“InSidewalk Sale” promotes Evanston Businesses during pandemic


Parker Stava/The Daily Northwestern

Commonwealth Running Company. The store opened 17 days before the COVID-19 lockdown and participated in this weekend’s Downtown Evanston sidewalk sale.

Fiona Roach, Reporter

Downtown Evanston businesses hosted the “InSidewalk Sale” this weekend, featuring discounts and special offers from 11 local vendors. Participating stores included Gearhead Outfitters, Ayla’s Originals, Accents Plus and more.

The sale, which was organized by Downtown Evanston, ran from Friday to Sunday to help businesses clean out their stores. In previous years, the sale was held outside during the summer, but because of this year’s cold weather, it was held indoors. At the event, businesses offered large markdowns, provided a free gift with purchase or offered buy one, get one deals.

Business owners and employees said they were hopeful the sale would bring in more customers, especially because of recent challenges like the pandemic, supply chain issues and the rise in online shopping.

‘’I hope the sale brings in people who would have otherwise just clicked on a site to do their shopping,” said Avis Behling, manager of Evanston furniture store Affordable Portables.

Behling understands the ease of online shopping, but as a self-proclaimed environmentalist, she dislikes the amount of waste it produces. She said Affordable Portables combats this by recycling everything they can.

Matt Abitbol, the owner of Commonwealth Running Company, said his store was born in the pandemic, as it opened 17 days before the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. COVID-19 cases throughout the last two years have resulted in inconsistent business, he said.

“(Business) ebbs and flows with the pandemic,” Abitbol said. “It’s like two steps forward, one step back, but we’re getting there.”

Some business owners also complained of supply chain issues, which the omicron variant exacerbated. Inflation, which soared to 7% in December 2021, likewise caused lost business for many local stores.

Despite this, some businesses have been able to find some success during the pandemic. Rebecca Johnson, a manager of Blick Art Materials, said the store has been doing well in the past year.

“People were so gravitated towards art during the pandemic,” Johnson said. “So we have been doing fairly well.” 

The vaccine mandate that went into effect on Jan 10. added a slight complication to business. Indoor dining, fitness centers and entertainment venues are now required to ask for proof of vaccination upon entering the store. 

For Evanston Games & Cafe, the vaccine mandate has not hindered business. Co-owner Drew Lipoff said he only had one bad experience with a customer regarding the vaccine mandate. Overall, he said the general consensus among shoppers is the vaccine mandate is “the right thing to do.”

“The community has been very kind to us,” Lipoff said. “People really have no issue with (the vaccine mandate).”

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Twitter: @fionaroach03

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