Algoma sees bump in new business

The city of Algoma is seeing new businesses pop up or expand in its downtown. A hammock from Comfortably Numb is seen with the sign of recently-expanded restaurant Skaliwags 2 in the background.

ALGOMA – Algoma may be known as the “Park of Flowers,” but the small city on Lake Michigan has recently seen new businesses find a favorable climate to bloom.

In the span of about one month, the city of about 3,100 people has welcomed three new businesses in the downtown, while a fourth recently expanded.

The city relies heavily on the sport fishing tourism industry. But some of the new business owners say there are more than just anglers’ dollars to catch.

"Oh, it's progressed quite a bit,” said Larry Selzler of Osceola.

Algoma and its sport fishing industry have welcomed Selzler and his two friends for the past 30 years. Selzler's seen the city transform over the years. But recent changes have caught this angler's eye.

“Businesses have come and gone. Actually, it's for the better, the way it looks now," he said.

"It was very much by accident," said Jan Davies of how she and her daughter came to purchase a 115 year-old building on Fourth Street at an auction a year ago.

"When the bidding started, we thought we'd step in and bid it up a little bit, because it couldn't possibly go for that cheap," said Davies.

Well, it did go for that cheap: $15,500. Unsure of what to do, the proud new owners decided to turn it into a consignment shop, with plans to add a gallery for local artists in the near future. The store opened three-and-a-half weeks ago.

Another new kid on the block is Comfortably Numb Hammocks.

"The ribbon cutting was this past Friday, but I worked very hard to get open by the Fourth of July weekend," said owner David Schoenborn

Schoenborn – who works at Algoma Net Company, which makes the hammocks he sells – says the logo of his store with a portly man, smoking a cigar, while resting a drink on his belly isn’t necessarily a direct representation.

"But that's what I envision when I'm laying in a hammock, with a cool drink and maybe a cigar."

Shoenborn says there's never a right time to start a business. But there was a too-late.

“I decided, now's the time to pull the trigger, now or never," Schoenborn said.

"These are people that had dreams," said Algoma Mayor Wayne Schmidt.

Schmidt says businesses, like Schoenborn's, Davies' and two others – women's boutique Love Said So, and seafood restaurant Skaliwag’s expansion into a building around the corner from its main location – make the city more of a destination.

"Once we get (people) here, we want them to say, 'Hey, I love Algoma! I'm coming back.' And they do."

Like Carol Reichelt.

"It's great seeing the businesses come back to life in new and unusual businesses taking a place in the community," said the Port Washington native who now lives in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. with her husband, Ed.

Schmidt admits the city still has a lot of vacant storefronts, but they are starting to fill up.

Schmidt says no city tax dollars were used to help the businesses get off the ground, or expand. But several did take advantage of grant programs offered through the city's main street development program.