WE HAVE ANOTHER vacancy in what has to be considered the very center of downtown Marquette: the 100 block of West Washington Street.
Che Bello, the women’s and men’s clothing store, has just shut down after four years in business. They’ll just be selling their apparel online from now on.
No reason given for the closure.
That makes at least three vacancies on the block–joining the former location of Boomerang which moved to the corner of Washington and Front Street after Darling closed down, and the still empty space formerly occupied by SNAP Fitness.
A tough retail climate? An always slow winter? Family or financial problems? Lotta reasons for closing down. Even in the center of a revived downtown.
You gotta hope that springtime will bring renewed faith and prosperity to business men and women willing to put their money, energy and time on the line.
NOW ABOUT THAT big hole alongside the Hampton Inn on the lakeshore.
With any sort of luck, it’ll be filled in starting this summer, first with an underground garage, then with the long awaited One Marquette Place.
Three-quarters of the financing–all local–is in place. The partners in the project are expecting to pull in a national partner within the next month so that construction can begin once the snow melts.
The parking garage financing is set–$4.7 million worth. The rest of the project–64 high end apartments along with offices and a cafe–should come in at around $13 million.
Construction was to have commenced last year but these types of projects generally take longer than anticipated.
HERE’S A BUSINESS that’s not having many problems: Lakestate Industries out on M-28.
Lakestate, which employs people with mental and physical disabilities, recently picked up a big contract to hand-stamp the Trenary Toast bags. That’ll be 700-1000 bags a day. It’ll give the bag a better, more authentic look. Until now, they’ve been machine-stamped.
The Lakestate folks, who have an even bigger facility in Escanaba, are diversifying. Not only are they working with Trenary Toast, they continue making furniture and wooden palettes, shredding papers for businesses, stuffing envelopes for mailing campaigns, providing janitor services, and of course, producing the increasingly famous fire-starters.
The fire-starters–shredded and recycled papers in a toilet paper roll–are now shipped all over the country. Anybody who’s ever used them knows they’re a remarkably efficient way to start an otherwise balky and reluctant fire.
Lakestate had 36 employees in Marquette County just two years ago. Now it’s got 76. That’s growth.
And the word is, they’re thinking about opening a little cafe and a showroom for their goods out on M-28. More irons in the fire.
AH, THE POWER of Facebook.
Mark Barrows recently opened his Big Burger Grille in Harvey with no big sign out front and no advertising campaign. A soft launch is what he wanted so that he could iron out the kinks in his new business.
Well, Facebook fans found out about it and spread the news fast. And the crowds showed up, at times putting a strain on his staff of nine.
Barrows is happy, of course. Just a little overwhelmed.
It’s a burger joint that also offers hot dogs, wings and a chicken sandwich. Basic fast food fare. Big Burger Grille shares the space with Main Street Pizza, which Barrows also owns, so he’s offering something for everyone.
So far so good.
FOR THE LAST year we’ve been hearing about the formation of an Angel Investors group in Marquette.
Well, they’re finally getting together for their first formal meeting this week at the Landmark.
Dinner, drinks, networking and most important, presentations by three young tech-type companies: ProNav Marine, NeuroTrainer, and MicroDevice Engineering.
The companies, out of Houghton and Marquette, all have promising products and are looking for investors. The companies will make their pitches and answer questions from the potential investors. Kinda like Shark Tank, minus the meanness.
Angel investors–those who have at least a million dollars in assets aside from their homes and are willing to take a risk on promising, young companies–are a vital part of any community hoping to attract technology entrepreneurs.
At last count, the local angel investors group claimed fourteen members. Nationwide, there are about 13,000 angel investors.
SPEAKING OF ENTREPRENEURS, Marquette’s SmartPrize competition starts next month, April 2nd though the 11th.
It’s the first time ever for the event sponsored by Travel Marquette.
The idea is this: attract aspiring entrepreneurs with new ideas for any type of business, and let the people in town decide who they like the best…and let a group of expert judges pick their winner, as well.
And then give away at least $20,000 in prize money to the winners.
The 10 day event will also feature a summit at NMU where all entrepreneurs will learn more about how to market their ideas and start their businesses.
TravelMarquette had been hoping to attract 20 competitors for SmartPrize. Looks more like it’ll be only 10-15. Sometimes you gotta start small and learn to grow.
What’s clear, though, is that Marquette–with the advent of the Smartzone, the formation of the Angel Investors group, and now the SmartPrize competition–is forging a new and exciting path for itself.
Which is wonderful as long as that path doesn’t destroy what’s important to so many of us: the purity of the lake and the air, and the beauty of the hills and the trees.
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