20 businesses that opened or closed in southwest Michigan in 2020
SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — It is no surprise that 2020 has affected the business landscape in southwest Michigan.
Many businesses have struggled to make ends meet amid constant changes in COVID-19 precautions and orders. This has led to some much-loved businesses closing their doors for good.
However, not all is doom and gloom. Some businesses have adapted to new protocols and thrived. Others have made the brave decision to open their doors amid a global pandemic. To reflect the strange year our business community has had, Leader Publications will be taking a look at 20 businesses that opened and closed in 2020 within our coverage area.
The newest business to open in Niles is its first brewery. Niles Brewing Company opened in early December after several years of planning. Owner Brandon Townsley has called his opening the making of a dream come true. Of his already released brews, Townsley has been embracing his creative side by releasing experimental flavors such as pumpkin cheesecake and caramel apple along with more traditional ales.
OPENED: Mariah’s Closet, 113 Commercial St., Dowagiac
In April, downtown Dowagiac said hello to Mariah’s closet. Owner Beth Clark started her purse and handbag business online in 2017, naming the venture after her stillborn daughter, Mariah. In 2020, Clark took the plunge to open a brick and mortar storefront. While the COVID-19 pandemic initially delayed the store’s open, Clark said she is happy to be selling in Dowagiac.
A brewery opened in Buchanan after years of planning and building.
River Saint Joe, a brewery built on hop farm Flatwater Farms’ property, opened in April. The farm-to-table brewery, which grows many of its own hops for its beer and produce for its food, was greenlit by Buchanan officials in 2017.
While owner Brian Dougherty said it was difficult to open in the middle of a global pandemic, he hoped the brewery would become a part of the Buchanan community.
The year began with heartbreak in Dowagiac when a beloved restaurant closed its doors.
In January, Zeke’s Restaurant, a Front Street staple for more than 30 years, permanently closed its doors. The owner, Ray Piecyk, said he was closing the restaurant because of his retirement.
“There’s no easy way to say this, but it is with a heavy heart and deepest regret we must inform everyone that Zeke’s is closed indefinitely,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “This decision was not made lightly, but unfortunately had to be made swiftly and with no other recourse.”
In February, the city of Dowagiac announced it had purchased the building Zeke’s used to occupy to ensure sufficient time could be given to seeking a new operator of the restaurant at the major entry point of downtown.
Niles residents’ cars got a little cleaner this year, thanks to a regional car wash chain opening a new Niles location.
In November, Drive and Shine opened for business on S. 11th Street in Niles. Haji Tehrani, owner of the company, has been operating a Mishawaka location for 25 years. Drive and Shine locations are known to have carwashes, a lube center and detailing services all in one spot.
Tehrani said he is pleased with his car wash location and hopes to help keep Niles’ cars fresh and clean for years to come.
OPENED: Dr. A’s Re-leaf Center, 26324 US-12, Edwardsburg
Marijuana business came to Edwardsburg in 2020.
Following approval over the summer, Dr. A’s Re-leaf Center, operated by Alverez Cultivation, opened in Edwardsburg’s former Lunker’s building in December. The shop sells both medical and adult-use marijuana.
While the addition of marijuana facilities in Edwardsburg is a change of pace for the village, Alverez CEO Stuart Ireland said one thing would remain the same — the iconic Lunker’s bass will stay atop the shop’s sign.
In January, downtown Dowagiac got its own pharmacy.
The business was opened by Kalamazoo resident Bhavesh Patel, who owns and operates eight independent pharmacies in Michigan.
Patel said he was drawn to the small town of Dowagiac because he saw a need for an independent pharmacy downtown. At the beginning of the year, he said he hoped his pharmacy would help make medications more accessible to the community via a delivery service.
CLOSED: Rub A Dub Doggy Pet Salon, 15 N. Second St., Niles
After 19 years of business, Rub A Dub Doggy Pet Salon in Niles closed after the retirement of its owner, Elaine Rohdy.
Rohdy said this year did not turn out to be the retirement she wanted due to COVID-19 shutdowns in a Facebook post.
“I really want to say goodbye to all of you personally, but the covid shu down has robbed me of that opportunity,” Rohdy wrote. “I wish you all the best. I want to thank all of you for trusting me with your babies for the last 19 years.”
Cassopolis resident Karyn Webster brought her own sense of tranquility to Cassopolis this year.
On the Mantle is a specialty shop that sells soap, skincare products and dog treats made by Webster, as well as art, clothing and jewelry from local artisans. Webster opened the shop over the summer. Webster offers classes in the space — everything from children’s art classes to making macramé plant holders to wine and canvas nights and more. Eventually, she hopes her shop can provide a space for the community, where children’s projects can be completed and yoga can take place on the weekends.
