North Ave. shops offer incentives to lure customers

Spend $10, you could win $100 gift card

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By Melissa Elsmo

Food Writer

The North Avenue District has more than 100 businesses, including 20 restaurants, open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to concerns for the financial health of local businesses, The North Avenue District has created a contest to incentivize purchasing in the area.

"Whatever you may be looking for — from accountants to veterinarians — chances are you can find it on North Avenue," said Judith Alexander, president of the group. "In Oak Park there is a tendency to focus south, but we want people to be aware of all the wonderful businesses in the North Avenue District."

Through June 8 every time a shopper spends $10 on North Avenue from Austin to Harlem, they can email their receipts to for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to be used in the district. Alexander hopes to encourage contest participants to post to social media and use #IBuyNorthAveDistrict by offering an additional entry for posts.

"This has been a difficult time and there are some places that are not sure they are going to make it through," said Alexander. 

Basehit BBQ, 6606 W. North Ave., recently reopened after closing their storefront for more than two months in response to COVID-19. Catering supported the business during that time, but now the restaurant, known for their Nashville hot chicken sandwich, is offering carryout.

"Our business was down the first week we re-opened," said Basehit BBQ co-owner Tony Garland. "The North Avenue Business District's $100 contest has been a huge help. Our business increased 60 percent in the second week."

Garland looks forward to promoting the contest in his restaurant and hopes to draw in new customers with new items designed to enhance his menu beyond chicken and pork. Health conscious diners could qualify to enter the contest by ordering Basehit BBQ's new fresh salad or grilled shrimp offerings.

Denise Roy, Oak Park resident and co-owner of Surf's Up, 6427 W. North Ave., is a proud member of the North Avenue District.

 "I love how Judith [Alexander] watches out for the businesses here and helps us all interact," said Roy. 

Surf's Up is a small, minority and family owned business that takes pride in creating jobs in the community. The restaurant has hired workers who lost their jobs because of COVID-19 closures to work as both cashiers and cooks. The rapidly growing franchise has nine locations, four of which have opened during the current pandemic. 

"There is no high and mighty attitude here," said Roy. "We are just trying to make a living like everyone else and we want to be sure the people who work here are happy when they get here and happy when they leave."

North Avenue is a busy street and Roy worries cars zoom by and miss the counter-service establishment located in an unassuming strip mall. The large colorful outdoor sign helps draw attention to the seafood restaurant, but Roy admits the pandemic may have helped her business.

"I think this quarantine is making people sit back and look around," said Roy. "I think people are seeing the businesses on North Avenue more than they may have before."

Visit the North Avenue District's Facebook page for details on how to enter the contest and support North Avenue businesses.


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