Photo courtesy of Laura Brown
COVID-19 handed small businesses seven months of economic “lemons” — but Downtown Evanston is turning those lemons into lemonade through a month-long initiative.
From Oct. 15 through Nov. 15, a local design firm is decorating downtown Evanston with bursts of yellow related to the “Make Lemonade” theme to brighten and support small businesses that have been struggling due to COVID-19. Additionally, an ongoing scavenger hunt will engage residents with 35 of the city’s local businesses, said Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston.
“I can’t tell you how often I hear people say that when they decided to move to Evanston, it was because of the local businesses,” Coakley said. “We really want to retain the awesome businesses we have right now.”
Make Lemonade’s virtual scavenger hunt directs residents to travel around the downtown area snapping pictures, answering questions and purchasing items from local businesses. As participants engage with the initiative, organizers will post lemon stickers on a large pitcher downtown. The player with the most points logged by the end of the month will win a cash prize, Coakley said.
Downtown Evanston hosted a kick-off event Sunday at the Five & Dime restaurant where residents enjoyed lemon bourbon drinks and jammed to music.
One of the businesses participating in Make Lemonade is bead, gift and jewelry boutique Ayla’s Originals, which has lost half its business since the pandemic began, owner Ayla Pizzo said.
Pizzo said the boutique is selling discounted leather wrap bracelets and Halloween charm necklaces for the month of October. Ayla’s Originals is also hosting a “gemstone trunk show” to help bring back customers. On top of her seasonal sales, Pizzo said she hopes Make Lemonade will generate more exposure for the business.
“Make Lemonade will help bring awareness to people that we’re still here,” she said. “(It’ll) encourage people to shop small and pay attention to their little community.”
Another local business participating in Make Lemonade is Saville Flowers. Manager Sarah Kokes said she expects the initiative will spread the word about the store and garner more support.
However, Kokes said she’s already seen an outpouring of support from the Evanston community.
“Through community support, we have been able to hire an extra person after shutting down for a month due to the pandemic,” Kokes said. “We’ve been having a lot of business, a lot of people calling for floral arrangements. Even Northwestern students’ parents have been calling.”
Because Make Lemonade takes place largely outside, encouraging residents to visit local storefronts and dine outdoors, Coakley said participants will be able to “safely social distance” as they visit some of the city’s many local businesses.
“Make Lemonade is all about spreading happiness, joy, and getting through this tough time together as best as we can, she said.
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