Special Feature: Summer Fun in the West End

Summer’s long, warm days are worth the wait through winter, delighting us with time to linger with loved ones, do more of the things we enjoy, and explore new ones too. It’s an ideal time to enjoy western Marquette County’s growing number of hidden gems. And if the passion of small business owners for their chosen vocation is any indication of the fun to be had there, you’re in for quite a treat!

David Aeh of Main Street Antique Mall got the antiquing bug early on, going with his babysitter to garage sales where he made purchases because he couldn’t resist a good deal, and began buying more frequently as an adult. David explains, “If I hadn’t gotten into the business, I’d be on The Hoarder’s Show now. The Collector: Lower Harbor Antiques (a multi-dealer antiques mall in Marquette) where I had a retail space, became my enabler.”

After The Collector closed in 2003, David opened his own multi-dealer mall. There were no similar businesses around then and David knew many avid antique-ers appreciate being able to sell their goods without having to be in or run a shop . He located on the corner of Main and Pearl in Ishpeming because of the tourist-related economy, to be near other antiques businesses, and to help support the community. As David explains, “Half or more of businesses’ cash flow here comes from tourism. People come to my store as a destination, not by happenstance, so paying for higher-priced real estate elsewhere wouldn’t necessarily lead to higher cash flow.” David also believes “Antiques are better presented in a beautiful, historic setting rather than a boring, mundane, modern setting.”

With over 40 dealers in 8,000-plus square feet, there are treasure hunting opportunities galore, and great reasons to take advantage of them. As David clarifies, “Shopping vintage is shopping smart for the planet and your pocketbook.”

Bill Carter at Ishpeming’s First Street Antiques also values antiquing as a way of recycling. He notes, “It made it this far! In today’s society, everything’s disposable. People buy a $600 phone; months later a new $600 phone comes out, and they’re saving for that one now.”

Bill’s been antiquing for over thirty years. He returned to the area a few years ago, drawn by his family roots and his faith. He says, “I meet lots of interesting and good people. A variety of tourists come, and the rent’s affordable here.” First Antiques carries a wide variety of items, providing many opportunities for repurposing.

Just a block down the street is Sell’s Antiques. Owner Gary Sell, who opened the business in December, 2015, has already expanded into a second storefront two doors down to make room for furniture and larger pieces. Gary got his start “rescuing things,” well-made items that were going to be thrown out, and filling his basement with them. He includes newer items at his store too. “If it’s cool looking, I’ll get it,” Gary explains.

Gary spends about a third of his time purchasing inventory, making a point to seek out items collected and requested by his customers. He says, “I try to give a good deal so people come back. Then I can get new things for the store.” Gary displays his ever-changing merchandise carefully, making sure to have items of interest to both men and women.

An even newer newcomer to the Ishpeming antiquing scene is Susie Q’s on Main and Pearl, diagonally across from Main Street Antiques Mall. Proprietor Sue Lane has stocked it full of antiques, decorating, fishing, sporting and garden items, vintage clothing, jewelry – also a mix of old and new. She loves the big storefront windows here, and being part of the growing group of antiques-related shops.

As a child, Sue often went to rummage sales and antique shops with her mother, and has focused on buying and reselling since retiring. She enjoys visiting with the customers, and her eyes light up when describing “the thrill of the hunt,” and the fun she has buying items she believes others will appreciate buying at an affordable price.

Just a few blocks over on Cleveland Avenue stands the classy, newly restored and refurbished Gossard Building. Now in the National and Michigan State Registries of Historic Buildings, the Gossard was once home to an early 20th century department store, a women’s corset factory, and later the Pioneer Square shopping mall. Today, renewed by owners Paul and Sandy Arsenault, it houses 15 separate shops and offices, while also showcasing its history with special wall displays prepared by Sandy.

The first of these is a tribute to the hundreds of women who once worked in the factory. Discarded original metal patterns bear the names of the many women who’d worked there, a ground-breaking phenomenon for the times. Sandy says, “It’s been really touching how families come in just to see their loved one’s name on the wall. We even had a 103-year-old lady visit who’d worked here in the early ‘40s.”

You can learn more about area history at the Ishpeming Historical Society and Museum, up on the third floor, as well as check out U.P.-focused merchandise on the first floor at Yooper Shirts.

The Gossard’s history has also inspired a series of mixed media collages by artist/tenant Renee Michaud, which include Gossard artifacts, such as fabric, thread and needles. Renee describes herself as an ambassador to the Gossard, sharing its story as she exhibits her art nationwide. “I just love this building,” she says, “and getting to tell other people across the country about it.”

Renee’s studio, The Nook & Cranny, houses her collages, jewelry and hand-dyed silk scarves, as well as Marc Himes’ wood-turnings and Renee Himes’ fiber art. Both she and fellow artist/tenant Kate LaFave, proprietor of Re: Home and Re: Home Boxcar’s artfully repurposed items, offer a variety of art classes at the Gossard. Check their Facebook pages for store hours and class schedules.

Art classes such as “wine and canvas” evenings and scarf dyeing can also be found at Earthly Treasures, within Ishpeming’s Globe Printing on Division Street. Earthly Treasures also displays some of the abundant creative output of talented local jewelers, painters and craftspeople that’s for sale. Proprietor Stacey Willey notes that changes in printing technology have given her the building space for these activities. Stacey enjoys welcoming the people who stop by, and the supportiveness of the local business community.

And there are more creative happenings at Joy Center, a sanctuary for the imagination nestled in a residential area on Ishpeming’s west side. Founder Helen Haskell Remien says, “All are welcome in this safe beautiful space where you can offer and/or participate in all kinds of workshops and events – from art and writing workshops to open mic and movie nights, to energy healing, yoga and dance sessions, to music and poetry performances – that stretch your boundaries and uplift your spirit. It is a place where joy stands center stage.”

