EPL Winter Storywalk uses a fairytale to connect residents with local businesses


Cole Reynolds/The Daily Northwestern

A chapter from the Evanston Public Library’s Winter Storywalk book. The Winter Storywalk aims to give families a way to interact with Main-Dempster businesses.

Cole Reynolds, Reporter

When shoppers walk past Cultivate Urban Rainforest & Gallery, they might miss the colorful cartoon hanging in the window. But a closer look reveals a cartoon bear, moose and beaver asking an owl perched on a tree branch: “Do you know where all the warmth has gone?”

And when shoppers walk inside the store, owner Louise Rosenberg hands each person a blue raffle ticket — a reward for finding the businesses with cartoons featured. Her store is one of 12 stops along the Evanston Public Library’s Winter Storywalk, an interactive adventure for children that began Dec. 12 and ends Saturday. 

“We like doing different community-related events,” Rosenberg said. “I like people to know that we welcome families and kids into the store.”

Kellye Fleming, a branch assistant for EPL’s Robert Crown Branch, wrote an original children’s story and placed each chapter at a different business in the Main-Dempster Mile. Families that visit each business and read the entire story can enter a $50 raffle using their tickets.

Fleming’s story is based on “The Snow Queen,” a Danish fairy tale about two children trying to find joy in a world that is only able to recognize misery. Her version follows animals, including Finn the Fox, the Robert Crown Branch’s mascot, searching for warmth during the winter months. Throughout November, Fleming and her colleagues wrote and illustrated the chapters.

When enlisting the help of local businesses, Fleming reached out to Katherine Gotsick, the executive director of the Main-Dempster Mile. Gotsick sent an email, and 18 hours later, over a dozen businesses had signed up.

For Hannah Wymer, a member of Ten Thousand Villages’ management team, the decision to participate in the Winter Storywalk was easy.

“We’re always trying to get new people to come into our store. And we also want to be a good neighbor and a community member,” Wymer said. “We thought it would be a good idea to host that little story clip, and hopefully have new families or new people to the area engage our store at the same time.

That balance between community and commerce defines the Main-Dempster Mile, as far as Gotsick is concerned.

She hopes the Winter Storywalk will deepen the relationship between Evanston residents and Main-Dempster businesses — many of which are owned and operated by locals.

“There’s always going to be an owner in the store that you can meet and can make a relationship with,” Gotsick said. “That’s what’s cool about southeast Evanston.”

Kalpana Waikar (Kellogg, ‘06), owner of Inspired Indian Cooking, remembers taking her young kids to EPL when she was a student at the Kellogg School of Management.

To Waikar, participating in the Winter Storywalk is about repaying the support she received from the library.

“It’s more about the people, and becoming part of and contributing to a community in ways beyond just selling products,” Waikar said. “Anything we can do to support the library, (because) I have a personal debt.”

It’s these relationships like Waikar’s and events like the Storywalk that make the Robert Crown Branch a “modern library” in the eyes of branch assistant Robin Sindelar.

From offering social support services to parenting guides, the Robert Crown Branch is trying to be more than just a repository for books.

“We’re always looking for ways to collaborate with our community,” Sindelar said. “We really, especially with the Robert Crown Branch, don’t believe that a library exists in four walls.”

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Twitter: @charcole27

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