During the public visioning sessions, it was made very clear that Cassopolis is in deep need of more restaurant/beverage/social space options. Additionally, there was a strong desire for more multi-generational, family-friendly, youth-friendly social spaces, and educational opportunities.
Bars and Restaurants
Alchemy teamed up with the Iowa Restaurant Association to explore available spaces downtown, developing concepts and strategies for these spaces in partnership with the building owners.
While the COVID pandemic has certainly added significant challenges to the hospitality industry and economy at large, there are still significant opportunities in Cassopolis. This plan addresses the current crisis (see Appendix E: COVID Impact) while developing realistic strategies for successful business models. If establishments are created during the pandemic with the ability to quickly pivot in light of a rapidly changing environment, they could find lasting success despite challenges.
In fact, they might well position themselves to capitalize on the trends that were already changing the face of the industry—such as delivery and the demand for high quality, highly-customized carryout food. There may never be a better time to consider launching new hospitality businesses including restaurants, rental properties, or taverns – albeit under new business models and operations strategies.
When reviewing proposed concepts, the following is the expressed level of support for each as indicated from the Placemaking Steering Committee (In order of strength):
BBQ & Burgers
Wine & Cheese Bar
The demographics still show potential
There is good reason to encourage the development of new eating and drinking establishments in Cassopolis as they will likely serve as the fuel for the rebirth of the community’s entire retail sector.
Numbers back this notion up. In Michigan, every dollar spent in traditional table-service restaurants contributes $1.90 back to the state’s economy. Even limited-service restaurant models move $1.66 back to Michigan’s economy with every dollar spent in their establishments. As Cassopolis continues its transformation projects through its main street and along Stone Lake, eating and drinking establishments could well become the catalyst that tips the scales to draw people back into the village short term, as well as create a “come and stay” value proposition for the village in the future.
It’s true that the Michigan restaurant industry’s pre-COVID positive growth environment has largely dissipated, however, the pent-up consumer desire to go to restaurants has not. Data from the National Restaurant Association shows that even before people couldn’t go to restaurants due to COVID related closures, almost half of adults wanted to visit their favorite eateries more often. A full 45% said they were not purchasing take-out as frequently as they would like to. This is true across all age demographics, but particularly with Baby Boomers (age 54 to 79.)
The demographics are key because Michigan baby boomers boast significantly higher average household incomes ($67K) than other age groups, as well as higher levels of disposable income. In a community like Cassopolis, where seasonal populations will help drive profits, this is encouraging. Seasonal residents mean an influx of higher-income families and individuals—most residing in homes they own around Diamond Lake. These temporary residents are accustomed to carry-out and delivery from higher-end urban restaurants, as well as hundreds of high-end on-premise eating, drinking and gathering options.
Cassopolis residents and business owners have always known that their seasonal residents have in large part, been untapped as hospitality consumers. It is not news to anyone that seasonal residents coming from the cities are willing and used to spending on food and drink. Anecdotal information from the Chicago news market also supports the notion that many have already arrived. Recent stories from Chicago media note that many of the highest income Chicago residents quickly found their ways out of the city and its hotbed of COVID-19 cases to their traditional summer and vacation communities far earlier than in previous years. Many are able to work remotely and won’t be quick to return, opting to wait out the pandemic and urban unrest in quiet vacation communities.
There is currently only a handful of eating and drinking establishments in Cassopolis, with very limited offerings. From March 16th to June 8th all were limited to offering takeout, delivery, and curbside pickup by proclamation of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The Governor loosened the dine-in restrictions this month allowing all of the state to reopen dine-in services at 50-percent capacity with additional safety precautions including 6-foot social distancing measures. We would be remiss if we did not remind everyone in the community to make their way back to The Broadway Café and other local restaurants to support them now.
Below is a brief summary of the proposed concepts per available space. The full plan can be found: in Appendix F: Restaurant Plan.
