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Not a hot spot, but it’s close, for some commuters

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Updated: March 3, 2014 12:26PM



Some who have to commute in this “Chiberian” weather figure they might as well do it with all the comforts of home — a hot drink, a cozy fireplace, a warm bowl of oatmeal and the morning paper.

All those amenities await riders at the 80th Avenue Metra station in Tinley Park, the busiest station on the Rock Island Line.

Commuter Sally Clark uses the station for two reasons — it’s closest to her home and is “so nice,” she said.

What makes this 5,400-square-foot station “so nice” is a restaurant with a full kitchen, a stone fireplace, ample seating and friendly service.

Business was steady Monday for Jennifer Smith, manager of Parmesans Station, which is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., weekdays (11 a.m. on weekends) serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and catering special events.

“I definitely sell more hot drinks when it’s cold. This is not a bad place to take the train,” Smith said.

Not bad at all.

Here, commuters such as Michael Conner, of Tinley Park, don’t always rush out the door for the next train. He sat at the counter and enjoyed his cup of coffee before hopping aboard a later train.

They may arrive earlier or stay later, enjoying coffee while reading the paper or watch the large-screen TV that hangs overhead to get the last bit of news before heading to work.

In addition to its menu of fresh food, Parmesan’s offers pastries, bagels, muffins, Pop-Tarts, instant oatmeal and candy, as well as coffee, tea, cocoa and soft drinks. There’s also beer, wine and liquor for those who might like stronger stuff, which is popular with evening and weekend riders, Smith said.

Jeanne Dohm sells about 100 newspapers a day inside the station.

“People like having someone here. This is still a viable business,” she said, pointing out that the newspaper boxes out on the platform were covered in snow and “don’t always work.”

Although Smith and Dohm remained inside, serving their commuting customers all Monday morning, they were dressed in hats, heavy sweaters and scarves. The station is heated, but Dohm said the doors constantly opening and closing make it a cool 50 degrees or so inside.

Smith said there were more riders Monday than there were on Jan. 6, when the first arctic blast gripped the Southland. There are some commuters who don’t come into the main station, opting for one of the warming houses along the tracks.

But commuters seem to be getting used to the frigid temperatures of this nasty winter and have figured out their coping mechanisms.

Carol Poss said her secret to staying warm was handwarmers inside her gloves, thermal socks and thoughts about her upcoming trip to Hawaii.

“You name it, I got it on,” she said.

Tami Deacon said she cuts through the buildings downtown on her walk from the train station to her office.

“It’s supposed to be like this through Wednesday. I can’t take three days off work,” she said.

Ken Blank, of Tinley Park, said he was “ridiculously warm” in his thermal arctic suit, with matching overalls and a jacket — good for minus-10 degrees.

“This is my walking-in-the-city gear,” the University of Illinois at Chicago student said. “I could sleep in the snow.”



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