New business owners are finding space to set up shop on Michigan Avenue.
In the same building that has held Ermisch Travel since 1968, a co-work space and buy local market have emerged to bring 10 businesses to the downtown area. The new vendors say they have been able to find a niche for services aren’t already offered downtown.
Christy Wonderly is the first vendor customers see at 26 E. Michigan Ave. Wonderly began selling her fair-trade organic loose leaf teas at the Springfield Farmers Market in 2013. She said she decided to move downtown to get more foot traffic to her product.
“I think that the market was a good starting point but we needed to grow beyond that and this is a better location because of the traffic and it’s more accessible,” Wonderly said.
With the help of her daughter Jessica Lazarus, the Tea Leaf offers gluten-free and vegan-friendly sandwiches and snacks with the tea.
Before the co-work space and buy local market were introduced to Battle Creek, the last new business to be welcomed downtown was Sweet Kreations For You, a dessert shop on the opposite end of Michigan Avenue.
On July 1, the Battle Creek City Commission approved food trucks on Jackson Avenue after a nearly year-long debate between potential truckers and restaurant owners.
Although a few restaurant owners opposed food trucks downtown, Wonderly said she was welcomed with open arms. Starbucks is a few blocks away and the local coffee shop, Brownstone Coffee, is just down the street, but neither offer her specific product.
“I think it’s very beneficial,” said Wonderly. “Especially when you bring in something that isn’t available or isn’t even here.”
Wonderly said she hopes to one day open a storefront of her own, but her business is too small and the prices are too high to do so at the moment.
“It breaks my heart to walk down the street and see all those empty potential spaces,” Wonderly said.
Cathreen LaGrand said she used to have a storefront many years ago, but didn’t think it was worth the trouble to sell her natural skin care line. The owner of Sweet Sky Organics has sold her product in various stores, but said the move downtown last month has increased sales and given customers easier access.
“They’ve contacted me to get things directly,” LaGrand said. “It’s convenient for them to have a place to go.”
There are 10 businesses within the co-work space, six within the buy local market. The Tea Leaf, Pop City Popcorn, Roma Café Spices and Sweet Sky Organics are all new businesses to the downtown area within the buy local market.
The market also houses entrepreneurs who have local products. That’s one thing Jessica Lazarus, Wonderly’s daughter, said she enjoys about having the business on Michigan Avenue.
I like the vibe it gives off,” Lazarus said. “It’s such a good community type feeling down here already that we can just expand on that.”
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