Blue Water native Mikaela Westrick is encouraged by the progress she sees in downtown Port Huron.
When I was growing up, downtown Port Huron was just a place you would drive through. Drive through to go to Birchwood for back-to-school shopping or drive to spend the day with the Grandparents. Most of the store fronts were vacant or worn down and the streets bare. There was the occasional stop to visit stores like the old Irish Rose or grab lunch at The Raven, but downtown Port Huron was never the place for me to go.
There was always this itch to leave my home town, something I think is universal for a lot of kids. That unmistakable urge every teenager gets to see what the world is like beyond their backyards. An urge I knew all too well. But now that I have graduated and returned home, the city bustles. Every time I drive down main street, I swear there is a bright new storefront welcoming patrons. String star lights crisscross over Main Street, keeping the town bright as live music from Lynch’s Tavern escapes into the street as night life carries on. A farmers market filled with fresh veggies and fruits is held every weekend down by the water. There is always a unique event to go to, like a Harry Potter-themed pub crawl.
The city is growing and more and more every day it reminds me of places like Grand Rapids. Yet, we still have our small town feel. I can go into Kate’s Downtown and be greeted with a warm smile and a delicious Huron Avenue sandwich from Kate herself. Or pop into the Exquisite Corpse where they already know what I am about to order. This sincere community built into the roots of Port Huron is welcoming and attractive. Even though there is this adolescent desire to move on from your hometown, I find that people are returning.
Just this past Monday, a new storefront opened its doors to customers. Main Street Ensemble is an upcycled clothing store owned and operated by kids I graduated with. With some saved-up money and a dream, my peers are now local business owners, and all under the age of 24. It is fair to say that having businesses run by young professionals is refreshing and inspiring, but it is also an advantage. This valuable demographic pulls in new consumer traffic with their fresh perspectives and talents. All of which go to good use in ways that give back to the city. Downtown Port Huron from when I was a child to now, is night and day. As community events and businesses, like Main Street Ensemble, continue to develop, so does the city of Port Huron.
Mikaela Westrick lived throughout the Thumb area all her life. She left for the west side of the state to attend Grand Valley State University where she studied psychology, writing, and digital studies. She's since returned home. Mikaela now hopes to use her time and voice to do some good in the world.