It’s been just over a year since Oak Park police busted a convenience store employee at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Austin Boulevard, charging him with 17 counts of heroin sales and possession.

The village of Oak Park revoked Austin Pantry’s business license and an appeal was denied by the Oak Park Business License Appeal Board last October. 

Residents and other business owners in the area said drug dealing out of the store at 1 Chicago Ave. was only part of the problem with Austin Pantry. The sales brought more drug dealing outside the establishment for several months prior to the arrest of Austin Pantry employee Edgar Lucas.

But now, the shop at 1 Chicago Ave., which has been vacant for over a year, will soon become a dentist’s office, according to a press release from David King & Associates, which brokered the deal.

Destiny Dental Care will not only take the storefront at the former Austin Pantry but also the adjacent A+ Cuts barber shop to the west. That barber shop already has located half a block away to 22 Chicago Ave., opening under the name Rayzor’s Edge Cuts.

The dentist’s office will take the entire 2,100-square-foot storefront in the 110-year-old mixed-use building, according to King. It is expected to open in the first quarter of 2019.

The owner of the property, Ali ElSaffar, who also serves as Oak Park Township Assessor, said in a telephone interview that he has renovated the building, installing new windows to the storefront and removing asbestos tiles, among other improvements.

He tells Wednesday Journal he “wanted to turn that corner around.”

ElSaffar expressed regret about the arrest made in 2017, noting that he purchased the property in the mid-1990s with the goal of making a good investment and doing something good for the neighborhood.

“That’s why I felt so bad, because the opposite of my goal is what happened,” he said, adding, “I wanted to make sure it never happens again.”

He noted that Destiny Dental, which has 22 locations in the Midwest, accepts most insurance including Medicaid.

Illinois expanded Medicaid to include reimbursement of dental costs in 2014 and further expanded coverage for preventative dental care in the summer of 2018.

ElSaffar said the dentist’s office is a good compliment to Oak Street Health, a healthcare provider that accepts Medicaid at 18 Chicago Ave.