The name “Main Street” may conjure up images of Anywhere, USA, with a hardware store, dress shop, grocery store and the like. The Main Street Shopping District in Evanston by contrast is anything but typical. The district, which encompasses the shops surrounding the intersection of Chicago and Main, was formerly known as Old Town. For the past decade, Main Street has been undergoing a steady revitalization effort, which has included the erection of several mixed–use condominium buildings, the remodeling of the Main Street train station and an updated look for the newsstand that sits at the corner of Chicago and Main. This renaissance has culminated with the recently adopted name change to the Main Street Shopping District.

The momentum of this effort is what inspired the area businesses to re-brand in an attempt to provide “a sense of cohesion and a sense of place,” according to Allan Price, president of the Main Street Merchants Association. Mr. Price also stated that adopting the Main Street name has “helped to instill a sense of community purpose in a long established commercial district.” The signs of this new effort are everywhere: a new logo, updated signage and other ongoing aesthetic improvements are all part of a larger goal; to lure shoppers from both near and far. Other future plans include the unveiling of a new website, as well as introducing some new events.

lady shopping

The Main Street Shopping District offers visitors a variety of unique and eclectic shops and restaurants; some have been in business for decades while others are a more recent addition. Among the newer businesses clearly demonstrating that Main Street is in step with the times is Healthy Green Goods, a shop featuring eco-friendly merchandise including organic body products, beeswax candles and non-toxic cleaning products. Another of the exciting, recent editions is Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade store featuring jewelry, garden items, handmade collectables and much more, made by artisans from around the globe. The store has relationships with craftspeople in 30 countries, allowing them access to the international marketplace.

Old favorites not to be missed include; Dave’s Down To Earth Rock Shop, The American Toby Jug Museum and Vogue Fabrics. Another veteran Main Street business owner is Robert Piron, master chocolatier and owner of Belgian Chocolatier Piron, who has been in operation at this location for 20 years. His store specializes in the art of Belgian chocolate making and serves as a showcase for his extensive training in this craft. When asked for an experienced viewpoint on the changes in the district, Mr. Piron also felt that things are moving in a positive direction as local businesses have really pulled together and are focused on sharing the job of promoting the area.

If chocolate isn’t enough to do the trick, shoppers may opt to dine in one the area’s many restaurants. During the day, stop in for a coffee at the uber-cozy Brother’s K Coffeehouse which features fair trade coffees, breakfast and pastries—or for lunch try Trattoria D.O.C., which features delicious wood-fired pizzas and entrees as well as rustic Italian salads and pastas. Dinner choices rival options in the city, but remain surprisingly laid-back. Oceanique, a seafood restaurant providing a menu influenced by French and New-American flavors, offers a vibrant array of innovative menu choices and professional service, without feeling the least bit pretentious. Likewise, Campagnola manages to capture the feel of a favorite corner Italian restaurant while delivering country Italian fare that is both authentic and approachable.

main street

The Main Street Shopping District has ample street and public lot parking and can easily be accessed by public transportation via the Metra and the CTA purple line. In fact, the station; renamed the Evanston Arts Depot, is worth a stop itself. A $4 million dollar renovation was completed in 2007 in which the station’s two original waiting areas were painstakingly restored. The new station also houses the 50-seat Piccolo Theatre and serves as the headquarters for the Evanston Festival Theatre, Inc., and Custer’s Last Stand Festival of the Arts.

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