The Chicago-Main Newsstand’s Depression-era neon sign glows in the shadow of the nearby ‘L’ stop. The store was almost a park, almost a coffeehouse, but against all odds, it’s still a fully functioning newsstand and a thriving historical landmark.
The same family owned and operated the newsstand from its opening in the 1930s until 1993, but the CTA owned the land and the City of Evanston owned the building itself. When the stand’s rent increased, the original owners closed the shop down and the building stood vacant for eight years. Current owner Joe Angelastri, who founded City Newsstand in Chicago in 1978, re-opened the stand in 2001.
“Some of the businesses [in Evanston] knew about us,” Angelastri says. “We had a bit of a reputation of being a big newsstand, and they called up and said, ‘Why don’t you come over here and see if you could open up this old newsstand and start running it again?’”
While the newsstand serves mostly Evanston residents, the occasional out-of-town shopper stops by, both for eclectic magazines like Teddy Bear Times or Beads and Buttons, and for the novelty of visiting a newsstand in a digital age.
“There’s still a lot of interest in just getting away from the electronic screens, you know, holding something in your hands,” Eric Ismond, newsstand manager, says. “It’s a different kind of experience. The feel of the paper, the kind of reproduction of images, that kind of thing. It’s a different sensation of reading on paper versus reading on screen.”
But Chicago-Main Newsstand is still, for the most part, for the regulars. They tend to be older Evanston residents, who come in daily for daily newspapers or visit weekly or monthly to grab each issue of their favorite magazine. Commuters on the Purple Line stop by in the mornings, afternoons and early evenings on their way to and from work.
Fred Jennings is one of those loyal customers; Chicago-Main has been a part of his life since it was still under construction when he was 16 years old. He left Evanston as an adult, but when he moved back in 1989, he fell into the newsstand routine again. Now 74 years old, Jennings browses the newsstand about once a week, looking at photography magazines and whatever else catches his eye.
“It may feel different,” Jennings says. “But it’s still my favorite place to come.”
Another newsstand regular, Teresa Collins, moved to Evanston in 2012 and wandered into the stand one day. She tries to come by every other month to look around at canoeing, kayaking and gardening magazines.
“It’s a cool store,” Collins says. “I’m old, and I prefer to touch it, feel it, read it, hold it in my hands.”
Aside from obscure and niche publications like Chickens, Coin World and Veranda Magazine that regularly line the shelves, Chicago-Main stocks a few Evanston-centric books, including Northwestern Wildcat Football, The ABCs of Evanston, and special editions of certain publications. They were also one of only a handful of American stores to sell the comeback issue of Charlie Hebdo following the January 2015 terrorist attack on the satirical newspaper. The day after President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the stand sold hundreds of papers, with customers lined up outside the store waiting for multiple deliveries.
Ismond says that while prominent publications have gone out of business, moved online or switched to direct sales only and the amount of ads in magazines and papers has decreased, the stand is still as busy as ever.
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult with all the changes in the industry,” Angelastri says. “It’s not the heydays of ink and paper, but we think it’s still going to be here.”