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Renaissance in Mount Clemens: Businesses are opening, not closing amid pandemic

Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 13:44:07-05

(WXYZ) — The City of Mount Clemens is finding economic success, even with all odds stacked against them.

City officials say not a single business has closed throughout the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, 12 have actually opened just in the past nine months.

A developer just bought a large building on Macomb Place last week. Michelle Weiss, the marketing coordinator for the Downtown Mount Clemen's Development Authority, says prior to that, it had been vacant for over 10 years.

Slowly but surely, the downtown area is transforming into a hub of retail, residential, and restaurant spaces.

That growth is making Mount Clemens a desirable place to start a business and people are taking notice.

On the other side of Macomb Place is a brick-and-mortar pastry shop that just opened in December. Residents say it has quickly become a fan favorite in Mount Clemens.

Is it the friendly staff? The gooey cinnamon rolls or the freshly torched custard tarts? It's hard to say, but one thing's for sure, business is good.

"It wasn't a great year for other people and I recognize that wholeheartedly. For me, it was a year of growth and believing I could do this," said Melissa Lavender, owner of Clementine's Pastries. "Here, we came out, and it's happening."

Lavender says she named the shop after her grandmother.

The passionate baker had just been laid off from her job before taking the leap and starting a business.

"It is a little crazy I know, but it was a now or never kind of thing," said Lavender.

The ability to shift and adapt became a Mount Clemens specialty, according to Weiss.

She encouraged businesses to shift their perspective and see the pandemic not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity.

"I think its attitude," said Weiss, "Giving people that 'ra-ra' and they too started seeing that light at the end of the tunnel. I said I don't care if it's just a little beam, that's our aim."

The economic boom has caught the eye of investors like Joe Nahas. He bought an old building downtown and plans to transform it into residential and retail space.

"Hopefully we'll attract some of the young professionals living in the downtown area and they can have a hip clean place to live," Nahas said.

Mount Clemens is partnering with the county to showcase the properties available and hopefully bring more people like Nahas to town.

"In order to fill vacancies that plagued downtown Mount Clemens, the city needed a tool to get property information to interested parties," Mount Clemens Mayor Laura Kropp said.

"ThinkMTC.com is an interactive GIS-based website that allows the user to virtually tour the downtown," said Kropp. "The user can see all property in downtown, or narrow the search to currently vacant property."

"When looking at property, users will find all the necessary statistics, rental rates and contact information for each unit," she added.

7 Action News Reporter Alex Bozarjian asked, "Is this is the new Mount Clemens?"

"This is, this is our renaissance," said Weiss, "it is very exciting people are actually taking note, the county told me yesterday everyone is trying to figure out what's going on in Mount Clemens."

Business patrons have a sense of loyalty that they hope will continue to fast-track the city's growth.

"Places like this need us to make sure they can stay open," said Sean Zaborowski, a regular customer at Clementine's Pastries.

"To someone who is thinking about starting a small business, who thinks they can't do it, what would you say to them," asked Bozarjian.

"I think if you believe you can, you for sure can," said Lavender. "I think if you believe you can, you for sure can."

Weiss says 48 percent of the properties in the city are non-taxable, so that's a huge burden on residents.

This development can change that. She says they have six more stores are coming to the downtown area by April.