Evanston businesses buy PPE in bulk to aid with safe reopening


Illustration by Emma Ruck

The Evanston Chamber of Commerce is working in partnership with Northwestern and the City of Evanston to obtain discounts on the PPE for businesses.

Hannah Feuer, Reporter

Fifty-seven Evanston businesses have signed onto a bulk order of personal protective equipment to help them reopen safely.

The Evanston Chamber of Commerce is working in partnership with Northwestern and the city of Evanston to obtain discounts on PPE for businesses.

Roger Sosa, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said he expects to order anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 masks at 45 cents each. The first shipment, about 20 cases of hand sanitizer, will be delivered later this week.

Sosa coordinated with public health officials to ensure hospitals had enough PPE before ordering. While hospitals fear they may be running short on gowns, there is not a high demand for them at local businesses, Sosa said.

Depending on interest, the order might also include face shields, checkout counter barriers and shoe coverings.

“I thought it would be the most useful thing we could do as a chamber to help out the business community,” Sosa said. “It seemed that a lot of the small businesses here in Evanston were going to need PPE to open.”

Mari Barnes, owner of Notice fashion boutique, said she’s spent a “fortune” on PPE — some of which she bought on her own and some through the bulk order.

At Notice, employees wear masks, clean the counter between each sale and offer gloves and hand sanitizer to customers. Yet even with these precautions in place, Barnes said customers seem only “marginally” more comfortable.

“It’s not like it used to be at all,” Barnes said.

Sosa said customers look for four main things when deciding if it’s safe to go out: employees actively cleaning surfaces, available hand sanitizer, a written safety protocol and an official safety certification. He expects the PPE delivery to help businesses take these precautions.

Pat Fowler, the owner of Firehouse Grill, said he didn’t have much trouble ordering masks and hand sanitizer himself.

“Because restaurants were shut down for so long, the suppliers had some time to figure out how to get what we needed,” Fowler said.

Still, Sosa said the bulk order will help businesses get equipment at the best price and from reliable vendors.

“They don’t have buying power for it,” Sosa said. “They were going to be buying it expensively and probably not sure where to get it.”

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