Mom-and-pop shops give DeWitt “more of a homier feel” than chain-strewn big cities

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Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe is a local business in downtown DeWitt.

Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe is a local business in downtown DeWitt.

By Zachary Manning
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

DEWITT — The city of DeWitt has a lack of chain businesses, but some residents think it gives the city a more local and small-town feel.

“I think downtown DeWitt has more of a homier feel and not a lot of chain businesses want to come here,” said Rebecca Rose, employee at Sweetie-licious Bakery Café.

“Lansing is too big. I like the small-town feel,” said Linda Travis, resident of DeWitt.

When people come into the city they will see local businesses like Family Tree Café, Draft House, and Relli’s Italian Restaurant. The biggest business in the city is the Meijer supermarket located on Crossover Drive.

On Bridge Street in downtown DeWitt there are only a handful of chain businesses, including State Farm Insurance and Allstate Insurance. On the other hand, there are multiple local businesses such as Family Tree Cafe, Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe, Scooby Doo’s, and many others.

Residents in the city like being able to go to local businesses and know the owner and be able to communicate with other residents. With big chain businesses it’s hard to get to know the owner, because usually the owner is somewhere else running the franchise.

Residents also like the idea of being able to support local business owners, because most of the time those local business owners are residents of DeWitt.

Family Tree Cafe is a local business located in Downtown DeWitt.

Family Tree Cafe is a local business located in downtown DeWitt.

“I’m a believer in supporting local businesses,” said Sue Vlahakis, Family Tree Café owner and DeWitt resident. “There is a lost touch in personalization with chain restaurants.”

The city of Lansing could have an effect on the lack of chain businesses in DeWitt. With Lansing so close, DeWitt doesn’t necessarily need to rely on chain businesses as much as they might have to if Lansing wasn’t so close.

“Small cities cannot support chain businesses, and if they are near other large cities that can support chain businesses, they become unattractive locations to chain businesses,” said Zachary Neal, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology & Global Urban Studies Program at Michigan State University.

The lack of chain businesses in DeWitt has it benefits and drawbacks. Money will usually stay in the city with local businesses, but lower prices usually come with chain businesses.

“Locally-owned businesses typically keep more money in the local community than chain businesses, because the business owner spends the business’s revenue locally, while some of the chain store’s revenue is sent back to headquarters somewhere else in the form of franchise fees and related costs,” said Neal. “On the other hand, large chain stores can often see products at significantly lower prices.”

Residents of DeWitt sometimes have to leave the city to shop for clothing and sometimes even groceries.

“For clothing people go to the Lansing area,” said Matthew Cooper, a city council member. “For groceries, Meijer is the big store people go to. People also go to gas stations or to Rite Aid.”

Even though residents will sometimes have to leave the city for items, not many people want chain businesses to come in for a couple reasons. One being that the residents like the small town feel.

“I would much rather have the city the way it is,” said Travis, when asked if she would like chain businesses or local businesses.

The second reason people don’t really want chain businesses coming in is the simple fact that it could put little businesses out of the market.

Local businesses such as Hometown Pharmacy worry that their business could be in danger of being eliminated, because of chain businesses like Meijer.

“Meijer could put out our little business,” said Lucille Smeage, DeWitt resident and Hometown Pharmacy employee.

Instead of chain businesses coming into the city, residents would like to see more local businesses created like a new, small grocery store in the downtown area.

“We need a small grocery store, because Meijer is the only store,” said Travis.

“I would like to see a fresh organic grocery store with more variety,” said Vlahakis.

The city wouldn’t mind seeing a few more chain businesses come in, but it’s not something they are focusing on for the future.

“It makes it hard for chain businesses to come in, because we are a small community and right next to more marketable communities,” said Cooper. “We welcome any opportunities for new businesses to come in, but it’s not something were specifically focusing on for the future.”

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