Shoppers, walkers, and visitors can stroll down Main Street and still see signs of the past present today — literally. A trolley stop sign still stands on the walkway as a reminder of the days when trolleys ran up and down the street in the early 19th century and again in the 1980s when the road was widened to allow gas-powered trolley buses.
The walkway along Main Street was completed soon after in 1986 after closing the two-way, four-lane thoroughfare to traffic in 1971. It wasn’t until 2002 that one lane of traffic going south was allowed to return. With the opening of the Ford Center in 2011, traffic was reversed and cars now drive north.
“We have had two-way traffic, and now the traffic heads from the river to the Ford Center,” says Jan Howell, owner of Emge’s Deli and Ice Cream.
Main Street, which has been covered in various stories for both Evansville Business and Evansville Living, has become synonymous with the growing Downtown district. Businesses, restaurants, and boutique shops all have flourished along Main in the last few years and have grown into a community all their own.
“I do think getting to meet and know this diversified group of people is exciting and educational,” says Joseph Mulroy, owner of Decades of Design. “It’s almost like its own little separate community.”
This feeling of community has drawn new businesses to the iconic Downtown street, like Tracy Klemczewski’s Outside the Gift Box which opened last June. She says her family always loved Main Street and walking along the riverfront. When Klemczewski decided to open her own business, she knew it had to be on Main.
“I’ve met a lot of people who own shops, and they all are so accepting and friendly,” she says. “It feels like home.”
While some may think this breeds a competitive market, each business fits in to the larger Main Street puzzle. Howell says she knows if a customer is looking for fries, she can send them to Peephole. If someone at Peephole is looking for a ham sandwich, they will send them to Emge’s.
“What I have found in 43 years of business is we’re not competing with each other,” says Howell. “We’re each doing our own thing. People like a variety of businesses, shopping, and eateries. People like choices, and the Main Street businesses have something for everyone. It’s a good city feel.”