Despite a challenging 2020, downtown Kalamazoo welcomed 16 new businesses

KALAMAZOO, MI — When Karl Gerstner and his wife, Laura Wrazel, started on plans to move their business from New Jersey to Kalamazoo, they dealt with normal delays due to renovations and other issues.

Then COVID hit.

They opened their store — Beowoof Provisions For Pets, at 428 S. Burdick St., in Kalamazoo — in April 2020, just as the coronavirus “lockdown” hit, Gerstner said. Foot traffic was much less than what they expected due to the virus and its restrictions, he said.

His shop was allowed to stay open as an essential business, Gerstner said, while others around them closed their doors.

“We were obviously worried and wondering what would happen,” he said.

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Despite the toll the pandemic took on local entrepreneurs and those they employ, Kalamazoo’s downtown area welcomed more than a dozen new businesses in 2020.

Beowoof Provisions for Pets opened with a 56-page business plan that was based in part…

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