I heard the news this morning that Mike’s Deli on Saginaw Street has closed its doors. Mike’s has been a fixture on Saginaw Street for the last seven years, serving good affordable food to their downtown clientele, including the bourgeoning student population who live on and around Saginaw Street.
I’m mad as hell at the closing of Mike’s because it represents a major setback for those students, and others like them, who need a more affordable alternative to Blackstone’s, 501 Grill and the like. I’m not criticizing these places because we need them too. They’re great supporters of the downtown area, they serve great food and drinks, and they obviously cater to people who want to come to downtown Flint. That’s great, but we cannot forget about those who call downtown their home, those who don’t’ want to spend a lot of money every time they go out to eat. With the closing of Mike’s their options just became a lot more limited.
We need to attract as diverse a population of diners as possible in order to sustain and expand the much needed development that’s given new life to the city’s center, to the local businesses, to the colleges and universities, and to the permanent citizens of Flint. After the decades-long smackdown Flint endured from its abusive relationship with General Motors, this hard-luck town has begun to liberate itself, to reinvent itself, to move on and reclaim its identity. The will of the people of Flint to build a better future here, despite the enormous challenges, is impressive. That’s what makes the closing of Mike’s Deli so heartbreaking.
And thank goodness for places like Churchill’s, The Torch, Hoffman’s Deco Deli, the Lunch Studio, and the local coffee shops. The owner’s of these places should be lauded for the work they’ve done to help draw people to the downtown area who loyal serve the thousand or so people who live in the dorms and loft apartments nearby. They offer variety and affordability to a population that is critical to the continued growth of the local economy.
So why am I so mad? One restaurant has closed, but we still have a number of good options. But that depends, I guess, on who you are. If you make a decent living, then the offerings downtown look a lot more appealing than if you’re a struggling college student or a single parent trying to make ends meet or someone trying to get back into the job market. The latter groups far outnumber the former, and perhaps that’s what’s fueling my frustration.
I truly believe the rejuvenation of downtown Flint is happening in the spirit of total inclusion, but the reality on the ground is that the changes aren’t nearly as beneficial to the people whose sheer numbers could prove to be a big shot in the arm to the heroic efforts of the organizations and individuals who’ve gotten us this far. I’m no economist, but it seems logical to me that we need a more balanced approach to rebuilding the infrastructure of downtown that better reflects who and how many people it intends o serve. I’d hate to see students, for example, not have adequate services—food, entertainment, shops, etc.—to make them want to stay, even after they graduate.
I can’t do much about the closing of Mike’s Deli but I can hope that entrepreneurs considering a move to downtown Flint will also carefully consider the wide range of clientele who could help support their businesses. It’s much more hopeful to see businesses open their doors in downtown flint than it is to see them close.