by ANDREW NEAL
Clawson is a small town compared to those it’s nestled between in Troy and Royal Oak. The 2.2 square-mile city has seen a handful of longtime businesses close in recent months, and people are taking notice.
In August, the owners of Moose Winooski’s announced they were retiring and closing down the bar after 31 years.
In late October, Black Lotus Brewing Company closed its doors after 13 years in business, citing financial issues, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Just this week, after over a decade in business, Trim Barbershop posted a sign in their storefront that they have closed. And across the street at Da Nang Vietnamese restaurant, another sign echoes a similar sentiment: shuttered.
Rumors are now circulating that Clawson’s Pizza Hut may be on the chopping block after the company made an announcement that it would be closing 500 dine-in restaurants and refocusing its efforts on carryout and delivery. A list of locations closing has not been released.
That’s three out of four businesses on Clawson’s “corner” at 14 & Main now closed or rumored to be closing. This has residents on social media speculating.
“Clawson needs better marketing,” said one commenter on a Clawson community Facebook page. “Part of the problem is the leases want way more than the business can afford. You make zero money just to pay the lease.”
“At one point downtown was uneventful, then new business came in and it was thriving,” said another. “Now it sounds like it’s going backwards.”
Clawson DDA Director Joan Horton says things are not as bad as they may seem.
“I think downtown Clawson is still in very good shape,” said Horton. “People have noticed in Clawson right now because the two that have closed right at the intersection are most noticeable.”
Horton notes that downtown Clawson is still a very good market, and that businesses remain interested in the small city.
“We’ve been at a 5% vacancy for years. And we have so many other wonderful things happening,” Horton said, citing a new distillery that’s being built, the Ace Hardware redevelopment, and the addition of 31 apartments and four retail spaces.
In other positive news, the Black Lotus building has already been leased. New owners and longtime Clawson residents Tyler and Andrea Williams plan to open a gastropub at the corner called Pumachug.
“We love this community, and would love to hear everyone’s feedback,” Andrea Williams said in an announcement on social media, encouraging residents to visit Pumachug.com to fill out a survey of what they’d like to see at the new restaurant.
Even with the Lotus property leased, many Clawson storefronts stand empty. With buildings along Main Street sporting “For Lease” signs from summer to winter, there is speculation that this is a sign of an impending economic downturn.
“Unfortunately right now we have some noticeable vacancies,” Horton said. “Clawson is a great market. We have a very supportive community. We have free parking and our location – we like to say we’re 5 minutes from everywhere.”
Not helping matters, The Clawson Grill caught on fire last month. An employee showed up to open the restaurant one morning to find it full of smoke. A fire had broken out near the cash register area and firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze quickly. However, dealing with insurance and repairs takes time. The Clawson Grill remains closed and there is no word on when exactly it will be up.
“The Clawson Grill is missed, but I think other restaurants are picking up the slack,” Horton said.
As Clawson businesses close for one reason or another, Horton remains optimistic. She warns against believing everything you read online.
“People need to know that the current state of the market in downtown Clawson is very good,” Horton said, “and at times, social media has a lot to say, but it isn’t always true.”