Downtown Mount Pleasant regaining position as business district after historical decline

Traffic flow and customers may have slowed in downtown Mount Pleasant over the last 50 years, but some advise to not count downtown out just yet.

Fifty years ago, downtown Mount Pleasant had constant activity. Mission Street had only a few small businesses, which were mainly gas stations. Almost all commerce took place downtown, including groceries, retail, banking and restaurants.

With the fast growth and commercialism of Mission Street, downtown Mount Pleasant was pushed to the back-burner.

But people seem to be reverting back to appreciating and utilizing the downtown.

“In the last few years, I’ve seen a shift again to value the downtown and community,” said Allison Quast, manager of Motorless Motion, 121 S. Main St. “I notice people are shopping more downtown.”

Motorless Motion is a local bike shop that started as Pedal Pushers at a different location. Quast’s father, Terry, bought the shop in 1976 and changed the name to Motorless Motion. The store moved to its current location in 1978.

“When he moved, the reason was that downtown was the center of town,” Quast said. “Mission Street wasn’t what it is today.”

With the spread of superstores like Wal-Mart and Kmart, attention was detracted from downtown, she said.

But now downtown is on the upswing, said Downtown Development Director Michelle Sponseller.

“We have less than 5-percent vacant space and are poised to fill even more space in the next few months,” she said. “We have terrific events like Max and Emily’s Summer Concerts, Le Tour, Downtown Street Festival and exciting art openings, classes and activities.”

Tim Brockman, owner of Max & Emily's, 125 E. Broadway St., agreed the downtown is still flourishing.

“The thing that amazes me is when people say there is nothing to do downtown,” he said. “There is a lot going on downtown.”

Brockman would like to see the downtown continue to grow and expand.

“We have a couple of large pieces of property available that used to be the National City bank building and I’d love to see filled up,” he said. “I’m also excited that Midiori (Sushi and Martini Lounge) is going to open and bring another type of client downtown.”

One type of client that has stayed relatively constant in downtown is the bar crowd.

Ben Breidenstein, manager of the Bird Bar & Grill, 223 S. Main St., said he has an unlimited supply of new customers each semester with the ever-growing population of college students.

The Bird was opened by Breidenstein’s grandfather when prohibition ended. In 1942 it moved to its current location.

“We’ve always had a heavy CMU-based clientele, but they are younger now,” Breidenstein said. “Twenty years ago we served more people in the 25 to 30 age range. Now we see more 21- to 24-year-olds down here.”

Over the years the variety and type of businesses in the area has grown.

“We now have tech firms, specialty gift stores, youthful shopping, yoga and holistic businesses, and art galleries and theater,” Sponseller said.


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