Where everybody knows your name

Scott Gordon

The motto at Hogeye Music on Central Street is “Fifty yearsbehind the times.” In a way, this concept applies to most of theshops on the 1600 through 2100 blocks of the street.

As the downtown of Evanston has become filled with the likes ofUrban Outfitters, Borders and Burger King, Central Street hasremained nearly untouched by national retail chains. All but fourof the businesses on these blocks are family-owned.

Owners of older shops say the street has lost some of itssmall-town atmosphere and grown more focused on specialty clothingand art stores. But small businesses here still thrive on good foottraffic and mutual support.

“People here are interested not in tearing down but restoringand renewing,” says Carole Etienne, owner of Etienne Designer HomeCenter, 1937 Central St. “It doesn’t have the sterileness of therest of the North Shore.”

Etienne, whose company designs, extends and even builds homes inthe “vintage” style, says Evanston residents are unusuallyaccommodating to small businesses. She thinks the city’s anduniversity’s academic cultures foster “a great appreciation forfine, old things.”

That appreciation is reflected in the continued success ofstores like Tag’s Bakery, which has been located at 2010 CentralSt. for almost 70 years.

Since the bakery was founded in 1937, employees have “tried tokeep it as personable as possible,” says employee Jan Vetter.

Vetter remembers when Central Street had an almost completelydifferent set of businesses. The full-line bakery has been throughonly three different owners while the shops around it have changedfrom drugstores to more modern boutiques.

“The people have always been good to us,” she adds.

Gary Callgreen of Preston’s Flowers & Gifts, 1726 CentralSt., says Central Street retains a “homey atmosphere that we like”while downtown is “going condo.”

Scattered around Tag’s, Preston’s and several service-orientedbusinesses are more specialized and eccentric places. Since thesestores offer unique services, many succeed throughword-of-mouth.

“We don’t advertise much at all,” says Stephen Citron, owner ofG.A. Tremain & Co., 1911 Central St. Citron’s store, which hasbeen on Central Street for 20 years and specializes in framing andrestoring fine art.

For more than 25 years at Hogeye Music, 1920 Central St., ownerJim Craig has dealt in old guitars, mandolins, banjos and fiddles.The store also carries music in genres ranging from blues to Celticfolk music.

Though stores like Hogeye, which opened in 1978, have been inthe area for years, others are relatively recent arrivals thatstill fit in with Central’s small-scale eclectic feel.

The area’s newest business, Tucker Gallery, 1939 Central St.,opened last week with a display of paintings by artists from Spain,Scotland and America.

Tucker Gallery co-owner Catherine Eberle sees Central Street asa prized location for a business.

“We waited for two years to get in this area,” she says.

One of the few chain stores that seems to fit in, Paper Source,2100 Central St., sells stationery, bookbinding materials and anoff-beat selection of books like “English as a Second F*ckingLanguage” which gives tips on swearing properly in English.

Walsh Homeopathics, Ltd., 2116 1/2 Central St., uses herbs andminerals to mix up cures of various strengths for “pretty much anyphysical or mental symptom,” says employee Jenny Glickstein.

Aydin Dincer, also augmenting his business with his owncreations, displays and sells his paintings in his restaurant,Prairie Joe’s, 1921 Central St., where he has worked for 13years.

“Central Street is a pretty vital street, business-wise,” Dincersays. “It has strong community support.”