144 S. Broadway
This gorgeous building is an open canvas. The Alchemy team recommends using the space in a mixed-use format to ensure multiple sources of income are available. This will make the business model more stable, and provide more to the community than just a restaurant or bar.
A “wine cave” leveraging the existing foundation. This space could provide an intimate upscale venue focusing on handmade craft cocktails and wines-by-the-glass with a limited small plate/ tapas/desserts menu. The bar could also serve the upstairs venue but maintain its own identity as a separate spot with “speakeasy” access from the back alley.
Street Level/First Floor Deli and Gallery
Upscale yet casual deli featuring a limited menu of gourmet deli items, salads, charcuterie, and sandwiches with fresh bread from the new bakery and wine from the cellar downstairs. Lunch and dinner available with carryout and catering options. Special focus on local products and produce. Two-thirds of diners today say the availability of locally sourced items makes them choose one restaurant over the other. 56% of those consumers also note that the primary reason for wanting local faire is to support local farms and producers.
For added ambiance and draw to in-person socially distant dining, a portion of the floor space could be used as an area to show and sell artwork from local artists. Could be in partnership with the Artisan Shoppe or Cass Area Artists or as a part of the Creative Commons Innovation Space. This art/deli/wine adventure will create a vibrant living atmosphere with ever-changing decor that gives people reasons to come in again and again.
Second Floor / Loft
Revamp the upstairs apartment and list it as a short term rental for out of town guests who wish to enjoy the beautiful downtown or house an artist in residence as a part of the Public Art Plan. The back area could be an excellent workspace loft for artists.
Old Sinclair Station – 200 S. Broadway St.
The former Sinclair gas station is an absolute gem and would make for a fantastic taproom-style bar/bicycle depot and outdoor hangout with a large deck with seating that overlooks the beautiful stone lake and promenade area. More than a watering hole, this space could provide a simple menu such as tacos and tapas.
Keeping the retro Sinclair look and branding is highly recommended from an interior/exterior design perspective. The garage area could be an excellent tap room featuring local craft brews as well as domestic offerings, open garage doors as weather allows.
The station bar could become a community gathering place that has family-friendly board games (battleship, Jenga, cards) and if possible lawn games (cornhole, bocce, or carpet ball).
Holding Green Tavern Building – 159 S. Broadway St.
The love and attention put into the small details in this location are evident. Holding green has incredible potential to be a beautiful, upscale bar offering signature classic cocktails with a twist, beer and wine by the glass, and excellent bar food options. Additionally, the vintage soda fountain offers an opportunity to operate a “boozy shake” bar which is both nostalgic and trendy.
Minimally refinish and relocate some of the games upstairs for private event space with a small dedicated bar.
The state of Michigan runs on a quota system by municipality for standard on-premises licenses. Currently, all local licenses are owned, however, there is county-wide flexibility. If there are no standard on-premises licenses available in the county, the Michigan Restaurant Association believes the Village would qualify for redevelopment licenses based on recent redevelopment efforts in the downtown district.
Through this program, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (LLC) may issue new public on-premises liquor licenses to local units of government in addition to quota licenses, in order to allow cities to enhance the quality of life for their residents and visitors to their communities.
Applicants in these businesses districts must:
Be a business engaged in dining, entertainment or recreation and open to the general public.
• Have a seating capacity of at least 25 people;
• Have spent at least $75,000 for the rehabilitation or restoration of the building where the license will be housed over a period of the preceding five years or a commitment for a capital investment of at least $75,000 that will be spent before the issuance of the license;
• Show that the total amount of private and public investment in real and personal property in a district listed above was at least $200,000 in the period covering the preceding five years
The LCC may issue one license for each of the above ($200,000) monetary thresholds reached and for each major fraction thereof after the initial threshold is reached. (For further info, see: Michigan Economic Development Corporation – Redevelopment Liquor Licenses)
Full hospitality recommendations, including those for the Stone building at 198 S Broadway St. and the Bakery at 114 S Broadway St, can be found in Appendix F: Restaurant Plan.