Central Street’s Wellness Wednesdays spotlight new businesses, reach new popularity during second summer


Photo courtesy of Angela Shaffer

Participants look to the instructor during a Wellness Wednesday class. The workshops run every Wednesday morning from June 15 through Aug. 10.

Charlotte Varnes, Managing Editor

Each Wednesday, fitness lovers of all ages and experience levels descend on Independence Park, ready to begin their morning with a workout. 

This summer marks the second year of Central Street Evanston’s Wellness Wednesdays. From June 15-Aug. 10, several of the district’s fitness studios are offering morning workouts in Independence Park. The classes range from yoga to pilates to high-intensity interval training workouts.

“The benefit of some of these classes is that they’re pretty much for all levels and ages,” said Angela Shaffer, the executive director of Central Street Evanston. “One woman came with her son, which was great.”

Shaffer participated in the summer’s first workshop held by Heaven Meets Earth Yoga. The class was designed for beginners, Shaffer said, and she was able to participate wearing her street clothes. 

Shaffer began working at Central Street in fall 2021 after the first summer of Wellness Wednesdays and decided to develop the event. Since then, she said, the classes have steadily grown, doubling in attendance from summer 2021. 

Most classes have an attendance limit of 15 participants, which some business owners said they appreciate. Donna Parise Byrne, owner of Pilates Central Wellness, taught classes last summer, and other teachers from her studio are leading classes this summer. For her, implementing a reservation system and attendance limit were welcome changes. 

“We offer tote bags and the ball we use during exercises, so we were able to prepare for how many we needed,” Parise Byrne said. “Nobody got to go home empty-handed.”

The timing and structure of class varies by studio. Lisa Faremouth Weber, founder of Heaven Meets Earth Yoga, said in an email to The Daily that she opens each class by asking participants about their “intention and inspiration” for attending the class. She then bases the rest of the class off of participants’ responses and experience levels, she said.

Pilates Central Wellness offers both physical therapy and pilates classes, and Parise Byrne said its Wellness Wednesday classes have included elements of both formats. 

Ann Lyman, who goes to Pilates Central Wellness for physical therapy, said attending the studio’s Wellness Wednesday class was her first time trying out the business’s pilates instruction, and she found the exercises beneficial. The outdoor environment was a plus, she said.

“It was fortunate that the weather was perfect,” Lyman said. “It was a beautiful summer day, and nice to be outdoors and participating in a class with other people.”

The event has also served as a way to highlight new businesses in the district, Shaffer said. Several of the participating studios are new to Evanston, as is Blended Health & Smoothie Bar, which offers discounts to attendees.

Pilates Central Wellness moved from Wilmette to Evanston in October 2020. Wellness Wednesdays have been great for outreach, Parise Byrne said, as many who sign up aren’t current clients. At least one attendee has started going to the studio after trying out its Wellness Wednesday workshop, she said.

The event has also been an important community builder and break from the stress of the world, Shaffer said.

“Our world’s a little bit angry right now,” Shaffer said. “These are calming. You’re learning to breathe, you’re getting to meet other people in the community and coming together. Right now, we can all use that.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

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