came out to support them in both communities despite the early hour.

For the past three years, the Chicago Ridge Police Department dedicated its torch run to the memory of Illinois State Trooper James Sauter, who grew up in Chicago Ridge. He was killed on duty March 28, 2013 when a truck driver fell asleep and collided with his vehicle on Interstate 294 near Northbrook.

The event, organized with the help of Trustees Bruce Quintos and Sally Durkin, began at 7 a.m. with an opening ceremony in front of the police department at 10425 S. Ridgeland Ave. to honor Sauter. Deb Pyznarski, wife of Chicago Ridge Police Chief Robert Pyznarski, was also involved in the planning.

After members of Boy Scout Troop 668 participated in the ceremonial lowering and replacing of the U.S. flag in front of the building, they folded the flag they took down and presented it to Sauter’s parents, Donald and Eileen. Village officials also gave them a plaque and framed proclamation.

Rebecca Von Bruchhaeuser then led the crowd in singing ”The Star-Spangled Banner,” while Hannah Bartlett interpreted the national anthem in American Sign Language.

“It is really gratifying to see so many people here so early for such a great organization,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar.

Quintos, a retired police officer himself, has been involved in the Torch Run since 1993.

He said a lot of money has been raised for Special Olympics over the years in Chicago Ridge. “I think we’ve already raised about $3,000 in donations for this event this year,” he said on Tuesday.

The assembled crowd lined Ridgeland Avenue and cheered as the runners took off with the torch and a state and county police escort, followed by a group of walkers that included Durkin and other village officials. They made their way south to 111th Street and then west to Harlem Avenue, where they ran south, over the Cal-Sag Bridge to the Tiffany Square shopping plaza at Route 83 in Palos Heights.

There they met up with Palos Heights Police Chief Larry Yott, and the runners who would carry the torch the 12 miles to Mokena, in Will County.

“It is great to see all our officers get so involved in this. We’ve raised as much as $10,000 some years,” said Yott.

Chicago Ridge Police Officer Dave Jenen handed the torch over to Palos Heights Officer Tony Delaney, a rookie who was given the honor of carrying the torch to Mokena.

“I expect to be able to carry it all the way,” he said. “But it will be hard. I worked the overnight shift,” he said.

He got some encouragement from Joe Kirkwood, of Palos Heights, who was making his fourth torch run.

“It keeps me in shape. I hope to join the Palos Heights Police Department soon,” said Kirkwood.

Jordan McBride, a Bridgeview resident who is working on getting her master’s degree in special education from Dominican University, also was running from Palos Heights to Mokena for the first time.

“I should be able to do it. I’ve run 13 miles before,” she said. “It helps when you think that it is all for a good cause.

The ultimate destination was the campus of Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal, where the Illinois Special Olympics were held Friday through Sunday.



Repairs over Cal-Sag bridge on Harlem set to begin on Monday

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The bridge over the Cal-Sag Channel on Harlem Avenue, connecting Palos Heights and Worth, is about to become a construction zone for the summer.

The Illinois Department of Transportation project is scheduled to begin on Monday, June 20, according to signage on Harlem. It was originally scheduled to begin on June 1, according to an IDOT press release, which said the work should be completed during the summer, weather permitting. It will include bridge repairs “necessary for safety,” as well as painting, according to an IDOT press release.

Daily lane closures are going be imposed for the duration, and traffic will be reduced to one lane, with flaggers directing traffic. However, according to IDOT, the closure times will not occur during the peak traffic volume hours between 7 and 9 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m. weekdays.

Motorists who use the section of Harlem Avenue between 115th and 119th streets are being advised to expect delays and look for alternate routes to get where they’re going quicker. Drivers are also urged to pay close attention to flaggers and signs in the work zones, obey the posted speed limits and be on the lookout for workers and equipment.

Updates on this and other IDOT projects in the southwest suburban region, District 1, may be obtained online at under the road construction tab. Information about traffic caused by construction are also available at

Because Harlem Avenue is considered a state road, neither Worth or Palos Heights governments are directly involved in the IDOT project. Palos Heights police officials said that, similar to when work was done on Ridgeland Avenue, they do not anticipate that any need for special police assistance to assist with traffic control during the construction period.

