Slow start for businesses makes for a strong finish

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Turner Street in Old Town at sunset. Taken by Alexis Downie.

Turner Street in Old Town at sunset. Photo taken by Alexis Downie.

It is a Monday evening around 5 p.m. and Turner Street is very quiet.

A few cars are passing by on the road. The Lamb’s Gate Antique shop owner is locking his door. There are scattered street wanderers, but the heart of little Old Town seems empty.

Unlike most towns in the area, this is the norm for Old Town. Particularly on Mondays when many of the businesses are closed. In other places this may seem something out of the ordinary, however, Old Town is far from ordinary.

Settled just north of the center of Michigan’s state capital, Lansing, Old Town lies just off of the Lansing River Trail. Throughout the years since the town was established, many businesses have sprung up. While Old Town is known for its art-based center, other family-friendly businesses, as well as restaurants, have been added to the mix.

With each of the different stores and restaurants come varying business hours. Do not expect to go to Old Town to shop anytime before 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. during the week because chances are, nothing is open. Polka Dots Boutique owner, Jennie Hinze, opens her store at 11 a.m. on the weekdays (excluding Mondays) and noon on the weekends.

“Many businesses, such as mine are not only owned, but solely operated by one person,” said Hinze. “Because of this, the hours that I am open depend on when historically the most sales happen.”

Polka Dots Boutique in Old Town. Photo taken by Alexis Downie.

Polka Dots Boutique in Old Town on the corner of Turner Street. Photo taken by Alexis Downie.

Having a slow crowd in Old Town during the morning could be viewed as a potential problem financially. Michigan State University Director of Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Neil Kane is an expert in small businesses. Kane believes that businesses are the ones who are in charge of making responsible decisions based on the nature of their business and knowing who their clientele is.

“Every business has an expense associated with it for every hour that it’s open. They have to be paying someone to staff the store, or the business, while it’s open,” said Kane. “If there’s not enough business in the morning, for example, for them to justify being open, then again, I assume they’re making an intelligent decision.”

Hinze also recognizes the different crowds of people based on the time of the day. This is something she has taken into consideration for the operating hours of her store.

“During the day I see a lot of moms with young kids, or retiree age, or people meeting up with friends for lunch. Weekends tend to draw more couples and families.” said the boutique owner.

While lack of a morning crowd plays a role into stores opening later, adjusted evening hours have also been factored in. In some cases, having businesses closing early can be a problem to customers who get out of work at five and have to rush to Old Town to make it in time.

“I think they should at least have a little more evening hour stuff so those of us that work during the day can come because I love it here.” said Old Town visitor Tamara Hicks-Syron.

Listing of a few different shops hours in Old Town. Source: Old Town Lansing website.

Listing of a few different shop hours in Old Town. Source: Old Town Lansing website.

Hicks-Syron has been coming to Old Town for a number of years and works at nearby Michigan State University. Describing herself as a right-brained, artsy person, she finds everything about the place appealing. Having businesses stay open longer is just a hope she has while looking ahead to future town expansion. This is potentially something for stores and restaurants to consider.

Despite the expansion that is happening with the Old Town, Hinze does not see the hours of her store to be an issue. She expects to change with the needs of the town and make it work.

“I love the passion, diversity and sense of community that Old Town offers,” said Hinze. “I have received support from fellow business owners at every turn.”