Best of Evanston

ew_suptspotlight_video2015Dr. Eric Witherspoon gets my vote for Person of the Year. He is an inspiring speaker and educational leader. He cares deeply about the students at Evanston Township High School. But the pitch perfect message he delivered over the loudspeaker the morning after the election resonated in the school’s classrooms, across the houses and apartments of Evanston, and soon went viral across the country. This short epistle is only 275 words, but together they are more riveting than all the Tweets, speeches, and position papers leading up to the election and more comforting than all the ones that followed. Read it again to be re-inspired; save it for future reference in the coming months. I suspect we are going to need it.

northwestern-universityNorthwestern University is a great corporate citizen within Evanston. It is the city’s top employer and an essential contributor and participant within the social fabric of Evanston. It offers a beautiful lakefront campus and a calendar filled with lectures and first-class musical, theatrical, athletic, and cinematic entertainment, much of it open to the public. It is the home of groundbreaking research and Sir Fraser Stoddart, one of 2016’s Nobel Prize recipients. I am a fan of the Jazz Small Ensembles and National Theatre Live at the Wirtz. Come join me.



The beautiful lakefront of Lake Michigan serves as my backyard. I love the bike path that winds around its edge and the serenity I feel whenever I pass by. The view from Northwestern looking south toward Chicago never fails to inspire me…as well as remind me of Oz, the Emerald City.



Evanston fosters a wonderful environment for small businesses and creative, artistic stores. One of my favorites is Ayla’s Originals, a shop that inspires, encourages, and provides supplies and lessons to beaders (those who bead) all over the North Shore. I originally visited Ayla’s for some assistance with jewelry repairs, but was drawn in by the friendly atmosphere and wonderful sense of community. Ayla’s offers a fantastic selection of beads from all over the world — including rare, collectible, and antique ones — as well as an array of individualized classes on techniques of jewelry-making. Take a class and see if this craft is for you. Treat yourself: do something creative every day.

We love to read in Evanston and there are many great bookstores catering to bibliophiles as well as a fantastic public library system. My favorite bookstore is Bookends & Beginnings for its fantastic selection, personalized service, great recommendations, and cozy atmosphere.  But there are others. Try Chicago Rare Book Center, tucked away on Washington Street; they specialize in children’s books, modern literature, jazz and blues, art, Chicago, the Midwest, and Americana. Comix Revolution specializes in comics and graphic novels. And if those specialties are not niche enough for your tastes, try Montagnana Books. They focus on books and collectibles about the violin family.

Happy reading, biking, and beading. As Dr. Witherspoon advises, “Let’s protect and take care of each other. Everything is going to be okay.”

Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop Rocks!

There are many wonderful things about Evanston, but top on my list this week is Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop and Prehistoric Life Museum.  That’s a long name for a small store, and with good reason: there are many exciting and unique items packed into this space.  It is unlike any other store I’ve been to or experienced.

Do you have a loved one or friend for whom it is difficult to shop for gifts?  Is your favorite toddler going through the inevitable dinosaur phase and needs a fresh fix?  A visit to Dave’s might just do the trick.

The staff is friendly, proactive and helpful.  They know their merchandise and are happy to guide the scientifically and archaeologically mystified customer.   On the shelves and on the walls at Dave’s you can find exotic gemstone beads in a myriad of colors; unusual dinosaur games, posters and puzzles; gorgeous, decorative and practical crystals and carvings; Native American artifacts; fossils–and more.  You will not look at rocks the same way after you visit Dave’s.

Dave’s also hosts a self-guided and free museum in its basement dedicated to prehistoric life.  The museum, packed with artifacts from the private collection of David and Sandra Douglass (the store’s founder), includes fossils from every period since Precambrian times and the largest display of fossils local to Illinois.  It’s a worthy destination for school classes and clubs throughout the year.

Shake off your retail boredom and indulge your curiosity.  Go to Dave’s. There is nothing like it anywhere in Evanston.

Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop and Prehistoric Life Museum resides at 704 Main Street in Evanston, half a block west of the Main Street CTA and Metra stops.  Open weekdays and Saturdays; closed on Wednesdays and Sundays.