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‘Swirlyz’ is latest addition to downtown Niles

NILES, Mich. -- A new frozen yogurt business is another piece to the puzzle for the city of Niles as it builds up its downtown.

“We want to make this a better place for all of us to live,” said Tammy Gardner, co-owner of Swirlyz.

With each pull of a lever, smiles suddenly appear inside Swirlyz on Front Street in Niles.

“It was just important to us to find a building that was part of the historic district and bring that back to life,” said Cindy Culver, also a co-owner.

Culver and Gardner did just that with their new froyo joint.

Their building on Front Street sat empty for the last 16 years until they transformed it into the ‘top til you drop’ place you see today, as a sign reads inside.

“Downtowns have to have something, a point of difference, to bring people to them,” said Lisa Croteau, program manager for the Niles Downtown Development Authority Main Street Program. “And one of the things that small businesses can have are those experiential businesses like a froyo place.”

Croteau said the City of Four Flags has gone through a major transition in her 18 years here.

“Niles suffered a fate that many Midwest communities, and many little communities across the country, did,” she said. “The world changed. Malls came. And then after people got used to the malls, then you had the Internet, and it totally changed the way businesses had to operate. So, it’s been hard.”

But things are looking up.

Nearly half a dozen businesses have opened, or are set to open, in Niles this year alone.

And projects like ‘Art in the Alley’ are getting students involved to spruce up the city.

“The goal for this alley is to make it a fun way to get from the park into downtown,” Croteau said, pointing to an alley wall painted by Niles High School art students.

A grant program ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz reported on in March is helping some businesses get a facelift.

While others, like Swirlyz, are jumping on the chance to be a first-of-its-kind in Niles.

Croteau said that spirit is contagious.

“The businesses that we have here now, each and every one of them are bringing their own passion to their business, instead of just having a place to be from 9 to 5,” she said.

Croteau also said Niles will soon be getting a craft distillery.

She said a building near Main Street has been purchased and designs are underway.

Swirlyz is open every Monday through Thursday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., and every Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.

You can visit the Swirlyz Facebook page here.

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