Like so many retailers during the pandemic, it seemed the clothing and gift store “10,000 Villages” had at least 20,000 problems.

The shop, which sells items made in underdeveloped countries, had recently moved into a new, larger location on Chicago Avenue, when the coronavirus pandemic hit. The state temporarily shut most businesses, and then imposed capacity limits which are only now about to end.

“We had more space, more rent, and fewer customers,” says store manager Joseph Meyer.

So Thursday afternoon and evening, “10,000 villages” was among 15 Evanston businesses with booths or tables at Fountain Square, as part of the first Thursday Night Market sponsored by the Downtown Evanston marketing organization.

Annie Coakley, executive director of the group, says, “An event like this is important for bringing additional foot traffic downtown,” particularly because many daily downtown employees who usually shop there are still working from home.

Meyer says the pandemic period has been “rough,” but there has also been support from the community, which appreciates a business which insists on fair wages for its overseas artisans.

He adds that the Thursday Night Market is not only a chance to sell, but also a way to increase visibility, because some potential customers “were not sure we were still in business.”

There was no Thursday night event downtown last summer due to the pandemic. The Market replaces Thursday Night Live, a concert series which last happened in 2019.

Coakley says while planning summer 2021 this past January, no one knew what the status of the virus or vaccines would be, so an open-air market seemed more “COVID-friendly” than a concert.

Today’s market featured merchants who sell apparel and accessories.
Future events are:

  • July 8, Health and Wellness
  • Aug. 5, Food and Drink
  • Sept.2, Paper and Books
  • Oct. 7, Evanston Made

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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