Recession causes price drops at Evanston businesses

Grace Johnson

There’s one silver lining to this dismal economy: Popular Evanston-area restaurants and grocery stores are lowering their prices and offering special deals, trying to do what they can to attract Northwestern students currently less willing to indulge.

The news isn’t as bright for students dwelling on campus. No plans have been announced by nuCuisine to lower their prices beyond regular quarterly specials, said Pam Yee, district marketing manager for nuCuisine.

With nuCuisine prices remaining the same, some students are becoming more willing to travel to find good deals.

“I’m good at getting out to the area,” said Justin Callis, a Communication sophomore who regularly makes trips to Jewel-Osco and Wal-Mart, despite their distance from campus.

And the area wants his business.

Evanston eateries say they’ve lowered prices because of deflation. The Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation, showed an 8 percent drop in the last quarter of 2008, and the projection for 2009 is another 2 percent fall, said Evanston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jonathan Perman.

In response, Tapas Barcelona, 1615 Chicago Ave., lowered the prices on its menu, said manager Vladimir Huante, adding that he is confident the Spanish restaurant will remain popular. After price decreases, he said he saw a noticeable uptick, especially on days when the restaurant is normally not busy.

“One of the good things about this restaurant is that the concept is very affordable,” Huante said. “People don’t have to spend as much per person here.”

Other Evanston businesses also said they aim to save their customers money, but not by lowering prices.

Whole Foods Market, 1640 Chicago Ave., the closest grocery store to campus, distributes bimonthly coupon booklets and weekly sales flyers to its customers, said Kristen Kaza, the store’s marketing and community relations specialist.

The upscale grocery chain is also highlighting its private label, 365 Everyday Value, which is sold at “competitive prices,” Kaza said.

“We want to show how you can be a savvy shopper at Whole Foods,” she said. “This is a consistent part of our message, no matter what the economic climate is.”

Flat Top Grill, 707 Church St., is offering new specials as well, said Dawn Campbell, a marketing specialist for the chain. For the first time ever, customers who buy gift certificates will also receive special deals, she said.

“In this economic climate, we are very cognizant about prices,” Campbell said.

But the price reductions don’t mean Evanston businesses will start closing down, Perman said.

If the closing of Cafe Ambrosia during Spring Break spooked students, they shouldn’t worry: Perman said student favorites should weather the economic storm.

“Cafe Ambrosia is not an economic indicator of Evanston,” he said. “I am very confident the Evanston economy will bounce back.”

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