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  • Writer's pictureBen

The Essence of Skokie

Many afternoons as a child, I got out of my mom's car, walked through the parking lot and entered a magical place. The novelty of this outdoor mall is its charm. I have fond memories roaming through the playground, sampling tea at Teavana and glancing through books at the Barnes & Noble. Many people empty out their pocketbooks here. More than 13 million people visit each year. As one of the largest and posh shopping centers in the Chicago area, Westfield Old Orchard is Skokie's top tourist attraction.

Unfortunately, Old Orchard Mall is all that most people know about Skokie. And that's only if people realize that Old Orchard is in Skokie. This mall is more representative of Skokie's nearby wealthier North Shore towns like Wilmette, Winnetka and Glencoe especially when you look at the types of stores and socioeconomic demographics of the mall's visitors.

In reality, Skokie citizens and former residents like myself understand the feeling of being an underdog. When people talk about Chicago suburbs, we are always overlooked in favor of Evanston, Highland Park, and Naperville. Niles North and Niles West High School don't often beat nearby schools in sports or achievement outcomes. Housing values are stagnant and incomes are lower than the well-to-do North Shore.

Though all of these superficial aspects about Skokie are true, they belie what truly makes our town great. For one, Skokie is easily accessible by car, train or bus. While in many suburbs, you would be grounded without a car, in Skokie, this is no problem. We are served by the CTA Yellow Line trains that connect to the Red Line to get us downtown within an hour. There are numerous CTA and Pace buses to take us through Chicago or nearby suburbs. The Edens Expressway (I-94) has three exits in Skokie.

While transportation is crucial to Skokie's success, the essence of the world's largest village is our diversity. Last week, I was walking through the Skokie Public Library and saw publications in more than 60 languages. At one point, Skokie had the most Holocaust survivors per capita in the entire world. Today, you will find dozens of synagogues, several mosques and scores of churches. As an obscure example, there are less than a thousand Mongolian-Americans in the entire state of Illinois. However, almost half of them live in and around Skokie.

If you drive through Skokie, you will notice the diverse housing stock. By Dempster & Niles Center area, you will find blocks of Section 8 housing. Less than one mile east along Dempster, you can find mansions and elegant remodeled homes. There are many apartments, condos, starter homes, and mansions all over the town. The outgrowth of this diversity is that you meet people from all walks of life, socioeconomic status, race and religion.

Skokie is a visual representation of what America should strive to be. Where your American dream is born. This village helped nurture Statewide Insurance into what we are today. My dad Joseph fulfilled his American success story right here in Skokie. No one knows where Statewide would be today if not here in downtown Skokie.

We are proud to serve the Skokie area for the past 19 years and are looking forward to continuing for the next 19 years. This village is our home and it represents what we stand for. We believe in diversity and inclusion. Our customers come from all backgrounds and our backbone is a belief in respect and dignity for all of our clients.

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