Stimulus money has mixed impact on local businesses

Downtown Mount Pleasant remains on May 30 quiet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The third round of stimulus checks was signed into law on March 11. Later that month, many CMU students and Mount Pleasant residents saw money hit their bank accounts. 

One would expect a spike in local business activity, however, reactions from shop owners are varied.

Mike Ring owns Motorless Motion at 121 S Main St. He said plenty of people have picked up biking during the pandemic but it's hard to tell if that's because of quarantine boredom or stimulus spending.

“It’s hard to pin down what numbers are stimulus money and what isn’t,” Ring said. “In general sales are up because COVID has brought people away from doing normal social interactions, and bikes are a device that allows you to go out and do your own thing."

Because of the stimulus checks, Ring suggested students have the money to shop locally at his store as opposed to a general retailer. 

“People were going to buy bikes anyway, but they’re buying them from me because they want a better-quality bike,” Ring said. “Now, they have that freedom financially to do that." 

Pure Vitality a local spa and health club at 128 E Broadway St. noticed an increase in students using their services as well. 

"Our sales, we've noticed an uptick since the stimulus checks," Manager Mitch Perry said. "I've seen a ton of students come in because of the stimulus and a little more frequently now since they have that money."

For restaurants and bars, it's a different story. As of March 5, restaurants and bars can operate at 50 percent capacity with an 11 p.m. curfew. 

Lacey Coleson is a manager at Marty’s Bar. She also reported an increase in sales but worries about how shifting health and safety guidelines will impact the bar's atmosphere.

“Business is going good, but because we're still 50 percent capacity and have to close at 11, not everyone gets to spend as much of their stimulus check here,” Coleson said.

As the weather warms up restaurants and bars look forward to the increased clientele outdoor seating could bring. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released a guide last year explaining outdoor dining protocol:

Courtesy Photo | Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Over a year into the pandemic, the economic shock on local businesses faced from a halt in consumer demand is less drastic. However, Economic Development Director William Mrdeza said it’s still plain to see the damage that COVID-19 has had on the local economy. 

"I think any opportunities for additional business from the students would be greatly appreciated and would certainly help their bottom line as they continue to serve customers trying to keep their losses to a minimum," Mrdeza said. "Any infusion back to the economy would be a benefit to the city and the local economy, as well as the individual businesses."