The following article was originally published in the Wednesday Journal and its website www.oakpark.com on 6/21/16.
Once the vintage Old Style sign was replaced with the guitar pick logo, longtime Berwyn and Oak Park residents couldn’t help but ask that question. For me, it represented revitalization for a place that’s embracing history and hope, a musician hangout where pick up jams abound with local flare.
The Friendly Tap, located at 6733 W. Roosevelt Road, has deep roots in our neighborhood and is typically referred to as a legendary tavern. Its goal to provide a social place for locals is still alive, and that’s where the Tap’s history will always hold a place in the hearts, both old and new, of the guests at this establishment. Now take that 70 year old goal and enter 2016, where owner Rob Pierce transforms a single business and guides its evolution into a vibrant, three-service, music and arts community with live music in the bar (Friendly Tap), a music-themed coffee experience (Friendly Coffee Lounge), and a 501c3 music school (Friendly School of Folk Music).
When I first arrived in June 2014, it wasn’t the Tap door through which I walked; it was the Friendly Coffee Lounge, and the connection was instantaneous. Back then, I was a mom and teacher who liked to write. I liked to write so much that I had spent the previous eight summers playing with a novel of Chicago historical fiction. My characters, like the Tap, had deep roots with their names and backgrounds taken from my ancestors’ census records. I embraced my genealogical history by building on the facts, but then I needed to create my own story to make the characters come to life—to make my dream of being an author come to life. I knew it was bound to happen someday; I just didn’t know when. Then the Friendly Coffee Lounge became my writing oasis. With the inspiration and support I received from this place, “someday” came with my book release celebration in January, followed in April by the title, 2016 Winner of the Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Award, a self-publishing initiative sponsored by the Illinois Library Association and Reaching Across Illinois Library Systems.
In May, I witnessed many events of local celebration with the Friendly Music Community (a showcase for the music school students, a Craft & Vintage Market for the Coffee Lounge, and the heart-stopping performances of local musicians at the Friendly Folk Fest), so when the old sign came down and the new sign arrived on Roosevelt Road, I couldn’t help but see the parallelism between my own dreams and those of the FMC. Both have history, but after many years in the making, both are awakening with high hopes.
If you haven’t visited lately, I strongly encourage you to do so. Check out the music line up that’s packed with local talent (www.friendlymusic.community) or sign up for that music class you’ve always wanted to try. Come in the morning for a cup of Bridgeport coffee, Todd & Holland tea, or a freshly made smoothie. And if you happen to see a middle-aged writer with her laptop and notebooks at the corner table, be sure to introduce yourself. People say I’m friendly.
Geralyn Hesslau Magrady is a Berwyn resident and English teacher at Fenwick High School. Her novel, Lines--, is available at Looking Glass Book Store (823 S. Oak Park Ave) and Amazon.com. To find out more, visit her website at www.ghesslaumagrady.com.