“But if we’re needed, we will be there,” said Police Chief Larry Yott.

EP mayor: Marketplace construction to begin soon

  • Written by Joe Boyle

plaza rubble photo 6-16

Photo by Joe Boyle

Slabs of concrete are what remains of what was once The Plaza at 95th Street and Western Avenue in Evergreen Park.

Construction plans for the new Evergreen Marketplace, which is replacing the demolished Plaza shopping center, will begin sometime this summer, according to Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton.

“All of the buildings are mostly down except for Carson’s,” said Sexton on Friday. “In a month or so, plans are scheduled to begin for construction of the Marketplace. Everything is going well, it’s ahead of schedule. All of us are very excited.”

Sexton delivered the first blow with a sledgehammer to the old Montgomery Ward’s building during the demolition proceedings of The Plaza last fall. The beginning of the demolition drew a large crowd to witness this event.

The Evergreen Plaza opened in 1952 as an open-air shopping center developed by Arthur Rubloff. The shopping center grew in popularity and became one of the first enclosed malls in the country in 1966. The mall at its peak in the 1970s had Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward’s, Woolworth’s, Lytton’s and Walgreens.

While still profitable in the 1980s, the opening of the Chicago Ridge Mall in 1981 and to a degree the expansion of the Orland Park Mall led to the Plaza’s demise. After Montgomery Ward closed in 2001, the Plaza suffered through numerous more vacancies escalated by the recession in 2008. By 2013, The Plaza was virtually closed with the exception of Carson’s and a couple of other businesses.

Sexton said he had fond memories of The Plaza. But the Evergreen Park mayor said its time had passed and a retail center with 25 to 30 stores will be more efficient. A visit to the old Plaza site on Saturday was mostly rubble until traveling further south where Carson’s is located. The other symbol of the old shopping center is The Plaza sign that is still located at the corner of 95th Street and Western Avenue. The lone traffic that goes into the parking lot now is for an Applebee’s that faces 95th Street not far from The Plaza sign.

The Evergreen Park mayor said that Applebee’s will remain at an outlet restaurant for the new mall. However, the current Carson’s will be torn down in the fall and will be replaced by a more modern Carson’s. Sexton said that the first retailers will start to occupy portions of the new Evergreen Marketplace in the spring of 2017.

“We can’t wait to see them opening up,” said Sexton “We want to hear those cash registers sing.”

Businesses that are scheduled to occupy the 400,000-foot-square facility over 32 parcels are T.J. Maxx, DSW Shoes, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Petco and a 365 Whole Foods Market, which is a more economical version of the Austin, Texas-based chain.

This project is being led by Lorimax Stein Development, based out of Bloomfield Hills, MIch., and partner DeBartolo Development. A Lorimax representative said that the project should be completed by the fall of 2017.

Sexton can’t help but see the irony over retailers contacting the village frequently to be located in Evergreen Park. It was not that long ago, especially after the economic downturn in 2008, that retailers avoided Evergreen Park, the mayor said.

“Things have changed tremendously,” said Sexton. “I have been trying to persuade developers to come to Evergreen Park. The past six or seven years have been a struggle but it has been changing. But it isn’t all me, it is through the hard work of our attorney, commissioners and trustees that we have turned this around.”

Sexton said prospects have changed so dramatically for Evergreen Park that the village can be more stringent when allowing businesses into the community.

“Retailers have discovered the area.” said Sexton. “Instead of filling places with cellphone companies, we can be more selective. I think it’s because of our overall team. It’s certainly not me.”

But the bottom line for Sexton is that the economic future for Evergreen Park looks bright.

“We are glad to have these businesses,” said Sexton. “We are glad they are coming.”

New deacon has roots in St. Gerald Parish

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

fekete and wine photo 6-9

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Newly ordained Deacon Michael Fekete participates in the Mass of Thanksgiving for him at St. Gerald Church in Oak Lawn on Sunday, June 5.


The St. Gerald parish family celebrated one of their own becoming a deacon, a first for the oldest parish in Oak Lawn, with a Mass of Thanksgiving for newly ordained Deacon Michael Fekete on Sunday at the church, 9310 S. 55th Ave.        

