Outdoor dining expands in Downtown Mt. Pleasant thanks to pre-pandemic infrastructure and adaptation

Downtown businesses struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic could see increased foot traffic with new measures implemented by the City of Mt. Pleasant aimed to boost commerce.

The decision to temporarily close a section of Broadway Street between Main and University Streets will allow merchants to utilize the space so they can continue business while still following appropriate social distancing regulations.

“We started looking at what can we do for our small business community and what could be barriers for them when they do reopen,” says Michelle Sponseller, downtown development director for the City of Mt. Pleasant. “We knew that money was going to be tight for folks, so we approached the city commission and ask them if they would waive a variety of fees.”

Before Max and Emily's opens for the day, employee Bryan Wiles puts out tables and chairs so that customers may enjoy their meals outside.
Diners enjoy a beautiful day outdoors.
Sara Thompson (left) and Lauren Brooks enjoy lunch downtown on Monday, July 20.
Downtown restaurants such as Midori, Max and Emily’s , and Ponder Coffee Company and have offered outside dining as an option for years, but city officials hope the new incentives will help lower stress on managing capacity and occupant spacing for businesses.

“Having an outdoor patio is great, but then when we closed Broadway, it's like a sigh of relief,” says Sponseller. “Now, they don't have to worry about the capacity. All you have to worry about is your coffee — we'll handle the seating part.”

Pleasant City Coffee barista, Tom Tanner, serves a customer through the shop's new walk-up window on Monday, July 20.
Rosa from the MJ Murphy Beauty College in Mt. Pleasant, uses Pleasant City Coffee's new walk-up window to purchase a coffee.
Downtown recently got a fresh look when city officials painted picnic tables for downtown visitors to enjoy.
Pleasant City Coffee
recently added outdoor dining, something owner Joshua Agardy says they likely would not have been able to do if the city was not waiving the fees this year.

“We realized that COVID was going to prevent us from having indoor seating for a good amount of time going forward, so my logic was that I needed to have the outside seating in order to maintain any sort of customer flow in this crisis,” says Agardy.

Michelle Sponseller, Downtown Development Director for the City of Mt. Pleasant, paints a picnic table downtown. "This is our way of bringing some public art and vibrancy into downtown during a rather challenging time with COVID," says Sponseller. "Additionally, our business owners and visitors can use the space for outdoor activities, whether it's dining outdoors, studying, or setting up some retail options outside. Hopefully it will increase foot traffic downtown, in turn helping to boost our local economy."
A young diner looks forward to digging into her waffle topped with fresh strawberries and house-made mascarpone whipped cream, served by Ponder Coffee Company.
Diane Grace (right) enjoys a coffee outdoors with a friend downtown on Tuesday, July 21. Grace says this was her first time visiting Ponder Coffee Company, and came following her daughter's glowing recommendation.
Agardy says that city officials supported him through the process of adding outdoor dining, one of which used his day off to help Agardy transport barricades that are required to section off the space.  

“Friends and officials at the city made all this possible for us and I am really grateful for all those people that helped me in the process to do this,” says Agardy. “It's been a great community-building experience for me, we’re seeing an uptick in foot traffic, and it’s helped make all the difference for my business in the short-term here to keep everything going and increase our sales volume.”

To see more of what downtown Mt. Pleasant has to offer, visit downtownmp.com.

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