A growing enthusiasm

Schyler Binkley, co-owner of Daybreak Gallery & Studio, stands with some of the art at his studio on Monday. Binkley opened his studio in November and cited the Vogue Theatre restoration as a deciding factor in the timing of his opening.

New downtown business owners share optimism

MANISTEE — With all of the new projects and businesses popping up downtown, many downtown stakeholders are optimistic that the area is heading in the right direction.

“I really think that there’s a lot of pieces coming together for downtown right now,” said Travis Alden, Manistee Main Street/Downtown Development Authority director.

The Vogue Theatre and Blue Fish restaurant, two large incoming downtown businesses, have been widely discussed as large “catalyst” projects that will impact the city when they open later this year. However, other smaller businesses are currently open or in the process of opening and are just as important to downtown revitalization, according to Alden.

There are at least three small downtown businesses in the process of opening: Zoelle’s Consignment & Boutique, Sara’s Downtown Hair Designs and a bakery on Division Street.

“There’s a long way to go in terms of what our vision is, but I think we are really getting to the point now where, you get a couple of these catalyst projects (Vogue Theatre and Blue Fish), and you get some other complementary types of businesses, and it really lays a strong foundation that we can build off of,” Alden said.

When projects such as the Vogue Theatre and Blue Fish are complete, Alden states that there will be more people in town spending more money and ultimately making the area more desirable for prospective entrepreneurs.

“Its kind of a corny analogy but if you think of downtown revitalization as a puzzle, things like the Vogue and the Blue Fish are like the edge pieces,” he explained. “As you build the edge, everything inside becomes a lot easier. That’s where we really see those as catalyst projects.

“Whenever you are able to walk down River Street and see scaffolding up and people working on a building, or you see people putting in new lighting fixtures, or moving inventory into a new space, that’s all good,” he added. “That all shows that people are investing into downtown and that there’s activity.”

Sara’s Downtown Hair Designs, at 335 River Street in Manistee, has recently been renovated and is nearly ready to open.

In addition to the businesses that are in various stages of opening, Alden reported that he is constantly in discussions with prospective business owners talking about the town, specific buildings and viability of potential business ideas.

One such entrepreneur who consulted with Alden is Schyler Binkley, co-owner of Daybreak Gallery & Studio. Binkley opened Daybreak in November, noting the Vogue as one deciding factor.

“We had a good Christmas season and it’s been pretty slow through the winter but it seems like it’s picking up now,” he said. “We saw things happening down here with the Vogue and the new restaurant and it seemed like a good time (to open).”

Rachel Edmondson is another prospective downtown business owner planning to open Zoelle’s Consignment & Boutique at 431 River St. in early May.

“I grew up in Brethren and River Street is just so historic, it’s one of a kind,” she said. “For someone who has lived here their whole life, it’s kind of the perfect place to have a business. I think times are changing. When you walk down River Street, (you see) those buildings that were empty being worked on, you see other stores opening. It’s exciting.”

Edmondson said she has been welcomed to the downtown community by the nearby business owners, many of whom desire to see a revitalized downtown Manistee.

“This summer, with all of those open, it’s going to make downtown feel like a different place,” Alden said. “I think that’s important, when people start to feel that there’s a new life and new energy. That is what gets people motivated.”

 

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky

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