Fekete was among 13 deacons from the Chicago Archdiocese whom Archbishop Blase Cupich ordained on Saturday at Holy Name Cathedral. They were the first to be ordained by Cupich since he succeeded Cardinal Francis George in 2014.

Deacons are clerical positions in the Roman Catholic Church. Unlike priests, they may be married. Their duties include community ministry and conducting baptisms and funerals. Deacons may perform most parts of the Mass, except for the consecration of the host for Holy Communion.

So, while the Rev. Lawrence Malcolm, the St. Gerald pastor, was the chief celebrant of the Mass, Fekete read the Gospel and gave a homily afterward. About 10 other priests and deacons from parishes throughout the Chicago area were also concelebrants, including Deacons Timothy Keating, of St. Alexander in Palos Heights, and Edwin Hill, of Our Lady of the Ridge in Chicago Ridge.

The parish chapter of the Knights of Columbus provided an honor guard for the clergymen during the procession before and after Mass.

Fekete and his wife, Mary Jo, have been very active in St. Gerald Parish in various ways since moving to Oak Lawn with their son, Justin, about 12 years ago. Justin, who is going into his senior year at Mount Carmel High School, gave a reading at his father’s Thanksgiving Mass.

In addition to Mary Jo being one of the church organists, the couple are known for their singing voices, and are often called on to perform at weddings and other occasions.

Mike and Marcie Colantone, who spent 54 years in St. Gerald, were among the parishioners who came back to congratulate Fekete.

“We had to come back to see him. He sang at our 50th wedding anniversary, and he is an all-around great guy,” said Marcie.

The Feketes are originally from Pittsburgh, something the new deacon alluded to in his homily, which was about different types of miracles.

“One type of miracle might be watching our favorite hockey team playing in the Stanley Cup Finals,” he said, before adding something Blackhawks fans weren’t expecting, “We all know that team is the Pittsburgh Penguins.”

But they applauded their favorite son anyway.

The new deacon thanked his family for coming from Pittsburgh and elsewhere for the event, noting that they came from Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and Ohio. He singled out his father, Joseph, “my best friend,” and father-in-law Joseph Streppa, for special thanks

Sadly, his mother, Catherine Fekete, died on March 21, followed by his mother-in-law, JoAnn Streppa, on April 3. He said he missed them both, but felt their presence in the church.

“My mother picked out these vestments,” he said of his green and gold flowing garments. “So she will always be close to me.”

“But this isn’t really about me. This is about our community of Oak Lawn, and the surrounding neighborhoods,” he said.

“I considered working full-time in a lay position in the Church, but I felt a calling to be a deacon,” said Fekete, who is the director of international services at Lewis University. “It took a long time. But it was worth it,” he said.

“Ordinarily, the process of becoming a deacon takes four years, but it took me 11, because I did everything part-time.”

“I was required to get my master’s degree in theology,” said Fekete, who attended the Institute of Diaconal Studies in Mundelein.

“But again, it is not about me. It is about how the role in the whole Oak Lawn community,” he added. Fekete said his particular focus will be on bereavement ministry.

“Archbishop Cupich’s long-term plan is for parishes to work closely together and with the community, and I want to be involved in that.”

Cecilia Olejniczak, who has been a St. Gerald parishioner for 66 years, including 60 as the church organist, said she was happy to see a parishioner finally become a deacon.

“We have had priests and nuns, but this is our first home-grown deacon,” said Olejniczak, who raised her nine children in the parish, which dates back to 1921. Her youngest, Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), was busy with the Holy Name Society preparing the chicken and other hot food for the reception.

“I think it is great how the entire St. Gerald community has come together to celebrate,” said Annamarie Blaha, one of the organizers, as she scanned the crowd at the reception in the Jonathan Collins Activity Center.

“From the Holy Name and all of the ministries, organizations, nuns and students, this brought us all together, and I think it is just because everyone likes him,” she said.

“Having Deacon Fekete is going to be great for the parish,” said Malcolm. “I hope he inspires some of these other guys to do the same thing,” he said with a grin.