LINCOLN SQUARE — Small town in a big city — that's how folks often describe Lincoln Square.
Courtesy of a "Main Street Makeover" from American Express in advance of Small Business Saturday, the neighborhood will be tilting even more toward Mayberry than Manhattan this holiday season.
The Square's primary shopping strip from Lawrence to Leland avenue is one of five across the United States selected for the makeover — others are in Miami, D.C., San Francisco and New York — a new twist to Small Business Saturday as AmEx continues to amp up its annual shop-local promotion, which launched in 2010.
Patty Wetli says organizers hope the makeover attracts new business:
Local interior designer Adam Zollinger was charged with finding a Chicago site for the makeover and the Indiana transplant, who moved to the city in 2003, immediately thought of Lincoln Square.
"The day that I moved here, Cafe Selmarie was the first place I went," Zollinger said.
He took an AmEx rep on a tour of potential makeover candidates and "she fell in love with Lincoln Square just like I did," he said.
Though designers in other Main Street neighborhoods are focusing on a handful of shops, Zollinger was able to stretch his budget to transform the entire block, in part because so many of the Square's businesses, like the Brauhaus, Huettenbar and Chopping Block, traditionally trim their own storefronts.
Zollinger's design concept includes wrapping the Square's pair of arches in garland, wreaths and lights; sprucing up the sidewalk planters with blue and white baubles (alluding to AmEx's shop small logo, he said); lining Giddings Plaza with cobalt spotlights; and topping the plaza's fountain with a massive Christmas tree.
"We're using 800 Christmas ornaments, 3,000 feet of lights, four 14-foot Christmas trees ... and a partridge in pear tree," Zollinger joked.
Minus the live greenery, the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce gets to keep all of the decorations, which it can re-use year after year, according to Rudy Flores, the chamber's executive director.
This is the second year the chamber has championed a unified Small Business Saturday effort among Lincoln Square and Ravenswood's Mom & Pop shop owners, with 32 participating in 2015, Flores said.
"Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday can get lost," he said. "We're a unique neighborhood that still has that independent identity. We really want to make this big."
Even coming-soon businesses like Jerry's Sandwiches are getting in on the action, hanging twinkling lights in their windows and, in the case of Jerry's, stationing an Abominable Snowman figurine inside the empty storefront to entertain passersby.
"The community is all willing to work together, everybody wants to be part of it," Zollinger said.
The completed makeover will receive its official unveiling Saturday during celebrations set to include a tree lighting in Giddings Plaza at 5 p.m., along with a performance by the Deutsch-Amerikanischer Kinderchor. DANK Haus will be selling gluhwein and hot chocolate in the plaza from 4-7 p.m.
Once shoppers get a look at the Square all decked out for the holidays, Zollinger is convinced the main street will sell itself.
"My plan is to make everything so wonderful, people won't want to shop anywhere else," he said.
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