After Fire Destroys Evanston Businesses, Donors Chip In Over $100,000

EVANSTON, IL — Ten days after a fire tore through four Evanston small businesses, community members had donated more than $105,000 to online fundraisers to help their owners.

The three-alarm blaze began in the basement of a one-story mixed-use building at the corner of Greenleaf Street and Wesley Avenue in Evanston’s West End neighborhood and burned for nearly four hours before fire crews were able to bring it under control.

The fire “ravaged the structure,” leading to the collapse of its roof, officials said. No one was inside the building at the time, and no firefighters were injured in the blaze.

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Ware Ceramic Studio was among the devastated business.

Co-founder Julia Finlayson said she rushed over to the fire as soon as she heard, thinking it would be quickly extinguished but ended up watching “huge flames engulf the whole structure.”

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Finlayson, , who makes ceramics under the brand Grandmont Street, was “so close” to launching a new collection and had invested in photography equipment in preparation, she said in her online fundraiser.

But nothing could be salvaged from the condemned structure.

“Ceramics is not a hobby to me,” Finlayson said, “it’s my livelihood. It’s how I pay the bills. But more than that, I found ceramics late in life and cannot imagine doing anything else. It feels dramatic to say I’m called to it. But I am.”

Her GoFundMe fundraiser, “Please help me restart my ceramics business,” had raised nearly $34,000 from 330 donations as of Thursday evening.

Ware Ceramic Studio Co-founder Joanna Kramer is also the beneficiary of a GoFundMe campaign. A fundraiser launchd by Emily Grayson and Susie Pratt had raised more than $29,000 from 366 donations by Thursday.

“Joanna is blown away by the swift and generous support from this community — thank you all so very much,” Grayson and Pratt said in a message in the “Help Joanna Kramer Ceramics Rebuild after Fire” fundraiser. “Although we have technically met the goal, her needs are actually greater.”

Amber Matthews and Stephanie Samuel started Fireheads Clay Studio last July in the building with the hopes of establishing a low-cost space for emerging ceramics artists.

They said in their fundraising appeal that they were just hitting their stride when the fire broke out, resulting in a nearly complete loss of the business.

“Since then, the outpouring of support has been overwhelming,” said Matthews and Samuels, whose fundraiser had collected nearly $16,000 as of Thursday. “It is a beautiful reminder that the community we have, is invested in our vision, and continues to support us on our journey, despite this horrible setback. “

Another GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $22,000 on behalf of Shaina Young, who opened a workout studio in the business in 2022.

“Funds will cover Shaina’s loss of income, a down-payment on a new studio space, and new exercise equipment,” organizer Diana Hamann said in the description of the “Help Shaina Young Rebuild Her Business after Fire” fundraiser.

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Local photography company Stuart-Rodgers, which had an office in the building, started a fundraiser for donations to the other three businesses.

“100% of the donations to this campaign will be distributed to the amazing neighbors who we were honored to share our building with; Ware Ceramics Studio, Fireheads Clay Studio, and At Home Wellness; we have nothing but thanks for the gift it all has been to share the space with you. Our goal is to help them transition so they can continue the great work they do,” owners Scott and Cassandra Rodgers said in a message accompanying the “Greenleaf Fire Relief” fundraiser, which had raised about $4,000 as of Thursday.

“Our commitment is to rebuild and re-create the space that has hosted so much positive energy. We have started the process and are optimistic that down the line we will share a new space the brings an equal amount of energy and joy to the area,” the Rodgers said.

Earlier: Overnight Fire ‘Ravages’ Local Business On Greenleaf In Evanston

Editor’s note: GoFundMe is a Patch promotional partner.

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