Lakeshore businesses struggling through coronavirus impacts at start of summer

Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 5:50 PM EDT
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Many businesses along Lake Michigan depend on the summer months to survive.

16 News Now brings us an update on how COVID-19 is limiting their summer success.

Regardless of their side of the river, business owner in both St. Joseph and Benton Harbor say the pandemic couldn't have come at a worse time.

"Most people are at about 20 percent of where their numbers would normally be," said Phoenix Coffee Shop owner, Japhy Bartlett.

Bartlett says most small businesses in the Benton Harbor Arts District will lose money during the off-season, making summer earnings a priority.

"Normally we'd start to be profitable in the spring. Of course, quarantine crushed all of that. Now because we're already behind, we kind of need a crazy summer to come out even," he said.

Bartlett says these set-backs add to Benton Harbor's challenging business environment in particular.

"It's not great for down here. We've been working on overcoming local prejudice and people to come to Benton Harbor. St. Joe is obviously a huge tourist destination and that's starting to flow into Benton Harbor," he said.

Business owners on the other side of the river say they've struggled to keep up with their typical numbers, but sales are improving.

"During the week, I'm seeing a steady incline in business. On the weekends, it's kind of a whole other animal. There's a lot of people downtown," said Broad Street Cafe co-owner Vikki Groenendal.

Groenendal says the Broad Street Cafe is making half as much as they normally do, even with weekend surges.

With many big events in the area cancelling, she says it could get even worse.

"Just for the downtown purposes. So many events have been cancelled this summer, and we depend on those to keep the businesses open and running," Groenendal said.

While some are better off than others, the clock is ticking for these businesses to make enough to get through the off-season.

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