The cluster of high-rise office and residential buildings in downtown Evanston sold David Grossman on the idea that the city would be an ideal location in which to expand his franchise of healthy dining restaurants.
Grossman said he is set to open Freshii in about two weeks at 1596 Sherman Ave., the space once inhabited by Argo Tea, which closed in the summer of 2014.
The restaurant is aimed at affordable dining, using a variety of fresh ingredients to create salads, quinoa bowls, wraps and soups, according to the website.
“We want to give people healthy food at a fast pace,” Grossman said.
The Evanston location, which will be Grossman’s 19th Freshii franchise in the Chicago area, will be owned and operated by Edward Franke — whose ties to the city include a grandfather who served as Evanston’s chief of police.
But Grossman said he was drawn to Evanston for its Chicago-like “urban feel” and vibrant community.
“We like the central business district, the fluency in the neighborhood,” he said. “We think that college kids, workers and healthy people will flock to Freshii.”
Grossman drew parallels between the cuisine at Freshii and existing Evanston restaurant Blind Faith Cafe, 525 Dempster St. The restaurant, which has been around since 1979, has long offered vegan and gluten-free food to attract residents with those diets — the same demographic Freshii is looking to draw in, Grossman said.
Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development coordinator, said the combination of NU students and daytime office workers would make Freshii a popular place to eat.
“There’s a market up here of people who really care about healthy foods so this is a great addition to the marketplace,” Zalmezak said. “We’re happy they’re opening.”
The menu is easily customizable and food will be accompanied by fresh juices and smoothies, Grossman said. While minimal seating will be available inside, Grossman said he plans to have more than 40 seats and umbrellas outside of the store to allow customers to enjoy Chicago weather.
Freshii first signed a lease for the Sherman Avenue space just a few weeks after Argo Tea closed, property owner Rick Horn told The Daily in August.
With construction finishing any day, Freshii will have to pass a final inspection before opening, Grossman said. He will use three days prior to opening to train employees — some he said he hopes will be NU students.
In addition to its Chicago-area locations, Freshii has franchises in more than 60 cities and 12 countries around the world, according to its site.
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