It was the summer of ’84 when Ron and
Rich Onesti opened a custom athletic
uniform shop on West Irving Park Road
started with simple t-shirts quickly grew
into one of the largest sports specialty
operation, schools, businesses and local
teams purchased their athletic wear from thenewlyfoundedenterprise. Then,the
1985 Superbowl Champion Chicago Bears
propelled them into another galaxy as the demand for imprinted sportswear sent them into a twenty-four hour a day operation.
As the store’s popularity grew, so did the creativity of the two brothers’customuniforms. Multi-colorprinting,patchworkand trimming created competition between teams even before they hit the field. With so many Little League Baseball, twelve inch and sixteen inch softball teams in the area, the store became the “in” place to get uniforms. Even Sportmart sold Onesti uniforms exclusively!
Then, Softball City became the place for equipment. Every major brand was available, but more importantly, the obscure, notsocommonequipmentwasexclusivelysold. Ceramicbats from Japan, the finest pre-oiled gloves from Spain and even the safestpoly-something-or-otherhelmetsfromChina. Butnothing could beat those classics from Louisville, Kentucky or Easton, Pennsylvania. Who could forget those war-clubs, the thirty-seven inchChicago10bats? Andwhenitcametothoseclassicsixteen- inch Clinchers, Softball City shipped them all over the United States, Ireland Germany and England.
As the game received greater popularity, the interest amongst celebritiesandprofessionalathletesalsoincreased. Thestyleofthe Onesti jerseys became so popular, even the cover and centerfold of “Playboy’sGirlsofTheBig10”sportedtheapparel(scantily,ofcourse).
And when the likes of Michael Jordan, Cub great Randy Hundley or so many other celebs needed uniforms or equipment for
charity games, Onesti’s Softball City was the place. When famed restaurateur Rich Melman needed to cover his championship team
in that familiar teal, black and white Lettuce garb, Softball City got the call.
But it didn’t stop at uniforms and equipment. Onesti’shelpedtodevelop
a softball culture by producing dozens of events including tournaments, celebrity softball games and the ever popular “Softball Supershow.” This tradeshow-like experience brought together manufacturers and sales reps from companies around
the globe. The newest technologies in
equipment and styles of uniforms were displayed. Clinics with legendary figures such as softball pioneer Eddie Zolna, DeBeer’s personality-plus ambassador Bob Campbell and handle-bar mustache toting, world record slugger Bruce Meade. The coveted 16 Incher of the Year Award was presented annually to local celebrities including our own neighborhood guy on the radio, sportstalk superstar Mike North. Every attendee even received a free Chicago-style Vienna hot dog!
Softball City closed its doors in 1996, just prior to Ron’s wedding. The brothers decided to follow the path of special events production. Their company, The Onesti Entertainment Corporation was born. Concerts, festivals and corporate events became their specialty. From producing major concerts at Hawthorne Race Course with names like James Brown and Alice Cooper to putting on over twenty neighborhood festivals, Onesti Entertainment became an industry leader in a very short time.
In 2005, the company acquired The Arcada Theatre, a 1926 Vaudeville gem destined for the wrecking ball. Now fully restored back to its original splendor of the Roaring Twenties, the music palace has become the number one live entertainment venue intheMidwest. LegendsfromDonRickles,JerryLewis,Joan Rivers and Shirley MacLaine to Bret Michaels, Kenny Loggins, Pat Benatar, Boz Scaggs, Foreigner and hundreds of other major names have appeared on the theatre’s historic stage. With five television specials, three Emmy Awards and The Ellis Island Medal of Honor, major corporate events, festivals and concerts under their belt, the Onesti brothers have become leaders in the entertainment industry.