Susan Ball, of Cheboygan’s downtown business Zany Kitchen, is closing her doors this year after Labor Day, Sept. 5. Ball first moved to Cheboygan 30 years ago to start Vincent Lake Cabins, which was a small rental business on the private lake located in Munro Township. As a member of the Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors for 15 years, Ball finally decided to open a business in the downtown area, hoping that it would spark other individuals to do the same. In November of 2008, she opened Zany Kitchen, a small store boasting kitchen appliances, Northern Michigan themed kitchenware, and various gifts. “When I bought this building I really wanted to give other people the incentive to open their own stores downtown as well,” said Ball. “I thought if I open here on the main corner then people will follow suit.” Ball said that eventually others did follow in her footsteps and open more businesses. According to Ball, tourists would come into Zany Kitchen and remark on how they felt like they could now bring relatives and co-workers to downtown Cheboygan to shop and eat with the increase in store-fronts. But in recent years, the downtown area has faced more difficult times. In 2011, an accidental fire burned the building on North Main Street that was home to The Carnation and Top Of The Greeks, which were fixtures in the Cheboygan restaurant scene. Since then, various businesses have come and gone in downtown Cheboygan. “Different people have closed for different reasons. Not all business ideas played out,” said Ball. “It’s been a struggle; no question about it.” She recommends that the city of Cheboygan promote tourism and attract store fronts that are quaint and homey. “I have gone to the Leenlanau Peninsula once a year, for 12 years, and they all have a ‘boat-load’ of gift shops that are all successful,” said Ball. “Sometimes people come into here (Zany Kitchen) for spatulas, but what they’re really coming for is gifts.” Ball also spoke of how a part of embracing Cheboygan’s touristic nature should be to develop the riverfront property in the city. “Why isn’t that a restaurant? Other towns have figured that (developing on the waterfront) out. Because we (the city of Cheboygan) haven’t looked at tourism seriously, we haven’t,” remarked Ball, mentioning businesses that are currently located on prime land next to the Cheboygan River. She then went on to acknowledge the worth of the Downtown Footbridge, which connects the local baseball fields to North Main Street. “The bridge is successful, people do use it,” said Ball, citing the business that flows over after baseball and softball games. While Ball is hoping to enjoy her free-time, post-Zany Kitchen, she said that it would have been difficult to stay open in the current economic climate. “I do want to retire, but also it’s because of the shopping. If this store was booming, I would figure something else out,” said Ball. Currently the building Zany Kitchen inhabits is for sale, but no offers are on the table just yet. Despite the closure, Cheboygan Mayor, Mark Bronson, is optimistic about the future of the downtown area. “The city’s moving ahead with the port property, and if our vision with the port comes to fruition that will bring the kind of jobs that people have fond memories of, like when Procter and Gamble were here.” Bronson hopes that the port project, with plans for cargo, ferry, commercial, and recreational ports on the Cheboygan River, will create better paying jobs for locals and in turn spark the economy. “People who makes decent wages spend their money locally and that supports other businesses. Right now we don’t have a big employer to provide those wages,” said Bronson. The Mayor said that the port project committee, consisting of local citizens and city officials, has been working towards seeing the project come to fruition for eight years. Bronson mentioned that sometimes locals want city officials to recruit businesses downtown more aggressively, but stated that businesses are not on-call waiting to move to Cheboygan. “That’s not how it works,” said Bronson. He believes in creating a sustainable, long term solution. “We have had some inquiries of people who are watching. Proposals for bringing industry in, they want to see the port property done right. Who’s going to unload and load my shipments, they are waiting to hear,” said Bronson. In reference to downtown businesses leaving, he also remarked that the nature of shopping has changed with the advent of the digital age and that businesses hoping to thrive downtown need to adapt and offer a unique service or product. As Zany Kitchen closes, Billie’s Clothing will also shut its doors in April of 2017. Before closing, Zany Kitchen will offer sales beginning on the Wednesday before Labor Day that will continue until Sunday. Starting on Wednesday, everything will be 10 percent off in the store, with a 10 percent increase each day until Sunday, Sept. 4, when products will be 50 percent off. After Ball closes shop, she will occasionally reopen throughout the year on Saturdays to sell any leftover merchandise, as well as antiques.