A horde of hungry diners welcomed Potbelly Sandwich Works to Oak Park on Wednesday, and the touters of the toasted treats spared no expense in its grand opening.
It was a morning of sights and scents. Colorful balloons, a juggler performing on stilts and the aesthetic customary of Potbelly shops provided for some impressive visuals to match the waft of freshly toasted bread.
Potbelly is the newest resident of 1100 Lake St., formerly occupied by community staple Barbara's Bookstore, which closed the book in July after a rent dispute and in September.
Although the proverbial shoes of Barbara's will be difficult to fill at the busy intersection, the next chapter of business in downtown Oak Park is ready to be written, said Kirk O'Keeffe, manager of several Chicago area Potbelly stores.
"I don't think there is any pressure to do what Barbara's did; it's a completely different concept," O'Keeffe said. "It's not a new bookstore. But I think there is pressure to make sure we are neighorhood-involved and we definitely will be. That's a big push for the entire company, to be the neighborhood sandwich shop."
The person behind the big push is general manager Matt Doudalis, who has worked for Potbelly for the past six years at the Lombard and Naperville locations.
Doudalis has ties to the Oak Park community, where he said his father once resided. Now he's taking the helm at the new Oak Park store.
"I have great memories of my time spent [here] from my visits with [my father]," Doudalis said. "I am thrilled to be the general manager and part of a great team bringing the brand to Oak Park."