As much of the country is recovering economically, things are starting to look a little brighter in St. Joseph, Michigan. The addition of four new storefronts this month has created a bustling downtown area.
Many tourists flock to the Southwestern Michigan beach town for vacation, and this summer tourists can peruse some new shops including Grins, an “I Heart St. Joseph” t-shirt shop, Yo Bubbs and Port St. Joseph.
This past weekend Yo Bubbs frozen yogurt and Port St. Joseph fast food were the very latest to join the ranks of the city’s downtown, with Grins and “I Heart St. Joseph” opening up the weekend before.
Port St. Joseph was full of customers at lunchtime on Wednesday afternoon. It has quickly become a popular lunch spot for pulled pork and macaroni and cheese prepared in part by the restaurant’s co-owner, Larry Vliet.
“I thought there was a need for just fast food, good food,” says Vliet. He and co-owner Tracy Otrowski own another storefront just two doors down. They’re entrepreneurship is part of the reason why there are nearly no more vacant spaces for rental and ownership in the business district.
Two doors down in the opposite direction is family-owned and operated, Yo Bubbs. As the only frozen yogurt place in the nearby area, Yo Bubbs owners say they wanted to add something new, and healthy, to the scenery.
“We've been talking about opening it for the last couple of years and it was kind of a joke, and then about six weeks ago we were eating breakfast and decided to just go for it,” says Bobby Walsh, one of the family members owning and running the fro-yo shop, “we feel it's the absolute best yogurt out there. We've tried a bunch of different stuff, a bunch of different companies and this is by far the best.”
Plans to open both Port St. Joseph and Yo Bubbs came about fairly quickly. Otrowski says they decided to buy the space in January so the plans and preparation took the pair about six months to complete.
The arrival of new shops and stores are a good sign for the burgeoning downtown. Owners hope that the flow of people they saw this weekend will continue throughout the summer months.