The Salvation Army’s plan to buy the Gordon Foods Service Store at 2424 Oakton St. was placed on hold temporarily Tuesday by Evanston’s Design and Project Review Committee.

Committee members voiced concerns about possible trash problems from items dropped off at the store overnight when it’s not staffed.

Johanna Nyden.

Community Development Director Johanna Nyden said she used to live in the neighborhood on Chicago Avenue where the army had a resale shop years ago.

“It was a disaster,” she said. People would come at night and drop stuff off, then other people would come by and pick through the goods, and “you’d see stuff strewn as far away as the Main Street train station” two blocks away.

Kendall Mathews.

Salvation Army Major Kendall Mathews said there would be somebody on site seven days a week to accept donations and that he planned to have security cameras on the drop off location overnight when the store was not staffed.

But Nyden said she didn’t see how cameras would deter anybody from dumping items after hours.

Northwestern University students who are leaving town after graduation aren’t going to come back the next day to drop off during business hours, Nyden said.

Mathews said he wasn’t around when the Chicago Avenue store was in operation and wanted to apologize for any problems then.

“We don’t want any complaints from any of the cities that we serve in,” he added. He said he’s worked in the Army’s Chicago operation for two years now.

“There’s a new plan, a new administration, it’s forward thinking and we have a new mentality. I would say give us a chance and look at the operation of our other stores in the area.”

City arborist Michael Callahan asked what store staff would do to prevent the spread of bedbugs.

Mathews said the store wouldn’t accept mattresses. “We buy all new mattresses,” he said.

Property Standards Supervisor Angel Schnur asked whether there would be washers and dryers in the store to clean donated clothing and make sure it didn’t have bedbugs.

Mathews said most of the clothes they receive have been washed and folded by the donors.

But Schnur responded that it would be important to at least have a dryer installed — because if the clothes were heated sufficiently that would at least kill the bedbug eggs.

Mathews said that was a good suggestion and he’d consider making it a new policy for all the army’s stores.

City Engineer Lara Biggs said, “I think we’re all aware that the Army’s mission here fits very well with City of Evanston policies” about reusing items and reducing waste, and that the store could also provide a chance for residents to obtain job skills.

But she said the city needed to see a written plan for how to address the concerns about the store’s operation and impact on the neighborhood.

She moved to hold the request until detailed plans were submitted in response to the staff concerns and the committee voted unanimously to do that.

After DAPR makes its recommendation, the special use request for the resale store will also face review by the Land Use Commission and a final vote on approval by the City Council.

The planned Evanston store is intended to replace the army’s current resale shop on Oakton Street in Skokie.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Yes. Goodwill.does a great job of maintaining and receiving donations. I think a little competition would be great. Salvation Army should be held by the same standards as Goodwill located by Valli Foods.

  2. This is needed in Evanston for those with less income. It is also a boon for the environment, making sure that items do not end out in landfills. The Goodwill poses no problems in Evanston so why should this?

  3. As this is a non profit, will this take another building off of property tax revenue? The city is covered with schools, churches, and non profit entities. Every time NU or another nonprofit takes a space, business and homeowners have a higher share to pay.

  4. The drop off after hours for the Salvation Army Store at Chicago and Kedzie was on Kedzie, mostly. On the sidewalk, at the entrance of the store. Stuff spilled onto the sidewalk, maybe into the Kedzie curb, sometimes. It was fascinating to watch folks in high-end cars come to steal donations and drive them away. The location at 2424 Oakton St. is entirely different. The place is nearly surrounded with parking lot. Put donations spot in back, where cars drive in anyway, and you’re good to go. Only mess is in their parking lot.

    1. The traffic in that area is already really bad with the new car wash. Traffic is backed up almost every day going west on Oakton and east as well as people wait to turn left into it. When someone is westbound turning left into the gas station and cars are backed up waiting to get into the wash both west bound lanes back up. Add all the high-speed drivers in town for their kid’s game at the sports dome and it’s a literal s*** show over there. Next we’ll have garbage piles and stuff being tossed around the parking lot. That area has enough traffic issues and this will only cause more.

    1. Hi John,
      The attorney for the Salvation Army said GFS has not had much success with the Evanston location and plans to close it and sell the building. Their next closest store is in Niles.
      — Bill

  5. This is a Terrible idea. There is already a Goodwill store on Dempster- we don’t need one on Oakton. Besides, this is a great store for families.

  6. I think Goodwill and Salvation Army will compliment each other, making Evanston a great thrift destination for many. The car wash was not well-thought out by the city. Make it a four-way light and move the exit lane to the intersection and you will have more control over the traffic. Make the east bound Oakton a left turn lane and have the light be considerably shorter for the north-south intersection. Oakton is already squeezed down to one lane two blocks east. Make it no left turn into the Home Depot west entrance and no left turn from same or make it an east in, west out only curbed driveway intersection. All of this would aid traffic at the intersection, if, hopefully, the Salvation Army ends up there. I’ve solved everything!

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