GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A century-old newsstand in downtown Grand Rapids is closing up shop.
The last day for Elliott’s News, located in the McKay Tower along Monroe Center, will be Wednesday, shop owner Bill Bennett said. Customers who stop in will see waning stock and equipment that has been removed.
Bennett has been at Elliott’s News for around 53 years, after he took it over from the original owner. It was first started as a newsstand around 100 years ago, and at one point offered dozens of newspapers from coast to coast and almost 70 Sunday editions.
The business has shifted over the years, as newsprint has since “vanished a little bit,” Bennett said. The stand eventually started offering tobacco products — at one point, it was called Elliot’s News & Tobacco — and it was one of the first lottery retailers in the area.
It has moved around in the downtown area and Bennett said until the current spot, each move made business “pick up a little bit more.”
He closed Elliott’s News in 2017 to retire, but was convinced to reopen it that same year inside the McKay Tower.
“I took the challenge and did the deed. It probably wasn’t the right call,” he said with a laugh.
He said if he could do it again, he would have stayed in retirement. But nobody could have predicted the challenges his and other small businesses would face after 2017.
“I think mom and pop stores are going to probably go by the way,” he said. “I say that with a heavy heart, because we’ve been doing it for 50 years, but … it’s just a sign of the times. And the small stores are probably going to get tougher and tougher.”
Small businesses like his own are facing high interest rates and tough competition from companies like Amazon.
“A lot of people don’t get out, they just don’t get out to little stores like this anymore,” he said.
He said it’s a tough market in the downtown area right now. He’s seen it transform over the past 50 years, as it added things like the Van Andel Areana and the DeVos Place, but he’s also seen it face challenges, including COVID-19, the riot that damaged many downtown businesses in 2020 and safety concerns.
All those challenges led to Bennett making the decision to go back into retirement.
“It’s time. It’s time for us to go,” he said.
He added he would have liked to have sold the store to a buyer, but that didn’t work out.
Several regulars are sad to see the place go.
“They’re all sad to see us go because it’s … been a staple downtown, so build up a lot of great relationships … good friends and good customers,” he said.
He’s had regulars that have been coming since he first took over the newsstand.
“The people you meet and then they come and go, the old guys that you had and … the people that have passed away that were regular customers … over the years and years and years. That’s going to be the biggest thing you’re going to miss,” he said. “The people obviously, and that’s very, very good. Can’t complain about that.”
People have stopped in to give him cards and to give his dog, Maggie, treats. Maggie has been coming to the store with him for about four years now, and he had another dog before her that would come with him to work. He said Maggie is a good dog, who is calm and great with kids.
“She has brought in customers. She’s like a Meijer greeter. You have people coming in and look for (her). … In fact, Meijer’s ought to think about getting animals for greeters at the door,” he joked.
As he gets ready to retire, he said he’ll be taking it easy and spending time with his kids, grandkids and great grandkids. His family races drag cars, so he said he’ll be doing some racing and will have enough to keep him occupied.
“There’s nothing you can say except for, it’s been a long, long journey,” he said. “Long, great journey. It’s just going downtown, getting up every morning, coming down and doing what you got to do. It’s been fun. It’s been appreciative, it’s … nice to get to know all the people.”