Harith Razaa of Comfort Desserts Reimagined speaks at the Main-Dempster Mile anniversary party Oct. 13 at City Volkswagen of Evanston. Behind Razaa are (from left): Dana Barnett-Owens of Farmers Insurance, Shams Frough of Kapisa Rugs, Trinity Collins of Monarch Fitness Coaching and Kalpana Waikar of Inspired Indian Cooking. Credit: Evan Girard

Editor’s note: This column has been updated to correct a gender reference and the name of Monarch Fitness Coaching.

Last Thursday, Oct. 13, I joined the Main-Dempster Mile’s anniversary party at the City Volkswagen dealership on Chicago Avenue. The Main-Dempster Mile district, created in 2014, is one of just a few special service areas in Evanston – the other areas cover Downtown Evanston and Central Street (which is divided into separate west and east portions, but managed as a single entity).

Howard Street and the West End are also part of the city’s economic development efforts, but though they have tax increment financing (TIF) status, they aren’t special service areas, where an extra tax assessment can pay for things like landscaping, advertising, public art and additional garbage collection.

Much of Thursday’s Main-Dempster Mile event was built around celebrating new businesses that have moved into the neighborhood in the past three years. Though the anniversary focused on new businesses, it also took note of how many businesses have closed or moved out of the Main-Dempster Mile. Did you know 35 businesses and organizations have shut their doors or relocated since October 2019?

The good news is that in the same time frame, 28 new businesses have opened, and three existing businesses expanded: Evanston Eye Wellness, Evanston Stitchworks and Squeezebox Books & Music.

Saluting new businesses

I was lucky to be able to meet some of the new business owners in person at the party and hope to follow up with some of the others. The following new businesses had representatives present and were introduced by Katherine Gotsick, executive director of the Main-Dempster Mile:

Kapisa Rugs owner Frough shared that he moved into the Main-Dempster Mile in the summer of 2021. His store is in the old Evanston Public Library South Branch space at 900 Chicago Ave.

“Initially business was really good,” he said, but added that this summer things began to slow down a bit. “I believe people are worried the economy is going to collapse, so a product like a rug becomes something people hold off on buying,” he said.

He emphasized that many of the rugs he sells are handmade in Afghanistan, his home country, though he also has rugs from Persia and Turkey.

From Afghanistan to the U.S.

Frough’s website says he worked in Afghanistan as an interpreter for the U.S. government from 2009 to 2014, when he relocated here and ultimately became a U.S. citizen. On Thursday he talked about his family ties to Afghanistan and shared that a number of his siblings are still living in the country with their own families. They struggle due to the family’s ties to the U.S. government, he said.

Frough said the rug business is one way he tries to help his relatives, by involving them on the Afghanistan side of the work. He is hoping to visit his family over the next year, but “it is harder to travel to Afghanistan now that the Taliban is in power,” he said.

He also said he is working on bringing in a business partner who will bring in lapis lazuli gemstones from Afghanistan and traditional dishware made from the stone. 

Shams Frough (left) of Kapisa Rugs and Trinity Collins of Monarch Fitness Coaching jointly brandish the big scissors at the Main-Dempster Mile party on Thursday, Oct. 13. Credit: Evan Girard

Monarch Fitness Coaching, 928 Chicago Ave., was started by Heather Collins to help people who have mobility issues and want to be able to lead an active life. According to its website, its focus is “on clients over 45 and those with special needs.”

“The store opened Oct. 3, 2021,” said Trinity Collins, Heather Collins’ child, who is in charge of community outreach. The business operates from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Collins said the store has a loyal customer base and offers individualized training programs tailored to a client’s needs. Clients are seen individually as well as semiprivately in groups of four to five people. Monarch also offers classes for up to 12 people.

New Korean-Japanese restaurant

One of the most recent openings in the neighborhood is Papa Bop, a new restaurant that opened Sept. 19 at 1047 Chicago Ave., close to the corner of Greenleaf Street.

For now Papa Bop only has a “Grand Opening” banner across the storefront. Inside it is friendly and welcoming.

The restaurant serves a mix of Korean and Japanese hibachi dishes. Owner KJ Chang has 20 years of restaurant experience and is the Hibachi chef. His mother-in-law is responsible for the Korean items on the menu.

They are just about to try out one of the delivery services, so you can have their food delivered to your house. Meanwhile though, takeout is ready for you.

I stopped by a few days prior to the party during my lunch break, so I tried the bibimbap. It was delicious.

On a very last note: Have you heard of the Sauna Club? It is a portable sauna that you can rent for private parties and events. This Friday, Oct. 21, the sauna on wheels will be parked and ready outside Lee Street Beach until 11 a.m. For a $15 fee you can enjoy the warmth for 30 minutes. 

Isabelle Reiniger

Isabelle Reiniger, LCSW is a writer and psychotherapist in private practice in Evanston. She reports on local businesses opening and closing for the Evanston RoundTable. Reach Isabelle at isabelle.reiniger@me.com.

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