WICKER PARK — Small business owners near Wicker Park's Damen "L" station are so excited to welcome commuters back to the neighborhood's main hub that they are offering free coffee, doughnuts and tamales — plus a chance to win a recliner chair when the station reopens Dec. 22.
"We did not realize how much we depend on the traffic, being so close to the station. There is a great community of Blue Liners and we want to show gratitude to the commuters," said Ulysses Salamanca, owner of Flash Taco at 1570 N. Damen Ave.
The station, which has been closed since Oct. 20 for renovations, is scheduled to reopen Dec. 22.
To celebrate the return of commuters, Flash Taco will be setting up its taco cart near the station and giving away free chicken, pork and veggie tamales.
The tamales will be offered during the 7 to 9 am. morning and 4 to 6 p.m. evening rush hours for the first three days that the station is reopened, through Christmas Eve.
Not up for a tamale?
Stan's Donuts, 1560 N. Damen Ave., will offer one free glazed donut and one free 12-ounce coffee to any customer who displays a Ventra card on the first Monday and Tuesday that the station reopens, all day long.
Glazed and Infused, which has been offering a buy-one-get-one free promotion for "misplaced commuters" who grab doughnuts before heading to alternative routes, is offering one free doughnut and one large coffee to anyone who flashes their Ventra card.
Folks can choose from any of Glazed & Infused's regular menu doughnuts or from five new holiday creations, including the Royal Oreo cake doughnut drizzled with peppermint, the Hot Chocolate Snowball and a spiced eggnog Bismarck.
The Glazed & Infused "Welcome Back" promotion will be offered from December 22-24, only at the shop's Wicker Park walk-up window, in the back of Francesca Forno restaurant, across from the station.
At La Colombe, 1552 N. Damen Ave, anyone who flashes a Ventra card from Dec. 22--28 will get a free drip coffee.
"We are super excited for the reopening. The station looks improved already and we are looking forward to seeing our commuter friends and plying them with hot beverages in the middle of the cold winter," said Kate Markham, La Colombe's general manager.
Ken Lubinksi, owner of Lubinski Furniture, said that he too has missed the after work commuter shoppers who browse his store at 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., around the corner from the station.
"Our sales have been down by 20-percent since the station closed," Lubinski said.
Provided 63 commuters come by the furniture shop and drop off their business card between Dec. 22 and Jan. 10 (a number chosen to signify the number of days the station has been closed) Lubinski said he would raffle off a free recliner chair.
The chairs, available in different materials and colors, have a retail value of $299.
Over at City Soles, 1560 N. Damen Ave., the shoe store will be running a 20-percent off sale on all regular price merchandise from Dec 22-31 for shoppers that show their Ventra card and post a photo of themselves wearing their new shoes to the social media outlet of their choice.
City Sole customers are encouraged to use a hashtag of #kickassshoes @citysoles, said owner Scott Starbuck.
Starbuck, who is moving his shop to 1514 N. Milwaukee Ave. in March, said that the two months before Christmas were "absolutely the worse time of year to close our CTA station."
"Wicker Park is perhaps the biggest commercial commerce area along the Blue Line. The closure has destroyed 4th quarter sales and has cost the immediate local economy millions," Starbuck said.
Earlier this week, the CTA said there are no plans to compensate local businesses for lost profits during the 63-day closure.
"While reimbursement to local shops is not possible, we have seen that the short-term inconvenience of station rehabilitation projects has been more than offset by the long-term economic benefits that modernized stations bring to Chicago’s neighborhoods," said Catherine Hosinski, a CTA spokeswoman.
The $13.6 million modernization project will not include adding an elevator for folks with disabilities or those who are hauling luggage or strollers.
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