Trying to rebuild connections from the isolation of the pandemic is an ongoing issue. And the Main-Dempster Mile took that on Tuesday night by inviting area merchants to a casual mixer from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Firehouse Grill, 750 Chicago Ave.

It was billed as “a no-agenda, no work, no worries night of reconnection” for merchants in the area from Greenwood Street to South Boulevard and Ridge Avenue to Lake Michigan.

Main-Dempster Mile business-owners (from left) Zubin Sherring (Clairvoyant Center of Chicago), Maggie Peng (Pink & Tan homewares, decor and art objects shop opening soon on Dempster), Dr Lori Howell (In Fine Fettle Holistic Health Center and Wellness Botique) and Diane Petersmarck (Monarch Fitness Training) enjoy socializing at the Merchant Mixer at Firehouse Grill on Tuesday evening. Credit: Evan Girard

The Main-Dempster Mile began in 2014 as a rallying point to help form more than 60 area businesses into a Special Service Area in Evanston, according to the group’s website.

Evanston merchants enjoyed a “post-COVID reconnect” mixer at Firehouse Grill Tuesday evening sponsored by the Main-Dempster Mile. Credit: Evan Girard

The website also explains: “A Special Service Area (SSA) is defined by Illinois State Statute as a contiguous area within a municipality or county in which special services are provided in addition to those services provided generally throughout the municipality or county.”

Sometimes knows as Business Improvement Districts in other municipalities, the SSAs allow an additional tax levy in a defined area for designated services. The Main Dempster SSA is one of four SSAs in Evanston and the extra money collected via the special taxes allows a pool of revenue to help with things such as landscaping, advertising, public art and extra garbage collections.

Susy Schultz is the editor of the Evanston Roundtable. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and is the former president of Public Narrative, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching journalists and...