COVID-19 prompts some business owners to ask for support


Madison Bratley/Daily Senior Staff

John Pottinger owns the nearly 74-year-old Al’s Deli on Noyes Street with his brother. Pottinger, like several other local business owners, has released a GoFundMe asking for community support in recent months.

After being temporarily closed for the majority of 2022, Edzon’s Burger Shop reopened in September. Sales picked up slowly, owner Eddie Lakin said, especially near the end of the year.

A paper sign next to the QR code
A sign at Edzon’s Burger Shop. Owner Eddie Lekin said the community’s support means “everything” to him as he deals with broken equipment. (Madison Bratley/Daily Senior Staff)

But during the week of Christmas, the business’s exhaust fans stopped working. Without it, Lakin will not be able to effectively serve customers inside the store. He opened it GoFundMe Asking for community support through the end of the holidays.

“If we don’t have community support … the restaurant business will go out of business,” he said. “Community support is everything to every restaurant.”

Lakin wasn’t the only local business owner to ask for community support recently. Other Evanston staples like Bookends & Beginnings, Coffee Lab & Roasters and Al’s Deli are also raising funds to combat inflation, rents and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Catherine Gotsick, executive director of the Maine-Dempster Mile, said she was lucky not to see businesses in her district put out fundraising drives.

But she also said that many businesses have drawn on their emergency funds during the pandemic, so if something goes bust, they might not have much left over — a situation that faced Lakin.

People look at the books on the shelves.
Buyers in BookEnds and Beginnings. The bookstore began fundraising to help relocate from its Sherman Avenue location to its new space on Orrington. (Madison Bratley/Daily Senior Staff)

“One of the things this recent list of closures and GoFundMes leads me to believe is that we haven’t scaled the curve of the COVID damage yet,” Gotsick said. “Some of the reasons these businesses gave for closing were that they’ve been pushed through the Covid stimulus, and once the aid went away, it was difficult.”

Supply chain issues and inflation have also hit small businesses hard, she said.

Through his GoFundMe, Lakin raised more than $18,000. He put money into repairing the exhaust fan and making up for lost revenue during the shutdown.

But after running the fan for a few days it broke again. He had to close shop, fix the fan again and start again. Still, he said he felt calmer the second time around.

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“It’s actually a lot less nerve-wracking this time because I now realize I have a GoFundMe option and people are very responsive about it,” Lakin said.

At Al’s Deli, where the co-owners haven’t reopened for indoor dining because of COVID-19-related concerns for their health, business has been slow for the past few years.

Paycheck Protection Program, said John Pottinger, co-owner of Al’s Deli The loan helped keep his nearly 74-year-old French deli afloat. But over the past few months, Pottinger said he has gradually fallen further and further behind in rent.

So he reopened GoFundMe, which the customer initially set up for him after the second round of PPP loans. In two weeks, Al’s Deli raised more than $17,000, Pottinger said.

“Financially, it’s great,” he said. “Practically makes me cry. If you go to the comments section of the GoFundMe page, there are some really touching comments. That means a lot. “

People look at the books on the shelves.
Buyers in BookEnds and Beginnings. The bookstore began fundraising to help relocate from its Sherman Avenue location to its new space on Orrington. (Madison Bratley/Daily Senior Staff)

Amid widespread pandemic problems, masseuse and business owner Carla Eason faced recent rent problems. She moved her business to Body Works by Carla And now the new space on Madison Street needs to be renovated.

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As a result, fellow business owner Amy Landolt a Fundraiser To support Eason’s business.

The community support, Eason said, “just means I can fully run my business.”

Lakin echoed his appreciation for the local support. He said he’s seen people return year after year. He laughs with visitors who last stopped by when they were young enough to pick up a juice box.

Small businesses like Edzo, he said, create a common gathering place.

“Running a restaurant is kind of a labor of love to be part of the community,” Lakin said. “So it’s been wonderful to see that it reciprocates — that people in Evanston really feel the same way about us.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avivabechky

Related Stories:

Al’s Deli: From American Delicatessen to French-Inspired Mainstay

Edzo’s Burger Shop returns with a soft reopening, revitalized interior

BookEnds & Beginnings joins in celebrating Independent Bookstore Day


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