New investments being made in the future of the Upper Peninsula

Businesses are popping up across the Upper Peninsula like morels on a warm spring day. From the tiny town of Naubinway to robust Marquette, clever entrepreneurs are bringing new ventures to the U.P. for both locals and the multitude of tourists that visit the area.

Naubinway

A good example of continued growth in the economy of the U.P. is the adoba hotel in Naubinway. After sitting vacant for 7 years, the adoba, located within walking distance of beautiful Lake Michigan and on one of the busiest thoroughfares in the U.P., is now a destination for travelers to the area, according to owners, Leslie Chapman and Jim Henderson, originally from the Detroit area.

Chapman and Henderson bought the hotel in October of 2015 and remodeled and repurposed it as part of their adoba brand, which replaced the 37 year-old Hyatt brand in Dearborn in 2010.

Travelers arriving at the adoba in Naubinway can expect a genuine U.P. experience,  eating breakfast made from locally sourced and organic products. And eco-conscious travelers can rest assured that the bed they're sleeping in is made from sustainable products, such as bamboo. The frames were hand built by Clare Bedding in Escanaba.

"With the combined advantages of its beautiful location and advertisement of the surrounding area through Pure Michigan, we felt this was a solid investment," says Chapman. One of the biggest surprises for the owners was the international travelers who found their hotel. Chapman says 34 percent of the visitors during peak season were internationals, coming from China and India mostly, but also Europe.

Marquette

Something is always happening in Marquette, and this past year was no exception. Several businesses opened in the area that will continue to make Marquette a destination as well as a great place to permanently hang your hat.

Finding that perfect fitting running shoe, or any shoe for that matter, can be a little difficult if you don't have a human being to pinch the end of your toe. The fitness experts at the new Queen City Running Club will get you connected to a great fitting running shoe. Shops like this one not only sell running shoes and other running products, they help keep runners and athletes connected to each other in the community by hosting and promoting running events. Queen City Running Club, located at 119 Baraga Ave. in Marquette, is locally owned. The staff there have been fitting shoes since 1946.

The Flying Moose also opened in 2016, adding to the eclectic vibe of downtown Marquette, and geared toward the growing segment of the population interested in local and organic food. The self described "modern general store" ain't like your grandpa's (great-grandpa's?) general store. However, it has that same rustic appeal as the old general stores, only with a modern twist. It's a great one-stop for outdoorsy folks looking for both trail food and new gear.

When you walk through the doors of the Flying Moose you'll be drawn to the many quirky gift items as well as quality bikes and outdoor gear, including Frost River packs, camping, hunting and fishing gear. Plan your trip around lunch as they serve sandwiches, soups, brewed coffee, and tons of options for snacks and healthy drinks. They also serve up specialty wine, beer and local brews. They're located in downtown Marquette at 351 W. Washington St.

Sault Ste. Marie

In the last couple of years the "Soo" has added several businesses that are drawing people downtown, including a winery, another pub and a combined coffee shop, bar and outfitters.

It looks like there are even more good things to come for the Soo and surrounding area, which is already reaping the benefits of the MIchigan Main Street program. Joshua Billington, senior business development consultant with SBDC Michigan, says "it's been a very busy season" despite it being winter, with inquiries coming into his office regarding doing business in Sault Ste. Marie and the EUP. Some of that interest is coming from our Canadian friends north of the border, according to Billington.

While many of these businesses are trying to establish themselves, a new one has popped up in a stately building near the Soo Locks. Les Townsend owns the former Traverse Bay Woolen Company building and runs a gift shop, Island Books & Crafts, out of the front section facing Portage Ave. Last year the building got a nice facelift, thanks to some grant funding. As a result, it attracted Andrea and Ron Donmeyer, who had been wanting to open a store to sell maternity clothes and unique baby gift items.

"The part we're in hasn't been used in 40 years., it was used for storage," says Ron Donmeyer. "Then, when the windows were put in, it showed the potential as a really nice store front."

The couple's specialty shop, bUmP&tot,  is appealing to expectant mothers as well as everyone looking to spoil a baby. Their unique baby gift items include baby Stormy Kromer hats and "Smitten by the Mitten" wares, made by a downstate company.

Escanaba

Escanaba is also benefiting from facade improvements that will surely bring more folks through the doors of businesses in this city in the "banana belt" of the U.P. In 2016, $1.3 million was spent on the facelifts, and $831,000 of that came from grant funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Businesses benefiting from the storefront makeovers include Jim's Music, Beautiful Beginnings, Grandmark LLC (Raymond James Financial Services and Family Eye Care), 2 Lane Properties (Weight Watchers and the Jade Room), and the Ludington Grill.

There's also a brand-new business in Escanaba which should make a lot of people happy. Happy Days, an ice cream parlor with an old-fashioned look that sells ice cream, hot dogs and other food, should be a good draw, especially this summer. It is located at 922 Ludington St.

If the arrival of more big box stores is any sign of economic growth, then Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie are on their way up. Both cities are getting Meijer stores in 2017. Both stores will have a gas station, Starbucks and a branch of Huntington Bank. The Meijer store in Sault Ste. Marie will employ about 300 people, according to Sault Ste Marie city manager Oliver Turner.

Escanaba is also adding an Aldi grocery store, which is currently in the construction phase. According to an article in Escanaba's Daily Press, the $1.3 million project will consist of a 19,861-square-foot building on 2.27 acres, located right across from the new Meijer. Aldi's is a discount grocer that has found clever ways to save money on overhead so they can pass it along to shoppers. It's the first grocery store I've been in where the cashiers are allowed to work from a comfortable chair! Shoppers at Aldi's should be comfortable with the prices.

Neil Moran is a freelance and copywriter and owner of Haylake Business Communications. Neil assists businesses with advertising copy, blog posts, white papers, articles, and other digital content.
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