New businesses in Montague taking advantage of niche markets, offering …

MONTAGUE, MI – An influx of new businesses is helping rejuvenate the city of Montague’s downtown.

Since the beginning of the summer, the city of just more than 2,300 people has seen buildings in its downtown transformed into diverse businesses offering unique products.

“It says a lot for the community that these entrepreneurs have taken the leap of opening businesses,” said Amy VanLoon, executive director for the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. “It speaks volumes about how they feel about the community.”

Many of the new businesses are opening near the Hart-Montague bike trail in hopes of attracting attention from bike traffic. According to VanLoon, the new businesses’ like-minded business plans focusing on diversification of products and niche markets is also a theme.

Among the new businesses using that model is the homebrew supply store, Hoportunist Hot Spot, which opened on May 31. The shop, located at 8930 Water St., supplies both beer- and wine-making ingredients and equipment.

The supplier is looking to take advantage of the growing beer scene in West Michigan, according to owner Brendon Frarey.

Steve Haystead, owner of Bardic Wells Meadery in Montague. 

Bardic Wells Meadery, which produces mead or Honey Wine, also opened a new location near the bike trail at 8844 Water Street earlier this summer. The new store, owned by Steve Haystead, is located in the former Gary’s Restaurant location. The store used to be located in the former Montague Foods store about a block south of the new location.

In 2007, Bardic Wells became the state of Michigan’s first licensed commercial meadery. Honey wine has since become increasingly popular, so much so that Forbes named mead as one of the top 10 food trends of 2011.

Diego’s Mexican Restaurant, which will be located in the former Utopian Marketplace at 8832 Water St., is also set to open this summer.

The restaurant will feature a “Tex-Mex” menu, take-out food and, in time, sit-down dining, according to owner Juan Loera. Montague City Manager John French said it’s nice to see business coming to the city, especially because of the unique nature of their offerings.

It’s a sentiment shared by VanLoon, who has seen many of the entrepreneurs’ business plans come to fruition.

“I think they saw a need and they acted,” VanLoon said. “They saw an opportunity and that’s what a lot of these small business need to do, not just in serving the community and local people, but visitors as well.”

Steve Crooks, owner of White Lake Excursions in Montague  

In addition to the new businesses, outdoor recreation supplier White Lake Excursions and its owner, Steve Crooks, has expanded its store located at 4464 Dowling St. The store in the former Moxie Marine building now has 4,200 square feet of space filled with kayaks, paddle boards, skate boards, disc golf supplies, fishing gear and more.

VanLoon said the challenge now is to get people in town to realize the new businesses. However, she added that she has seen an increase in the amount of foot traffic downtown since the business opened their doors.

“It creates an interest in our city,” she said. “New businesses can only benefit the business to the left and the business to the right. The more we have, the better.”

The question of whether or not the business boom in Montague continues to gain traction will only be answered in time, but for now, officials are happy to see growth.

“We’re tickled,” French said. “Anything we can add to the city to get people to stick around longer is pretty neat.”

Brandon Champion covers arts and entertainment, business and weather for MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @BrandonThaChamp.