28 Jun Leaders: Portage growth ‘on fire’
Leaders: Portage growth ‘on fire’
Noah Vernau, Portage Daily Register
June 25, 2021
Portage has seen a significant amount of new businesses and development in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic and shows no signs of slowing down, according to local business leaders.
“I would say that Portage is on fire, to be really honest with you,” Portage Director of Business Development and Planning Steve Sobiek said. “This trend has been going on for a couple of years now and it involves all segments.”
New businesses include Canape Sandwiches at 2830 New Pinery Road; Green Berry Smoothies at 2933 New Pinery Road; 608 Nutrition, a smoothie and juice bar, at 2800 New Pinery Road; 10Twenty Salon at 141 E. Cook St.; Custom Framery at 221 W. Cook St.; and Smoke ‘n Sanity, a new spice manufacturer, at the Portage Enterprise Center.
Recent activity includes a newly redeveloped Portage Mart at 601 E. Wisconsin St.; St. Mary’s Catholic Church’s $8.2 million expansion and renovation; and construction of the Dollar General’s new 9,800-square-foot store at Brady Street and East Wisconsin Street, which is expected to be completed in late 2021.
Other upcoming developments and businesses include WCCU Credit Union at the northeast corner of American Legion Drive and Northridge Drive, which should open in 2022; Portage Boxing Gym at 2800 New Pinery Road; Sunni’s Scratch and Dent Store at 2830 New Pinery Road; and the soon-to-be reopened Stock+Field at 2935 New Pinery Road.
Portage developer Richard Lynn, of Lynn Holdings, said that in July, he’ll announce the new tenants for the two open spots at 2921 New Pinery Road next to Arby’s, which opened last year. Lynn said he still expects a national coffee chain to open at one his Portage properties in the next year.
“We’re in a very aggressive mode to develop and have a lot going on,” Lynn said. “We’re a developer but also a financer of our tenants and will work really closely with anybody who would like to be in business.”
The company recently acquired 7 acres of land at the end of Henry Street, where Lynn said he hopes to eventually construct 18 duplexes later this year or early next year, pending city approval. Next year, Lynn expects to develop 3.5 acres of his company’s land for single-family homes or duplexes behind the Fenske and Associates Office building on New Pinery Road.
Portage Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marianne Hanson said she’s aware of only two businesses that had closed, in part, due to the pandemic: Eye Deal Eyewear and Portage Cleaners. Both businesses closed in 2020.
“We’re seeing a net gain because it’s an ideal time to start a business,” Hanson said. “People want to get back to normalcy or what might be the new normal. They want to interact with people in shops and restaurants and actually talk with the customers or the owners. Knowing your neighbors just creates a sense of belonging, and I think that’s what Portage is seeing now.”
Sobiek said the city worked with local businesses throughout the pandemic by sharing information about the various federal and state assistance programs available and also by providing no-interest, $2,000 loans to Dino’s Restaurant, Little Italy restaurant and Red Apple Restaurant.
“It all really comes down to the community’s response to the challenge,” Sobiek said of 2021 business growth. “Our citizens and stakeholders should be commended for supporting their local businesses and the restaurants during the pandemic. If they didn’t come through during those challenging times, many businesses wouldn’t have made it.”