By Ralph Echtinaw
The downtown building that once housed the Baptist Children’s Home is about to be rejuvenated as office space with a self-service food market and electric vehicle charging station.
This is the brainchild of Alma resident Bryan Grasso-Shonka and his business partner in The Snack Guys, a downtown vending machine company.
Grasso-Shonka and his partner plan to “operate The Snack Guys on the south half of the building. The north half will operate as Mid Michigan Offices and include a conference room and rentable office space.”
The rear of the building will be updated to accommodate a loading/unloading area for vending machine operations and equipment, Grasso-Shonka said via email. “This will require us to raise the south half of the sidewalk to make it easier to load/unload the vans and trucks with equipment, deliveries and product going out to businesses we support.
“The north two parking spaces will have a dual electric vehicle charger installed to accommodate EV charging for those working/visiting the area. This will only remove the sidewalk ramp on the south side of the building.
“The self service market is still in development. The room will be stocked with vending machines offering a variety of snacks, drinks, ice cream, frozen food and possibly hot food equipment. We are investigating whether adding a fountain machine would be a value add as well. An ATM will also be provided. More machines and products will be added as time goes on.”
However, renovations are necessary before that vision can reach fruition. Grasso-Shonka said that will include removal of carpet and panelling, replacement of electrical panels and wiring, installation of drywalled, insulated office suites, raising the south half of the sidewalk, remodeling the front and rear facades and upgrading heating and air conditioning equipment. All told, the renovations are expected to cost $100,000.
Grasso-Shonka and his partner have applied for creation of an obsolete property rehabilitation district that would pave the way for tax abatement on the property, if approved.
City Councilmen Roger Collison, Bill Leonard and Mayor Tom Reed set a Sept. 20 the public hearing for that request. (Council members George Kubin and Liz Upton were absent.)
Councilmen approved the temporary closing of one block downtown for a 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, downtown block party. The block in question (between Center and Saginaw) includes River Rock and Blue Shamrock. The event is jointly put on by the city and Gratiot Area Chamber of Commerce. People will be allowed to buy alcoholic beverages and drink them outside. Games and other attractions are planned.
Councilmen approved road closures downtown to accommodate the high school’s homecoming parade on Friday, Sept. 30. Line up for the parade will be at the Frosty Cone. The route goes south on Mill Street to Saginaw, east on Saginaw to Main Street, north on Main to River Court, east on River Court to the middle school parking lot. The parade begins at 5:30 p.m.