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Gaylord tornado recovery continues as businesses rebuild

Signs of construction and rebirth at businesses on West Main Street in Gaylord that were damaged in an E3 tornado a year ago.
Jan-Michael Stump
Traverse City Record-Eagle
Signs of construction and rebirth at businesses on West Main Street in Gaylord that were damaged in an E3 tornado a year ago. (Photo: Jan-Michael Stump/Traverse City Record-Eagle)

Gaylord-area businesses are continuing to bounce back after last year’s tornado devastated the area.

Robert B. Aikens and Associates, owners of Pine Ridge Square Shopping Center off M-32, announced construction has broken ground on a new Hobby Lobby location this week.

Paul DeSchepper, is the director of construction for the project. He said the new location will be about 10,000 square feet larger and will include new design elements.

The May 20 tornado tore the roof off the old location with 150 mile-per-hour winds.

“We are so thankful that no one got hurt,” DeSchepper said. “While that building was taken down by the tornado, I believe there were 25 people in Hobby Lobby and Maurices and Jimmy Johns and no one got hurt, which is a miracle in itself.”

In addition to Hobby Lobby’s new location, a 9,500 square foot Five Below will be joining Pine Ridge Square this fall.

Hobby Lobby has over 900 chain stores nationwide. Five Below has over 1,200.

“As a mother and a hobbyist, the store has been very missed. We don't really have a party store here so there are items that they sell that you can't really find anywhere else in rural Northern Michigan,” said Gaylord resident Sarah Harding. “It's one of those situations where you never knew what you had until it's gone."

Many other commercial businesses have since reopened or moved locations after the storm claimed two lives, injured more than 40, and damaged more than 200 structures.

Little Caesars, which is located just across M-32, reopened last month — a year after it was struck.

“We're just thrilled to be able to get back and start serving the community again,” said Tim Carlson who oversees six Little Caesars locations throughout Northern Lower Michigan. “It was a trying year, with everything that had been going on in the years leading up to it. It was definitely harder to rebuild than it would’ve been in prior years.”

“We were fortunate to have some employees stay on with us during the rebuilding process.”

Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paul Gunderson told the Gaylord Herald Times some rebuilt businesses have faced staffing issues.

The Otsego Community Foundation is still accepting donations for tornado relief that will be distributed to local nonprofits.

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