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  WINDY CITY TIMES

A Gay in the Life: Joseph O'Brien
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2012-04-04

This article shared 4531 times since Wed Apr 4, 2012
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Change is certainly a part of life—and Joseph O'Brien's world altered significantly in 1999 and 2000.

The first was of a more personal nature, as he and partner Vince exchanged vows in O'Brien's father's home in November 1999.

The second big change involved Parkview Pet Supplies, located at 5358 N. Broadway, which O'Brien has owned since Jan. 1, 2000—but "it has operated since 1921 as a pet shop," he said. "It used to be on Clark Street. It got its name because, before Francis Parker [ School ] was built, you could see the park through that field.

"I moved up here eight years ago April 2."

Asked why he thinks his business has been successful, O'Brien said it's "the emphasis on the pets themselves. When I bought the shop, the thrust of the industry was going boutique. I was not necessarily going high-end, but I did more with collars, leashes, clothes, key chains, coffee mugs— [ ways ] to care for pets. I tried to make it more convenient to care for your pet. Now, there's an entire segment of the industry that does day care. I try to emphasize health and co-existence."

He said that he's always been interested in pets "and it started with a parakeet. We had a couple dogs growing up. Then, in my mid-20s, my good friend Ralph was breeding birds, so I helped him with his aviary."

O'Brien grew up in Chicago's Austin neighborhood, the youngest of five children. He said it was a "typical blue-collar family," as his father worked for Commonwealth Edison. Then, the family moved to the Portage Park area of the city, and O'Brien eventually attended the University of Illinois at Chicago after attending Catholic grammar and high schools.

With O'Brien being a lifelong Chicagoan, what's the biggest change he's witnessed? "It would have to be the physical appearance of the city," he said. "When you're about 10 years old, you start to notice your surroundings. The city looked terrible back then [ in the early '70s ] ; it was dirty, and it looked like it was in serious decline. ... The city looks much more cared-for.

"There have also been changes in the West Side, where I now live. When I was growing up, it was burned-out and desolate. That's changed dramatically. The other thing was the decline in industry. I remember growing up in a neighborhood where one could smell things. It's more residential now."

THE STATS

Age: 48

Neighborhood: The Galewood area of Chicago

Hometown: Chicago

Job title: Owner, Parkview Pet Supplies

Relationship status: Partnered with Vince, a chief financial officer for a plumbing company

Favorite local restaurant: Gaetano's in Forest Park

Favorite snack food: Cashews

Mantra: "They hate me because I'm beautiful."


This article shared 4531 times since Wed Apr 4, 2012
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