Committee working on filling MP’s storefronts
Editor’s note: The Mt. Pleasant News will be including its annual progress section with the July 26 News. The following story serves as a lead-in to the section.
With 12 vacant storefronts in the downtown area, Main Street Mt. Pleasant Director Lisa Oetken is excited about the possibilities that will come with some new changes in recruiting tactics.
“The main thing we are working on for this year is our action plan for the year,” said Oetken. “We are making a list of what kind of businesses we feel would fit in Mt. Pleasant and be a good mix with what we already have.”
Right now, downtown Mt. Pleasant has a dozen vacancies, according to Oetken, not including the Union Block building.
Oetken is working with the Main Street Business Improvement Committee to improve retention and recruitment for retailers downtown.
Other members of the committee include Paula Kinney, Brian Jones, Steve Gray, Josh Maher, Kiley Miller, Brent Schleisman and Anne Davidson.
The committee discovered a town, Grand Haven, Mich., approximately the same size as Mt. Pleasant with a good business recruitment plan, and decided to model their action plan after Grand Haven’s.
“They have got it printed out for us. There is a business guide, how they went about recruiting businesses, and having lease papers that we would need for real estate,” noted Oetken.
“We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, and that is a benefit of being a main street community,” said Oetken. “We have help from other main street communities. That will help us recruit businesses. We are at the point where we have to start aggressively looking for people to fill these spots.”
Aside from a new action plan, the committee also entered all of the downtown vacancies onto a statewide database, Location One Information System (LOIS), to improve Mt. Pleasant’s visibility to potential businesses.
“They can look at LOIS and say that a building might be something they want. We put all of our vacancies on there, not just downtown. Everything from the old Blue Bird building to buildings downtown,” said Oetken.
While 12 buildings downtown are currently sitting vacant, not all 12 of them were emptied in this past year. The empty space isn’t a bad thing, noted Oetken.
“We may have only had one or two buildings vacated this year. Most have been sitting empty (for some time). We have always had some buildings empty. It is healthy that way so we can change the mix of businesses that we have,” said Oetken. “They kind of rotate around because people move for a better location or expand in a different location. A bigger problem to have would be to have no vacancies and have to pass up on a good business that would have come our way.”
One obstacle that new businesses in Mt. Pleasant face, according to Oetken, is the large storefronts that the downtown has to offer.
“These are not small storefronts. It makes it hard for a new business to come in because that is a lot of inventory for them to have right away,” said Oetken.
The Main Street Improvement Committee encourages new businesses to have different vendors inside the store to help alleviate the stress of trying to have such a large inventory right away.
“It is a great business plan, because then it wouldn’t be just one person taking all the risk,” pointed out Oetken. “It would be a bunch of vendors. There is a good example of that in the old JC Penneys building in Washington. You walk in and it is like a bunch of little shops inside. We are seeing more and more people do that. It is just a smart mix.”
Along with finding completely new types businesses to come to Mt. Pleasant, the committee looks to build on the retail opportunities already existing in town.
“We are looking at which of our existing stores are doing well and we could use that as a niche to build on,” said Oetken. “We have a bridal store, so maybe we could focus on bringing more businesses geared towards weddings to complement that business.
“Obviously we have a lot of salons, so we might be able to bring in another type of pampering business that could fit. We are looking at those types of things,” she continued.