This new logo for Downtown Oark Park was unveiled in 2011. DTOP’s longtime director, Pat Zubak, was never afraid to try new approaches to promoting the district to spur on business.

Last week was the last one on the job for Pat Zubak, executive director of Downtown Oak Park.

After seven years at the helm of the organization, she is retiring. Her presence will be missed, as Bruce Ingram noted in a story about Zubak’s farewell in last week’s edition of the Oak Leaves, part of the Pioneer Press chain.

However, I am hopeful that her legacy of giving people the space to spread their creative wings will continue to flourish.

Over the past five years, as I provided public relations and marketing support for DTOP, I was continually impressed with Zubak’s willingness to take creative risks–and let others (like me) do the same.

The result was frequent and extensive publicity for a variety of events and other promotions, such as the mass dog wedding (her idea) that attracted the attention of Guinness World Records. I dubbed it “I Do, Doggone It!” and it garnered strong media coverage.

That’s not a self-aggrandizing observation. Sure, I worked diligently at spreading the word, but when you’re talking about a mass event where dogs will get “hitched,” let’s face it, we had the media at “woof!”

Then there was the role I played a few years ago as “Super Shopper Spotter” (my idea), a satirical super-hero who cavorted around town and awarded gift certificates to unsuspecting shoppers. Its purpose was to cross-market for businesses throughout the entire Oak Park community, not only DTOP.

To her credit, Zubak let me run with the idea–and I did so, right down to the red boots that I procured for the role. That effort, too, resulted in widespread media coverage, including a WGN-TV segment showing my alter ego accosting, then rewarding, a shopper at Marion Street Cheese Market.

(Check out this spoofy commercial, produced by the Village of Oak Park’s Joe Kreml, on Super Shopper Spotter.)

It’s one thing to possess creativity and imagination. But when you combine it with a willingness to give others the space to exercise those same qualities, as Zubak consistently did, then you have a winning PR formula.

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