NORTHERN MICHIGAN — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on Monday that 35 Michigan communities will receive $807,673 in grants to go to local businesses through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Match on Main grant program.
The cities of Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Sault Ste. Marie were among the grant recipients, all receiving $25,000 for local businesses to help strengthen the downtown areas.
Local Main Street programs narrowed down applications to the strongest candidates and then submitted them to the state, who would choose the final candidates and the amounts awarded. The state could choose multiple candidates and choose whether to fully or partially fund a request.
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“(The grant) helps ensure that (businesses) will succeed during the hardest possible time, which is during the startup phase. We’ve awarded some grants to businesses that have been here for several years, but needed a little refresh, per se. And essentially, what that does is just help strengthen our district overall, and ensure that doors aren’t closing,” Charlevoix DDA Executive Director Lindsey Dotson said.
“There are always unexpected expenses, so this helps provide a little bit of a cushion during those uncertain times. So that (businesses) have a chance to make it basically.”
In Charlevoix, a fairly new specialty grocery store called J. Bird Provisions will receive $25,000 to invest in equipment like a walk-in cooler, utilize the outdoor space overlooking Round Lake with a covered patio and igloos for winter, update the building and make interior updates that would allow owner Jessica Nagel to get a liquor license.
J. Bird Provisions opened in July at 109 Bridge Park Dr. on Round Lake near the marina and Beaver Island Ferry. Nagel said her goal has been to make J. Bird Provisions into a go-to place for people to stop before a day on the water.
Nagel said she is honored to have received the funds and that it will make a big difference for her growing business.
“The community is amazing. So many locals and tourists alike have just been super supportive and have lovely words of encouragement,” Nagel said. “(It’s) just another layer of great community support. So many people have come in to congratulate me, so it really meant a lot.”
Melody’s Lane, a made-in-Michigan gift shop that has been in Cheboygan for 12 years, expanded the business to include a bookstore in the last three years. The building at 334 Main St. is over 100 years old and currently going through a renovation, so owner Kevin Kemper decided to apply for a $25,000 grant to pay for updates like painting, new book fixtures and other cosmetic fixes.
“(The grant) actually will enhance the bookstore part of (the business) because the bookstore is kind of one of those things that they’ve always wanted in Cheboygan. There have been bookstores in the past and they’ve missed it so the community is really, really supportive of that whole concept,” Kemper said.
“And then the other half of our business is on Michigan Made products, which is also embraced quite a bit. So we’re kind of meshing the two together and it gives us one more unique shop on Main Street and that makes Main Street better as a whole.”
Up north in Sault Ste. Marie, Prim Aesthetics at 225 Ashmun St., is a medical spa that opened in March 2021. Nurse practitioner and operations manager Meghan Hanna said she was surprised when they received the full $25,000 grant they had applied for because their application was unusual compared to others.
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Prim Aesthetics will be using the grant money to pay off their Hydrafacial machine, a machine-assisted facial device that infuses serums into the deepest layers of the skin while suctioning out impurities. Hanna said the machine has about 60 different patents and allows them to customize the facial to the client.
The machine and all of its components cost about $35,000 and Prim Aesthetics had already invested in it when they decided to apply for the grant. According to Hanna, clients were regularly asking about hydrafacials and some were driving to Traverse City or Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario for their treatments.
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Before receiving the grant, Hanna estimated that the hydrafacial machine would take about two years to pay off, but with the $25,000, they will be able to pay it off and continue to reinvest in the business in other ways. Hanna said they are hoping to expand into a bigger space in the next couple of years and invest in other equipment such as laser treatments.
“I think (this investment) just opens it up as kind of a sign that downtown district in Sault Ste. Marie is growing more forward thinking. These treatments have been around for years in places like Petoskey and Traverse City. I think it just shows that we’re committed to a more progressive type of an environment,” Hanna said.
“We were unsure about our grant application because it was really a unique type of request to put something in the cosmetic or beauty industry. We were pleasantly surprised that they had that type of confidence in us.”
— Contact reporter Tess Ware at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter, @Tess_Petoskey.