Evanston businesses anticipate historic crowds at Homecoming game

Kimberly Railey, Managing Editor

With thousands of people expected to turn out for Northwestern’s Homecoming weekend, Evanston businesses are preparing to accommodate crowds they say could reach historic levels.

Several establishments are extending their store hours and bringing in additional employees for Homecoming activities, which culminate 7 p.m. Saturday in the Wildcats’ primetime matchup against Ohio State. Employees say they expect ESPN’s “College GameDay” broadcast from Evanston to generate hype that could attract even more customers.

“This is going to be one of the biggest games,” said Natalie Kasputis, manager of Beck’s Book Store, 716 Clark St. “We’re very upbeat and excited.”

The Evanston bookstore is selling special “College GameDay” T-shirts and baseball caps, as well as asking more employees to be on hand, Kasputis said. The store is also extending its hours Friday and Saturday until 7 p.m. and will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, a day it is normally closed.

Mustard’s Last Stand, 1613 Central St., will close at midnight, an hour and a half later than usual, and an additional five to 10 employees will work. The restaurant is located steps away from Ryan Field.

“We’re buying as many hot dogs as we can get and fit in our local restaurant,” manager Lonnie Starman said. “We’re right next door to the stadium, so we really don’t need to advertise.”

Starman said he predicts Saturday will be one of the establishment’s busiest days yet. Football games against Ohio State and Michigan traditionally draw the most crowds because fans can easily travel to Evanston, he said.

At another Central Street establishment, Tag’s Pastry Shop, employees are increasing their stock of pretzels and donuts, owner Greg Better said. The shop, 2010 Central St., will also sell pizza slices for the first time.

Other business owners plan to scale down the size of their menu to serve large crowds more efficiently.

“We tend to do less on game days,” said Joseph Dincer-Ubl, manager at Prairie Joe’s, 1921 Central St. “We’ll do an easier game-style menu.”
Other Central Street businesses may undergo few preparations because many nearby pedestrians will be headed toward Ryan Field, said Elaine Kemna-Irish, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

Still, Kemna-Irish said many employees are looking forward to the game — both to cheer on NU and to cater to more customers.

“A lot of people know it’s good possible business,” Kemna-Irish said. “There are many who just can’t wait for students to come, and I think the restaurants really appreciate it a lot.”

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