The Gordon Food Service store at 2424 Oakton St. is set to close this week, and the Salvation Army hopes to turn the site into a resale shop. (Photo by Bob Seidenberg)

The Salvation Army built up a solid clientele at its previous Evanston resale shop, on Kedzie Street just off Chicago Avenue.

The store was particularly successful with Northwestern University students, who “were in and out the door constantly,” observed City Council Member Melissa Wynne.

On the other hand, “There were significant problems over the years – not when the store was in operation, but when the store was closed,” said Wynne, in whose Third Ward the store was located.

“[Donors] just would set [donations] on the sidewalk outside,” she said, speaking at the April 11 meeting of the City Council’s Planning & Development Committee.

“This then created an open and free market for anyone who decided to come and open all the bags and find out what they wanted from that. And so we had a weekly, essentially open flea market on the sidewalk on Kedzie.”

The Gordon Food Service store on Oakton Street is set to close this Saturday. (Photo by Bob Seidenberg)

Representatives for the Salvation Army acknowledged the problem in their appearance at the committee meeting. The group is seeking a special use permit for a resale establishment at 2424 Oakton St., in the city’s Eighth Ward, replacing the Gordon Food Service store at that site.

Gordon Food Service’s building was sold and the store’s last day is Saturday, April 16. A lot of customers “are bummed,” a store employee said Thursday. Gordon has stores at Golf Mill Center in Niles and at Chicago’s Brickyard shopping center.

Mitchell Melamed, whose law firm Aronberg Goldgehn Davis & Garmisa represents the Salvation Army, told committee members that his client has committed to having a staff person on site at the new location one hour before the store opens and one hour after it closes, as well as on Sundays, when the store will be closed.

In addition, the group has committed to having security cameras at the store during off-hours and will cooperate with the Evanston Police Department regarding violations. Motion-sensor lights will be in operation at night, Melamed said.

“And I think, most important, [will be] to put up a sign that would say something like ‘Respect your neighborhood,’” he said, receiving assent from Wynne on that.

Melamed said the Salvation Army will work with the city on a regular basis addressing any concerns.

“Chicago has probably the single most successful resale store in the country,” he said. “It is at 2270 N. Clybourn Ave., “a very busy area, and they have not had the problem because of the way it is handled,” he said.

Wynne stressed she really appreciated the work of the Salvation Army and the purpose of such shops, “especially now when people are much more conscious of the idea of reuse and, I’ll say, thrifting of goods that don’t end up in the landfill.”

Council Member Devon Reid, 8th Ward, said a representative of the Salvation Army was present at a recent Eighth Ward meeting, and ward residents appeared in support of the store.

He said he is also supportive of the project for reasons similar to those expressed by Wynne.

“It creates a circular economy and allows for things that traditionally end up in a landfill to be used,” he said.

The Salvation Army’s request had been before the city-staffed Design and Project Review Committee, which has recommended certain conditions for council members to consider when the group’s request for a special use permit comes before them, as the council holds the ultimate decision-making authority.

These conditions included some of the steps mentioned by the Salvation Army representative, such as stipulating that a security camera be installed to monitor the drop-off area during off-hours, and committing to work with Evanston Police to manage any dumping.

Some of the other conditions include:

  • The Salvation Army will be responsible for the pickup of litter, debris and other materials within 250 feet of the property.
  • The use will be reviewed 12 months after approval and every 24 months thereafter.
  • The Salvation Army will work with city staff to refine the circulation pattern for donation drop-offs to mitigate potential problems.
  • The Salvation Army will agree to hire Evanston residents for at least 50% of the jobs, provided they meet the qualifications for employment.

Winding up the committee discussion, Council Member Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, confirmed with the Salvation Army representatives that they were in agreement with the city condition that the operation be reviewed in 12 months.

“I assume you would be open to a review sooner than that if it needed to happen,” she said.

Melamed said he was more than open to that. “It should be reviewed as necessary after it’s open,” even the next day, he said.

Planning & Development Committee members voted unanimously in support of the Salvation Army’s request for a special use permit, sending the issue now to the full Council.

Council members are expected to act on the item at their next meeting, scheduled for April 25.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

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