The Aux Hosts Final Public Tour Before 2024 Grand Opening – Evanston RoundTable

Co-founder Tosha Wilson, a co-owner of The Laundry Cafe, speaks at The Aux on Thursday morning at 2223 Washington St. Credit: Carlos D. Williamson

The Aux, a diverse group of Black-owned businesses aimed at promoting health and wellness through a wide variety of goods, services and resources, hosted a final pre-opening public tour of its facility on Thursday, Sept. 14.

The tour, according to co-founder Tosha Wilson, would be the last look inside the former potato processing plant at 2223 Washington St. before it opens in 2024.

The Evanston City Council awarded The Aux $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding in April 2022, and the business incubator has also received other large donations, including $500,000 from the Mather senior living residence and $500,000 from NorthShore University HealthSystem.

In all, 10 small business tenants are set to occupy the 16,500-square-foot facility and will have the help of 30 vendors and suppliers to keep operations running smoothly.

‘Representation matters’

Wilson and her cousin Jacqui White, who both have law enforcement backgrounds, are co-owners of The Laundry Cafe, a coffee shop/laundromat concept planned for The Aux. Wilson said she remembers the thriving Black businesses from her childhood in the Second Ward and hopes The Aux will help restore a sense of pride in the community.

“I mentioned earlier [at the event] that representation matters,” Wilson said. “And the representation has kind of died out. And so, whether it’s the people or the kids, or folks who work here now, they don’t see it like I did.”

Wilson listed the Robinson Bus Co., co-founded by local entrepreneur Leon G. Robinson Jr., as one of many prominent businesses in the community before it was acquired. Robinson was one of the largest Black-owned transportation carriers in the country.

“These were things that were normal for us,” Wilson said. “And we want to make Black business normal. Maybe one day we can stop saying ‘Black business’ and just make it ‘great business.’ We are the product. We just want to give Evanston what it gave us because Evanston gave us a lot.”

Embrace Your Crown owner Tiffany Wilson, as the name of her salon suggests, wants her clients looking their best and feeling empowered once they leave her shop. But she does much more than help improve their personal appearance.

The Evanston native was required by law to take a continuing education course in domestic violence awareness.

“We are counselors,” Wilson said. “Hairstylists are counselors. I cannot tell you the amount of information I get from people, just talking to them. So I, as a cosmetologist, have to recognize when someone is being abused, and I have to sometimes report it.”

Co-founder Tiffini Holmes speaks to the crowd at The Aux facility tour on Thursday, Sept. 14. Credit: Carlos D. Williamson

The Aux co-founder Tiffini Holmes said her goal is to provide residents with total community wellness, which goes beyond physical fitness to address mental and emotional health as well.

Some of the other tenants set for The Aux include Chef Q’s Kitchen, Well Beings Chicago, Studio Aux, Sunshine Enterprise, TBF Diagnostic, The Growing Season and Sokana Collective.

Carlos D. Williamson is a reporter and Racial Justice Fellow for the Evanston RoundTable. He earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and received a Fulbright… More by Carlos D. Williamson

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