It’s difficult to imagine sometimes, what it would be like if our own hometown was losing some former glory, dwindling in population, or not being invested in the way it should be. Stories like that unfortunately exist in so many cities and towns, both large and small. For Bellevue, Mich. the reality of getting smaller and losing some of the old familiarities is one that longtime residents know well.
In recent weeks citizens of Bellevue watched as the old bank and former township building was gradually demolished, it’s ornate façade the last to be pulled down. The sight was a painful reminder for some that the old days of the small village have drifted into memory; the last remnants of glory days when Bellevue was a bustling town with multiple grocery and drug stores, car dealerships, and more.
The old bank building was torn down to make way for a drive thru for Hometown Pharmacy. While the loss of the building is a sign of losing some history, it’s also a sign that the village is still adjusting for the times. One thing dies and makes way for another. Every town has its own circle of life in that way, for better or for worse.
But, there are other parts of town that stand empty, vacant because of a lack of interest and traffic in town. Residents know this, many would even like to do something about it. Mark Goodrich, owner of the Village Bar, along with his business partners, started a renovating project a few doors down at the old Plezall building in the hopes of possibly having a beer garden and a separate banquet hall. Goodrich was unavailable for comment, but spoke to the County Journal about the plans in a January 2017 edition.
Bobbi Easter is another local business owner looking to raise more interest in Bellevue’s downtown. Easter and her two daughters, Pam Steele and Becka Dunne, plan to open their new bakery, Main Street Eatery, in April. The bakery will specialize not only in desserts such as cakes, cookies, and donuts, but will also serve breakfast and lunch with Easter’s own flavor and spice. She doesn’t plan to open any run of the mill diner, but a restaurant with one of a kind recipes.
But Easter’s eatery isn’t just about sharing her special treats with her neighbors. For her, opening a restaurant in Bellevue is about breathing some life back into a once thriving community. She lamented the building Main Street Eatery is moving into stood vacant for five years or so, a sure tell sign in her mind the town isn’t being properly invested in.
“Nobody wants to invest in Bellevue,” said Easter. “Everybody wants new. Nobody wants to preserve the old.”
Easter has many years of ownership and management behind her. Along with investing in one building in town, she’s also owned an adult foster care home in Battle Creek, as well as a bakery in Kalamazoo. But as it relates to Bellevue, Easter saw the rich history, and she hopes for a bright future as well.
“My daughters and I have a dream for making Bellevue a destination village,” said Easter. “I just see the potential.”
In the end, hopes and dreams are what are what make the stuff of reality. It takes an idea, a simple plan, and some hard work to make new and exciting things for ourselves and those around us. Bellevue won’t look the way it did 50 years ago, but that’s part of its story; discovering and shaping how it will look for the next generations.