Downtown SH sees an economic windfall this summer | Local News


As you walk around downtown South Haven these days, you’d never know people have just experienced what the greatest hope will be the end of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and early 2021. Then again , maybe you would.

After many businesses were forced to close or limit the number of customers inside their establishments for most of 2020 and into 2021, visitors and local residents alike are flocking to those same establishments this summer. .

“We are hearing many positive reports of strong retail sales, and area retailers are very happy with the number of customers,” said Kathy Wagaman, executive director of the South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce.

Chris Campbell, owner of SoHa Surf Shop, Emma’s Boutique, The Shoe Collective, and SoHa Kayak and Paddleboards Rentals, is one of those retail owners who are seeing high traffic and sales volumes this summer.

“The summer weather so far has not been the best in July,” he said, of some of the cloudy and rainy days Southwest Michigan has experienced this month. “But the city center has been extremely busy. We are seeing growth in all of our stores.

Derrick Balser of Johnny’s Lakeshore Jewelry, at the corner of Center and Phoenix streets in downtown, also noted the increase in traffic volume this summer.

“Tuesdays and Wednesdays this year are like Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” he said.

Balser attributes the increase in part to people’s decision to vacation closer to home, both last summer during the pandemic and this year after the worst of the pandemic.

“People aren’t traveling out of the country as much right now,” he noted. There are also some who do not want to fly yet. It’s summer and people want to go to the beach and Lake Michigan is much closer for everyone in the Midwest than the ocean.

The desire for a vacation last summer during the pandemic led to an influx of visitors from neighboring states like Illinois and Indiana to South Haven. They wanted to visit smaller towns near Lake Michigan that also offered a variety of outdoor activities, which became popular attractions for families who wanted to have fun but stay socially distant during the pandemic.

“Last year we had record sales figures,” said Campbell, who expects sales to be higher this year for its stores. “When it comes to retail, we are seeing higher traffic and numbers compared to last year,” he said.

Balser believes the trend of more and more people coming to South Haven for vacations during the summer months will continue.

“I don’t see it ending after this year,” he said. “People love our city and will keep coming back. Hopefully this will lead to more “sidelines” and “off season” business.

However, there was a downside to the increased traffic downtown. Restaurants cannot meet customer demand due to difficulties in hiring summer help. The situation has forced some restaurants to reduce their opening hours, while a few, such as The Congregation, have chosen not to reopen for the summer months until staff shortages subside.

“For catering establishments, the ability to staff restaurants during normal hours and meet the demands of a busy summer season has proven extremely difficult,” said Wagaman. “For some dining establishments, owners are forced to reduce hours, creating more demand for restaurants that can remain open.”

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