Downtown Mount Pleasant full of rich history
Mount Pleasant in the early 1900s was a lot different than the Mission Street-led shopping district students drive by throughout the week.
Surviving the Great Depression due to an oil boom in Isabella County, the area continued on into the latter half of the 20th Century with hard-working businesses and people manning the storefronts.
Jack Westbrook, a Mount Pleasant historian who has authored eight books on the city, said the city’s exports changed quickly from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s.
“There was more small manufacturing and farming until the 20s, when an oil field was discovered,” Westbrook said. “A year later, the (Great) Depression hit and there was an oil boom so a lot of people came here. There are a lot of places you’ll see in the present day that show the arrival of the influence of the oil industry.”
Some businesses from that era still stand today in the same location in which they began.
The New Yorker Children’s Shop, 117 S. Main St., currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, has been in business since 1937. Current owner Jack Karr’s mother and father began the business. Beginning as a women’s clothing store, it transitioned to carrying children’s clothing and other specialty gifts in 1974. Karr and his wife, Judy, both graduated from CMU in 1970.
“We’re just going to keep going as long as we can,” Karr said. “There’s been a lot of changes in the retail business. We’ve been fighting the trend of larger retail businesses.”
As an influx of larger businesses come to town, students attitudes have changed about the downtown, now often favoring Mission Street.
Lowell senior Josh Wallner said he goes downtown for the bar scene but occupies different places for other needs.
“I don’t know anyone who’s down there on a daily basis,” Wallner said. “People are usually more apt to go to stores on Mission Street or some of the busier areas.”
Some students think there isn’t enough downtown to make them go there.
“I don’t think downtown really has anything to attract students,” Brighton junior Sarah Hayes said. “I’ve never heard anyone say ‘Hey, let’s go downtown.’”
White Lake junior Ashley Tessman, a former Max and Emily’s employee, said she believes the downtown has more to offer than most think.
“It gives CMU students the opportunity to experience college in a fun, artistic way and it is a great place for shopping, nightlife and job opportunities,” Tessman said.
Even with competition from Mission Street, downtown Mount Pleasant still has a lot to offer and tries to stay involved with the community and university.
Tim Brockman, owner of restaurant Max and Emily’s, 1013 Broadway St., said the downtown is clean, vibrant and tries to stay active in the community. Max and Emily’s puts on musical entertainment during the summer with their Summer Concert Series, featuring The Verve Pipe and Jeff Daniels in the past.
“We try and do things as a downtown to keep it active and to keep it alive,” Brockman said.
He said the city’s commissioners and Downtown Development Office have helped to maintain the downtown.
“It all works together,” he said. “We have little businesses that all believe in what we’re doing. It’s not just one of us, it’s all of us.”
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