The potential is there.
Valerie Schey watched eclectic neighborhood shopping districts evolve
when she lived in the suburbs of Chicago, and she believes the same
can happen here.
In River Park.
One of her top priorities as the 3rd District representative on the
South Bend Common Council is to revitalize Mishawaka Avenue and the
River Park business corridor.
"I want to make it a shopping destination, where you could spend a
Saturday," Schey says about the commercial district that runs through
the middle of well-established neighborhoods.
She realizes the path to her goal will not be obstacle-free. There is
a mindset to change; consumers must be reminded to shop independent
and homegrown businesses as opposed to chains.
So Schey wants to create a business recruitment plan to help market
the vacant buildings in River Park to businesses that are looking to
relocate or expand.
"You have to offer a product so unique that you can't find it anywhere
else," she says about turning River Park into greater retail and
"Many Mishawaka Avenue businesses are unique, but we need more retail,
more boutiques, more unique merchants that will make people want to
wander the Avenue," she says.
Parking poses a challenge, and some area residents also believe crime
and safety must be addressed to improve the business district.
"The idea is very simple," Schey says about her long-term objective.
"There's a trend to return to an urban lifestyle where people work,
shop and play in the same place where they live. To get there, I will
talk to anyone who will listen to me."
Rob DeCleene, executive director of the South Bend/Mishawaka
Convention and Visitors Bureau, is encouraged by her outlook.
"I think River Park has the potential to be our Broad Ripple - that
area thrives on the northeast side of Indy and River Park has many
similar characteristics," DeCleene says. "Hopefully (it) can become a
vibrant district of locally owned shops, service businesses,
restaurants, galleries, etc. Our communities need such a district and
River Park could be a perfect fit."
Many local residents and business owners shared the sentiment in a
Facebook discussion on Thursday.
Caitlyn Osmer, who works at The Yarn Gourmet, 2915 Mishawaka Ave.,
agrees River Park holds potential.
"When I drove down Mishawaka Avenue a year ago, too many of the shops
were vacant," Osmer writes. "I was extremely excited to see that more
and more buildings seem to be filling up with locally owned small
business who are looking to get a new start."
Greg Simpson of South Bend used to shop River Park. "Eons ago I lived
close by. I'd love go window shopping and to the theater," he writes.
"I hope they can bring that area back."
Donna Yoder, a River Park resident, says new shops are vital. "I miss
the dime store and the hardware store. We need a concentrated effort
with ideas and help to renew the area."
River Park homeowner Janet Graham is encouraged by Schey's optimism.
"In this era of the big box, we are tending to lose our identity and
individualism. The area truly does lend itself to something
promising," Graham writes on Facebook. "We have a park, zoo, library,
general needs store and many small awesome restaurants and stores to
choose from within walking distance.
"On the down side," Graham adds, "I think River Park has taken a hard
hit in the past few years due to the economy. Many small businesses
What do you think about the revitalization of River Park? Can it be
done? What will it take? Em-ail your thoughts and ideas to
firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Facebook discussion.
Have you heard?
American Pancake House recently reopened at 1008 W. McKinley Ave.,
Mishawaka. ... Posh Alley boutique, The Beanery and Peace, Body
Therapy, LLC, are hosting their grand openings today in the 100 block
of South Main Street in Mishawaka. ... Tasty Buffet opens Monday at
512 W. Cleveland Road, Mishawaka. The 325-seat restaurant, which is
located in the former King's Buffet building, is Hibachi-style and the
buffet will include Chinese, Japanese, Creole, Italian and Mexican
foods. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.
to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. ... Join our next live chat at 12:30
Heidi Prescott's column runs in the South Bend Tribune on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. When she's not shopping, contact her at email@example.com or 574-235-6070. You can also talk retail at Facebook.com/thebasket and at Twitter.com/marketbasket.