In December, a new tattoo studio set up shop in downtown Niles.
Yours Truly Studio LLC is owned and operated by Erika Meller. With more than 11 years of tattooing experience, Meller said she hopes to cultivate a relaxing atmosphere and creativity in her new shop. She is currently taking clients by appointment only.
Just before COVID-19 shutdowns hit the state, Julie Farver, a citizen with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, opened up her dream shop.
Four miles from downtown Dowagiac, Quilted Oak Leaf sells fabrics, quilts and quilting supplies, in addition to baby clothes and gifts. A quilter for 20 years, Farver said quilting tells a story — one she wanted to share with her community at her new shop. In addition to selling supplies, Farver shares her craft through classes offered at the shop. Not only does she provide quilting classes, but she also hopes to offer courses in other areas, including sign painting.
Before On the Mantle occupied the space at 149 Broadway St., it was operated by Deb Conley as the Artisan Shoppe, selling handcrafted items such as jewelry, knives, paintings, decorations, body care items and more. The Artisan Shoppe opened in 2018 next to Fifth Third Bank. In 2019, Conley moved to the larger location at 149 Broadway.
The store is now listed as permanently closed.
Creativity is at the center of a new restaurant in Niles.
Opened in December, Create Bar and Grill specializes in creative cocktails and dishes. General Manager Nate Barnett had initially been looking forward to debuting the space in the restaurant’s grand opening event on Black Friday but pushed back the opening due to COVID-19 restrictions. While the restaurant cannot currently open for dine-in customers, Barnett said that it would be a high-end, visual and taste experience when it does.
In October, the Sister Lakes community welcomed a grocery store for the first time in years.
La Perla Supermarket opened in the former home of Myers Super Valu, which closed in 2017 after owner Brad Myers sold the building to Octaviano Blanco, owner of Benton Harbor-based Mexican grocery chain La Perla Produce.
Blanco and his daughter, store director Lizaura Basave, have spent the bulk of the past two years remodeling the property to transform it into the chain’s third location.
Basave said she was happy La Perla could open and fill the need for a grocery store in the Sister Lakes area.
Downtown Niles got a little more serene after the opening of a new business in October.
Meghan Engledow opened Wrapped in Light LLC, a yoga studio in downtown Niles.
Describing her yoga as a “flowing style” Engledow said her studio open to practitioners of all skill levels. During restrictions on group fitness classes, Engledow also began selling items such as candles and sugar scrubs.
CLOSED: Pauly Mac’s at Four Lakes, 22786 US-12, Edwardsburg
After three years in business, Pauly Mac’s at Four Lakes in Edwardsburg permanently closed its doors on Dec. 19.
In a Facebook post, the owner said the closure was related to COVID-19 hardships and a decline in sales.
“We are wore out mentally, physically and financially,” wrote the owner, Pauly Mac. “We love and appreciate all of our customers and will miss the good times you have provided us with.”
This year, Tracy Saylor and Robin Bowman took their Etsy shop into the physical landscape with Salted Words’ opening at the beginning of the year.
Located in the former Division Tire in Dowagiac, Salted Words sells handmade, wooden signs decorated with words, phrases and designs. In addition to selling Saylor’s and Bowman’s designs, the pair plans to host DIY classes, events for children, various meetings and exercise classes.
High Profile Boutique Cannabis is just one of several marijuana businesses that has made its home in Buchanan.
Opened in July, High Profile is a retail dispensary for cannabis products, serving both medical and adult-use customers. High Profile’s parent company, C3 Industries, includes the dispensary locations and their product brand, Cloud Cover. With the business’ roots in Ann Arbor, C3 Industries’ chief executive officer Ankur Rungta said he is looking forward to growing further into southwest Michigan with the Buchanan location.
In November, downtown Niles welcomed a new retail storefront.
Bill and Elizabeth Keller opened Upcycled Artisan. The shop showcases the Kellers’ handmade items, vintage pieces and other local makers in the area. Elizabeth also uses the space to meet with interior design clients.
Before opening, the Kellers said they were excited to work together and join the downtown Niles business community.
This year, downtown Dowagiac lost one of its oldest-standing businesses.
After 70 years in downtown Dowagiac, Underwood Shoe Store closed following the retirement of its owner, Tom Underwood. During its time open, Underwood was family-owned and operated.
“We’ve been here for quite a while, and it’s time for retirement,” Underwood said. “It’s not feasible for our kids to take it over. Family-owned shoe stores are kind of like dinosaurs — you just don’t see them anymore.”
Tom’s father, John Underwood, founded Underwood Shoes in 1948 and moved the business to its final location, 147 S. Front St., in 1950.
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