Evanston sees significant uptick in new businesses, many food establishments


Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Shops and businesses lined up along downtown Evanston. The city welcomed 86 new businesses last year, of which 41 percent were food establishments.

Syd Stone, Reporter

Evanston welcomed 86 new businesses in 2016, of which 41 percent were classified as food establishments, according to the Economic Development Division’s annual report released March 13.

The report highlighted business closings, new business openings and vacant commercial spaces. The city saw significantly more openings this year than in both 2015 and 2014. In addition, the report showed that Evanston collected $16.2 million in home rule, municipal and vehicle rental sales tax during the year.

Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston, said the trend toward food establishments is unsurprising because it follows a national pattern: People are starting to eat out more than they used to.

“The types of concepts that we’re seeing grow currently are more experiential,” she said. “Usually around seven years the trend will change, so who’s to know what’ll happen.”

Johanna Leonard, Evanston’s economic development manager, said Chicago-based restaurants continue to open Evanston locations because of the city’s diverse population.

Aloha Poke Co. opened its doors in Evanston this month, bringing Hawaiian cuisine to the former location of Jamba Juice, 630 Davis St. Additionally, Chicago-based ramen shop Furious Spoon will open at 1700 Maple Ave. next fall.

“Some of these businesses might not open in the far exurbs,” Leonard said. “The density is not there for the volume of people who might spend money there, and they may not be adventurous from the dining perspective.”

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said she is proud of the new businesses that have opened in her ward. She cited Autobarn, a car dealership that opened its expanded service facility in 2016, and Patisserie Coralie, which has considered expanding from its downtown Evanston location to a second one in south Evanston, as two examples of development.

The report also states the city’s commercial vacancy rate declined to 5 percent, its lowest in 10 years. However, many “longtime Evanston businesses” closed in 2016, including Davis Street Fishmarket, American Apparel and Zoba Noodle Bar.

Despite the closings, Coakley said some vacancies have already been filled, and there are plans to take over the others. She said a local retail tenant in downtown Evanston may expand into the space that used to house Dave’s Italian Kitchen, 1635 Chicago Ave.

The economic development report also details the city’s entrepreneurship and workforce development initiatives, including Sunshine Enterprises’ Community Business Academy. Leonard said the academy partnered with Evanston about a year ago.

“(The academy) is a group that works to create small business start-up training targeted at women and minority entrepreneurs in Chicago,” she said. “It’s a multi-week course where people learn everything from how to write a business pitch to how to prepare to go to the bank for a loan.”

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