A blueprint for honoring city businesses that are in ‘people’s collective memory’

Evanston City Planner Cade Sterling, left, and Council member Clare Kelly (1st Ward) participate in the Legacy Business Program meeting on Sept. 29 at the Civic Center. Credit: Matt SImonette

City organizers and prospective participants in the Legacy Business Program met Sept. 29 at the Evanston Civic Center to discuss the scope of the new effort.

The program, intended to both celebrate and ensure the long-term stability of established Evanston businesses and organizations, has been under discussion for several months. Community members can nominate possible legacy businesses via a Google form.

Owners and representatives from Bennison’s Bakery, Hecky’s Barbecue, Chiropractic First, Belgian Chocolatier Piron and Cahill Plumbing were among those who took part in last week’s meeting, which was intended for brainstorming ideas about the program as well as determining an allocation amount to seek from City Council in the future.

City officials developing the group are: City Council Members Clare Kelly, 1st Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward; Preservation Commissioners Carl Klein and Suzi Reinhold; Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmazek; and City Planner Cade Sterling. Kelly, Klein, Reinhold and Sterling all took part in the Sept. 29 meeting. 

“Businesses become part of people’s collective memory of Evanston,” Sterling said at the meeting. “…There are some people who define a neighborhood by a business there.”

Sterling said the program seeks to celebrate the history of longtime Evanston businesses as well as offer financial and/or strategic assistance to business owners who need it.

Kelly said that the city has allocated $100,000 to launch the program. Sterling said that he thought that a $500,000 allocation in future years would be adequate to provide financial assistance to five to 10 businesses as well as promotional services for other participants. 

Businesses will be encouraged to nominate themselves for the award, Kelly said. To be eligible for consideration, the business will have to have been open for at least 20 years. 

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