Remote working leaves impact on Battle Creek businesses

Coronavirus

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Downtown Battle Creek continues to be hit hard by the pandemic, and one contributing factor is that hundreds of employees continue to work from home.

Many in Battle Creek work at the Kellogg Company’s headquarters. Most employees are working remotely, which has meant fewer customers for other businesses.

Pastrami Joe’s in the “Cereal City” is calling it quits. It’s closing its Battle Creek location at the end of the week and is consolidating into its Marshall location.

“We thought we could ride it out. We did the first wave really well, and it’s just people aren’t coming back to work physically, so there really is not enough business to pay for the overhead,” Pastrami Joe’s owner Jodi Lubi said.

The restaurant, which relies on lunch crowds, was trying to weather the economic storm of the pandemic. The business is now making new plans.

“About 80% of our sales are down,” Lubis said. “I feel like we’re almost to the end of the pandemic, but it’s just been a lot and it’s just going to be good to consolidate into our Marshall location, keep our employees and regroup.”

Mary Ann Angelo, owner of Barista Blues Café, has been fighting through the pandemic to keep her restaurant open.

“We will do what it takes to get through this. We’ve learned to adjust. We’ve cut hours,” Angelo said of business during the pandemic.

Angelo says her business also sees the impact of less people working in person.

“We no longer have the foot traffic from your office people who would be down here like the federal center, Kellogg’s, even the courthouse people, city hall — That’s gone. I mean 80 to 90 percent of these people are still working from home,” Angelo said.

A spokesperson for Kellogg’s says its office will remain remote through the end of June and the company will reassess its plan.

Several projects are underway to renovate buildings and invest millions downtown, like a renovation of the McCamley Plaza Hotel.

“All of these districts are getting new growth and new opportunities in them and I think that is a really great thing to be able to talk about. The investment is huge,” said Kara Beer, president of the Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce.

Beer says there is a restaurant looking at moving into the space at Pastrami Joe’s and is optimistic the situation will improve.

“It is a great location. We know that. We’ve had a number of tenants that have looked into that specific spot,” Beer said. “We do hear from other businesses and around this community in the sense of traffic is starting to pick up. We’re starting to see more people out and about.”

There’s been no word yet on what might take over the space at Pastrami Joe’s. The Chamber of Commerce is hopeful an announcement will be made in the coming months.

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