Was just there this morning. It was delightful.
Are wine bars and creperies sustainable in Flint? It seems so weird- vast tracts of abandoned lots, vacant houses, virtual lawlessness and utter desperation and just a mile or so away somebody plants a bizarre little slice of Grosse Pointe... and somehow it grows.
I've wondered about this myself. I think that despite Flint's monumental problems, there are still enough people living and/or working there that want to sample some of the finer things in life. I also think there are a lot of people who want to help Flint, and going to these places also makes them feel like they're improving things. Those two things are a pretty powerful draw for a business, even in Flint. Just my own half-baked theory, though. Maybe someone with some actual knowledge of small businesses and economics can chime in on this.
I doubt that they are too sustainable. The mexican restaurant downtown, Solya's, closed down a few months ago. It was busy at first then business slow down. The grocery store just north of downtown, Witherbees closed in October 2011. Mike's restaurant closed late 2010 or early 2011 and the Tina's Treats that replaced Mike's didn't last a year. Although another business is lined up to replace Tina's.Part of the problem is that the resident students that many of the business are counting on to patronize their place will not come. Those students are required to pay for a meal plan to the tune of several hundreds of dollars (which I don't see how anyone could use it all). If they don't use it by the end of the semester then they lose it. Basically, it is to subsized the company running the cafeteria 24/7 (mandated by some university organization to be open that long). Not sure why they want to mandate the "freshman 40" weight gain. Nor why bother then to put stoves in the dorms.Another is the large rent levied. Landlords act like it is still boom time in Flint. Witherbee's had to pay a crushing $1,200 per month (by Flint NIPP nonprofit) in rent plus $8000/month heating in winter in a low margin field like groceries! Restaurants in the University Pavilion have to pay a percentage of sales plus rental. Bizare as percentages are usually in franchise agreements, but that seem to be a mark of the UM-Flint management.
Add to that the fact that many of the kids on campus have cars and are used to driving to the Miller and Center Roads of the world for unlimited options rather than walking downtown for limited options.Undergrads eat fast food and most of them are not yet 21. I could see the supporting a few pizza places and maybe a burger joint, but beyond that crepes and fine dining seems to be a fantasy.What the downtown area could use most is a pharmacy like CVS, a small hardware store, and a liquor store.
Thanks for commenting. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.