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These Jackson County businesses opened during a pandemic. They're still going.

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Posted at 5:15 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 17:15:29-05

JACKSON COUNTY, Mich. — Desiree and Chad Fires wanted to turn the former Callaghan's Bar into a coffee shop.

After closing on the building on Brooklyn's Main Street in October, they immediately began renovating the old pub.

But, in March when dine-in restrictions were put in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, things changed for the husband and wife.

“So we were in the process of construction and in the process of getting all the loans and everything through," said Chad Fires. "And, when COVID hit, the banks came back and said, 'You need to prove you can still make things happen in the current state of the world,’ so we had to revise our business plans."

But they made it happen and in the middle of a pandemic.

While other Jackson County businesses were closing their doors, the Fires opened Callaghan's Cafe.

They'd hoped to open by Memorial Day but had to wait until August, meaning no cash flow for three months.

But, after sinking their life savings into their business, a raging pandemic wasn't going to slow them.

“We told our customers through our Facebook, 'You know, you can order ahead. You can come use our mobile app. You can call ahead. We have curbside service. We have carhop spots that are available. You can pull up. We go out and with a handheld device we’ll take your order right from your car,'" said Chad.

The couple saw the challenges facing local businesses and took them in stride.

“We were already five months in to our demolition and remodel at that point so we were committed," said Desiree Fires. "There was really no backing out for us at that point. It was just a matter at that point being flexible and making the accommodations necessary for us to be able to open.”

Craig Hatch, who oversees the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, has noticed just how much the community rallies around small businesses.

"The resilience is awesome," he said. "You know Jackson, Michigan, is a community-minded very resilient community, and we have a lot of...from legislative leadership to community leaders to business leaders that were truly born and raised here and they truly have a pride in this community and want to continue to build in this community."

Erin Valkuchak, the co-owner of FarmSudz, a self-care shop in downtown Jackson which opens to the general public on Friday, is also hoping to make her business an important part of the community despite the current challenges.

"A lot of our raw ingredients were being used for hand sanitizer or things so we couldn't get those. And, we couldn't get plastic containers because they were being used for PPE's which is still a problem right now," said Valkuchak.

But believing that customers were ready for a store like hers, where you can purchase soaps, balms and creams, she forged ahead.

"We didn't expect the response that we got from Jackson, and we hope we're going to help make downtown Jackson what it's becoming," said Valkuchak.

With the new year, small-business owners are hoping the love of their community can carry them through.

Joe Gebhardt

Meet Your Neighborhood Reporter

1:52 PM, Dec 16, 2020

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Joe Gebhardt