‘Our busiest day of the year’: Evanston businesses see surge on Fourth of July

Customers sit in Tag’s Cafe as the Fourth of July parade continued down Central Street. While many storefronts were closed on the holiday, the few that remained open were packed with people.

Avani Kalra/The Daily Northwestern

Customers sit in Tag’s Cafe as the Fourth of July parade continued down Central Street. While many storefronts were closed on the holiday, the few that remained open were packed with people.

Avani Kalra, Reporter

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While most storefronts on Central Street were dark and vacant, the few that remained open were packed with Evanston residents watching the annual Fourth of July parade Thursday.

Starbucks was one of the several open establishments along the parade’s route.

“This is our busiest day of the year,” said store manager Emma Hunter, who has worked Fourth of July for three consecutive years. “This day definitely is what helps us meet our sales.”

For Starbucks, corporate headquarters dictate whether stores stay open or closed across the nation, Hunter said. However, for smaller local restaurants such as Tag’s Cafe, the decision was more deliberate.

“My family and I have been on the street for over 50 years, so we know how the street is during this time of the year,” owner Gretchen Vetter said. “I thought it would be fun to have the cafe open and serve hot dogs and brats.”

On Thursday, Tag’s Cafe sold only hot dogs and bratwursts, as opposed to their typical menu, which features quiche, salads and sandwiches.

Despite the change, Vetter reported a much higher turnout than usual, gesturing to a line of Evanston residents that flowed out the door and onto Central Street.

“It was definitely a smart business decision to remain open today,” Vetter said. “A lot of the businesses on the street aren’t open, which brings a lot more people through our doors.”

Hunter agreed that the amount of closed shops also helped Starbucks achieve its busiest day of the year, guessing that if the other coffee shops were open, Starbucks would have lost 20 percent of its business for the day.

Sam Van Scoyoc, a barista at Backlot Coffee, observed a similar uptick in activity.

“It’s busy,” he said. “It comes in waves, but it’s much busier than usual. People are excited, they’re off work. They’re usually getting drinks for all of their family, not just themselves.”

Although Backlot Coffee closed at 2 p.m. — four hours earlier than usual — Van Scoyoc said they usually make more on the Fourth than during the average weekday. He also said the store would be a “ghost town” after 2 p.m. due to the parade.

Hunter and Vetter said employees were reluctant to work on a national holiday because of how busy their stores get.

“People have a lot of anxiety about it,” Vetter said. “We’re usually a pretty low-volume store, so people don’t want to come in on a day that’s three times as busy as usual.”

Van Scoyoc said Backlot Coffee provided him an extra five dollars per hour to work during the holiday. He said the temporary raise and the upbeat work environment on the holiday make the job worthwhile.

Vetter said that as a manager, she works hard to make sure her baristas feel like a part of the festivities.

“I wish everyone could be off on holidays and spend time with their family and friends,” she said. “But since we can’t we try to make our own little family here, and work together to enjoy the day.”

Email: akalra@fwparker.org
Twitter: @avanidkalra

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