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Some 60 of Mary Lou Smith’s closest friends gathered on Sept. 18 for the dedication of Mary Lou Smith Way, the honorific street name for the section of Poplar Avenue between Central and Harrison streets. Ms. Smith operated Top of the Tracks, a popular coffee shop for Metra commuters, for a quarter of a century.
Mark Sloane, a friend and long-time customer, nominated Ms. Smith’s name for the street segment and hosted a party at the café, now called Upstairs Café, and the waiting room. “We as a City just don’t do enough to honor the people who work every day to make Evanston what it is,” he said.
Joanne Wilkins, Ms. Smith’s sister, recalled that Ms. Smith knew her customers – knew how they liked their coffee and even knew if they were having a bad morning. As the evening Metra trains momentarily smothered the end of a sentence, someone remarked, “Mary Lou is used to having her conversations interrupted by trains.”
“I miss the people,” said Ms. Smith. She acknowledged her husband, Bill, a retired Evanston police officer, who opened the café at 5 a.m. daily.
Seventh Ward Alderman Jane Grover, who read the City Council’s proclamation, said, “For 25 years, Mary Lou Smith practiced the lost art of conversation. She started people’s days on the right track.”