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First Niles business damaged in flood reopens

NILES, Mich. -- Three weeks to the day after the floodwater rose in Niles, Front Street Pizza Pub reopened with a ribbon cutting. It’s the first step in the city recovering economically.

“It can be detrimental to your business,” said Sarah Martin, the general manager of Front Street. “But our goal was to open and open better than ever.”

Front Street Pizza Pub was caught in the middle of February’s historic flood.

Pictures captured the moment employees and volunteers rode a front loader to the restaurant to try to sandbag it.

Despite their efforts, the water trickled in and caused more than $50,000 in damages.

“It has been nonstop work,” Martin said.

But the work has paid off.

Front Street cut a grand reopening ribbon on Wednesday afternoon.

“Being that we are such a small city, it’s important to have a vibrant economic growth in our city,” said Katie Feehan, the communications director for the Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce. “And we had been experiencing such an economic growth over the last few years, so this flood really kind of put a halt for that on some businesses.”

Feehan said the end goal is to get people back into downtown Niles.

But some barricades – literally and figuratively – still stand. And she doesn’t want the City of Four Flags to be forgotten.

“Once it’s over and the waters have receded, a lot of people forget about the situation that everyone is still going through,” Feehan said. “The cleanup process for some businesses, it’s going to be months and it’s going to be ongoing. So, that’s a difficulty in keeping it in front of people to say we still need help.”

One way people can help is by filling the rotunda of the Niles District Library on Wednesday, March 14 from 6-730 p.m.

Steve Cabe, a Niles resident, organized a give back night that is featuring live musical performances, a magic show, and some auction items.

“The dual purpose there, in short, is that we’re raising funds for the city of Niles,” Cabe said. “But hopefully we’re also igniting the spark under the city as well as a lot of local organizations, local individuals, like I said, and really bringing the city together.”

All proceeds raised will be donated to the Niles Salvation Army.

Back at Front Street, Martin said it felt good to switch on their open sign Wednesday.

It’s the start of a new beginning for the 14-month-old business.

“We couldn’t have done it without the community’s help,” she said.

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