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Small Businesses Love This Michigan City

Great economy and outstanding community support make the Muskegon Lakeshore appealing to entrepreneurs.

By Heather Cherry on April 25, 2022

Aldea Coffee in Muskegon, MI
Teri Genovese

Businesses of all sizes and industries choose the Muskegon Lakeshore region to start, grow or expand their business. Known for its diverse, entrepreneur-driven economy, the region offers a superb quality of life and is among the best places for business development in West Michigan.

Aldea Coffee opened a café in Muskegon in 2019 on Pine Street in a building that housed a former furniture company. Before opening Aldea Coffee, Aldea Development, a nonprofit launched in 2009, opened its first café in 2015 in Grand Haven. It had also sold coffee at the farmers market in Muskegon.

“Coffee is our tool to connect with others and build community, allowing us to share the things we believe in.”

Andrew Boyd | Aldea Coffee

“Growing up in Muskegon, we didn’t always have a place to go sit and do homework,” says Andrew Boyd, co-owner of Aldea Coffee. “Our Muskegon café has become a space for the community and a place where people can become fast friends.”

The owners chose to do business in Muskegon because of their passion for the area.

“We did consider the downtown Detroit area for our coffee shop,” Boyd says. “But the combination of exciting urban development, supportive and accessible resources, community closeness and family roots brought us back to Muskegon Lakeshore.”

Jeff Church, owner of Nipote’s Italian Kitchen in Muskegon, MI
Kevin Blackmer

Downtown Resurgence

Nipote’s Italian Kitchen was opened in 2019 by husband-and-wife duo Jeff and Shawn Church. They opened a shop in what, for 25 years, was an empty lot.

Today, Nipote’s is a full-service casual Italian restaurant serving local food, Italian wine and Michigan beer. “We always planned to go out on our own, and it seemed like the time was right,” says Jeff Church.

Choosing to run a business in Muskegon seemed obvious. Both Jeff and Shawn grew up here and loved the area. Additionally, they were excited about the downtown resurgence.

“Downtown was dilapidated for a long time,” Jeff Church says. “It’s nice to see it is coming back, and we are excited to be a part of the momentum.”

Eric Petersen runs a successful commercial fishing operation along the Muskegon Lakeshore.

Businesses Give Back to the Community

Eric and Amber Mae Petersen, who owned and operated The Fish Monger’s Wife fish market in Muskegon from 2010 until it closed in 2022, are still very much involved in the community they love. Eric continues to run a longtime commercial fishing family business, and the Petersens also play an integral role at an annual Armed Forces Salmon Assault fishing event, which occurs every third Saturday in May on Armed Forces Day.

“The Salmon Assault is a free morning of fishing for veterans of our Armed Forces, and it was started by the Muskegon Charter Boat Association, whose captains all donate their boats and time on Armed Forces Day so military veterans can fish on Lake Michigan,” Amber says.

About 15-20 boat captains participate, with 5-6 men and women veterans aboard each boat. After fishing in the morning, a parade takes place with cheering people lining the water channel as the boats head into dock at Great Lakes Marina.

“The veterans then have a lunch, and that’s when we get involved with the event,” Amber says. “We clean, fillet and wrap all the fish that are caught, then we get the packages back to the marina for each veteran to receive an equal amount of the caught fish. We do all that in only one hour while the veterans are eating lunch.”

Amber says everyone enjoys the annual event. “We get a lot of salmon and trout filleted in just an hour. It’s a fun day.”

Community Support

Having strong economic development resources is only part of the equation for a bustling small business community. But the owners of all three businesses say the Muskegon Lakeshore community has made the difference.

“When we opened, it wasn’t the greatest time because of COVID, but our locals rallied around us and kept coming in,” Church says. “When we could only offer takeout orders, we had a lot of them. We’ve seen a lot of support from downtown people and businesses.”

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