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Northern Michigan towns receive grants to boost small businesses

Melody's Lane was one of 35 recipients of the Match on Main grant program.
Michael Livingston
Melody's Lane was one of 35 recipients of the Match on Main grant program. (Photo: Michael Livingston/IPR News)

Thirty-five communities in total will receive this year’s “Match on Main” grants from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. And three of them are here, in northern Michigan.

The cities of Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Sault Ste. Marie are all getting $25,000 to boost their shopping districts.

That means a lot to Kevin Kemper, owner of Melody’s Lane — a book and Michigan-made goods store in downtown Cheboygan.

This is the fourth time he’s applied for the grant. Now that he’s won this year, the funds will help complete some big renovations and expand the inventory.

“They're that extra little nudge,” he said. “We’ll get some new paint, new flooring, extra bookshelves…. A little less craft show and more boutique.”

The building at 334 Main St. is over 100 years old with shining metal ceilings and creaky wood flooring. Colorful candles, sweets and book covers line the shelves.

Kemper hopes the grants will further cement his shop as a Cheboygan mainstay.

“It's going to make us a full-line bookstore, and a made-in-Michigan store,” he said. “I think I'm probably the fourth or fifth business that has (received the grants) and you can definitely see the change in town.”

Polly Schneider is executive Director of Cheboygan’s Downtown Development Authority.

She says Main Street investments kept many Cheboygan businesses alive during the pandemic.

Others, like the local coffee shop Cheboygan Brewing Company, were kickstarted with the help of grant dollars.

“When grant programs like the Match on Main come available it really helps these small town entrepreneurs make a big impact with their businesses,” she said.

A specialty grocery store called J. Bird Provision in Charlevoix and a medical spa called Prim Aesthetics in Sault Ste. Marie also received $25,000.

Statewide, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. is distributing some $800,000.

“These grants will help our vibrant downtowns continue to thrive in all corners of the state," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement.

In total, the governor's office expects the grants to create or retain 296 full-time jobs, and the projects are expected to generate a total private investment of more than $2.7 million.

Of the 35 grant recipients, 26 are existing and nine are new businesses. Eight of the 35 communities are first-time recipients of the Match on Main grants.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.