By Sue Moore
Headlines in the Kalamazoo Gazette last Sunday showcased some concern for the viability of the city’s downtown. The small towns surrounding this county’s center city, like Vicksburg and Schoolcraft, have been showing signs of life, compared to other dying small towns in the Midwest, in our opinion.
We got to wondering why and in examining the possible reasons, we have taken notice of the work being done in Vicksburg by Bill Adams, our new village president and Ken Schippers, acting village manager. The Chamber of Commerce until the leadership of Steve McCowen and his able assistant Tanya DeLong should also get some kudos for their activities to strengthen the image of the village.
In Schoolcraft, much of the heavy lifting gets done by Norma and Carl Tackett, along with Kalamazoo County State Bank, taking an active interest in the downtown. The village government in Schoolcraft has lost a leading light in Dan DeVries, its recent president who has brought much needed vision to the job over the last few years but is leaving for a new post in Arizona. He has been ably assisted by Cheryl Lutz the village manager and the council which will name a new president in January to carry on.
Taken together, it appears that the small town niche does have strength and can grow with the help of the many people in each community who volunteer and take pride in igniting a spark. For example, Oswalt Electric, owned by Dan and Kelly Oswalt and Osland Enterprises, owned by Mike and Julie Oswalt, have purchased a property at 623 W. Prairie Street. These buildings have been abandoned for a number of years and acquired by the village in a tax sale. Dan will be utilizing the large pole barn in the rear of the property for storage for his business and Mike will be moving his operations from a small building just down the street, into this much larger facility.
The Krum-Hallam Chevrolet dealership building on W. Prairie, still is in transition from the dealership moving to Schoolcraft on US 131. David Krum reports that he has rented the service bay part of the building to an auction house that has been operating in this area in other locations.
Closer to the four corners, the Vault, a restaurant is being transformed from a bank which has housed several iterations of local and national bank brands. They are still a month or two away from completion, but when it gets going, the expectation is for a quality eatery being designed by Clint Powell and Michelle Snook.
Vacant storefronts in Vicksburg are slowly disappearing with the Cutting Edge Salon and Spa, occupying the building where Sculptures closed at 124 S. Main Street. Rosewood Café opening three doors down from there at 118 S. Main and another antique business slated to open in between these two in the near future.
There remains one mysterious renovation going on at North Richardson Street, the two-story brick house that has gaping open windows on the second floor and plywood over the windows on the first floor.
The next step is to transform the Simpson Paper property into a dream facility that could house offices, manufacturing and who knows what else.
In Schoolcraft, the Red Crown Pharmacy closed recently but someone else is already moving into that space on Grand Street. A new business called Cupcakes is opening at 244 N. Grand and the antique store two doors down from it has new owners who moved from Vicksburg to a larger display area. The Grinder coffee shop opened in July and at the very south end of the village, across the railroad tracks, Beginnings Rental Hall has been built to house a much needed banquet facility in the community.
There is still a lot of work to be accomplished. The good news, there is a resolve in each village to get the job done.