And yes, still more art and crafty classes are offered at Rare Earth Goods, down the street from Earthly Treasures on Division. Owner Pam Perkins began carrying works from eight artists along with some grocery items four years ago, gradually expanding to approximately 140 artists’ work, aisles of food, and more. Now Rare Earth Goods is known for its vast quality beer and wine selection, Fair Trade clothing, and café, which has just extended its hours to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

For more ingredients to create your own summer fare, head to Smokehouse Glenn’s/ U.P. Oils & Vinegars in Ishpeming’s Country Village complex on 41 West. Owner Glenn Andrews puts his 45-plus years of experience to work making top-quality homemade sausages, snack sticks, jerky, and custom cuts of meat. At any given time, 8 – 10 different kinds of bratwurst, plus 8 – 10 types of other sausages are available fresh and ready to go. If you’d rather make your own, you can pick up all your ingredients here too, along with master tips from Glenn. “I like passing my knowledge and experience on to others; it’s fun!” says Glenn.

53 flavors of quality oils and vinegars are also available, along with a tasting bar to pick out favorites for your summer salads. You can even get tips on using special vinegars as a surprise ingredient, such as raspberry balsamic vinegar in brownies, and lemon balsamic in polenta.

Ready for a beer after all this shopping? Jasper Ridge Brewery is steps away in the Country Village complex. General manager Pat Beyer says, “Golden Wheat is our #1.” He notes how the public’s tastes have changed over time, leading to a resurgence in brewery popularity. Jasper Ridge survived its challenging early days, when most wouldn’t drink an IPA, and celebrates its 20th anniversary this fall. Pat credits the busy tourist trade, with the nearby network of mountain biking trails bringing more and more out-of-state visitors, loyal local beer drinkers, and a series of talented head brewers as crucial to Jasper Ridge Brewery’s success.

Though fellow Ishpeming microbrewery Cognition is only a year old, it also has history on its side. Cognition is housed on the street level of the old Mather Inn in what was originally a locker room for workers, becoming a tap room after Prohibition ended where all the actors who were part of filming Anatomy of a Murder hung out in the late ’50s.

Cognition’s owner Jay Clancey, having a relative who mapped out all of Ishpeming’s streets in the 1870’s, and three Ishpeming-born grandparents, believes “It’s kind of my destiny to do something like this here.” He adds, “It’s a fun business, and my big hope in starting it was to help revitalize the downtown.” Jay credits growing awareness of Ishpeming’s central location to a huge network of bike trails as a positive influence too, and has bike trail maps and information available for visitors. With several landmarks nearby in the National Registry of Historic Buildings, a number of historic rides will start off from Cognition this summer.

Jay also had the foresight to bring in Brian Richards as Cognition’s head brewer. Brian began home brewing over 15 years ago, pouring all his spare time into learning, and later also advising other home brewers. Brian says, “I love the creative freedom I have here. Beyond two or three staples, I can brew whatever I want. It’s therapeutic.” His passion turns into a dozen different beers on tap, with additional types in the cooler, a lot for an establishment of its size.

History is also in the details and personal stories, as Colleen Aho, owner of Kate’s Collectibles on 41 East in Negaunee, knows well. Colleen is an avid researcher, finding out everything she can about the many varied items in her shop, and imparting this knowledge to her customers. Colleen and her late husband bought an old oak secretary with their wedding money after marrying, and then began collecting and learning more and more about antiques and collectibles. Colleen knows the importance of the emotional connections customers have with the items she carries, and the memories they trigger of parents, grandparents, and their own early years. Colleen explains, “Antiques should be a joy and bring a happy feeling. That’s what it’s about, not the ‘value’!”

Next door at Birdcage Antiques & Eclectic Décor’s Negaunee location, you can see the results of another marriage-long hobby turning into a business. Owners Pat and Dick Hennessy are so enthusiastic about collecting and repurposing that they have a second Birdcage location in Marquette’s Karen Larson Interior Design Showroom, and also own Lowenstein’s Marketplace, packed with a wide range of items from multiple dealers on three levels of a 1916 downtown Negaunee department store.

Pat finds the business constantly exciting, explaining, “Every day is different.” She also appreciates the value of “repurposing rather than chopping down a tree.”

Speaking of repurposing, downtown Negaunee’s Old Bank Building will now include the relocated City Green Market with antique shopping areas under its generous roof. Arranged so you can easily zip in and out for the organic, natural, Fair Trade and vegan goods you need on a busy day, or grab a coffee and meander through the building when you have more time, you’ll discover plenty to appreciate here.

Multi-business owner Jeff Plummer is enthusiastic about creating an old-style mercantile vibe in one of the wings, with a gas fireplace and antiques mixed in with the coffee, chocolate, camping and hardware odds-and-ends available for purchase. Items such as Bronner’s soap, RV and septic-friendly toilet paper, and vegan marshmallows have been very popular with tourists at Old Bank Building Antique Shops, and Jeff will now be able to provide for more of their and local residents’ needs. An antiques collector since his early days, Jeff says he’s bringing all his favorite business aspects together under one roof to form “my kind of dream place to go while I’m vacationing.”

Across from the Old Bank Building is the newly opened 340 Antiques & Eclectic Décor. Proprietor Lynndee Hanson is delighted to offer a homey, warm atmosphere with a great variety of unique items from many who’d been dealers at the Old Bank Building before City Green Market’s relocation, and others. 340’s exposed brick wall, gas fireplace, and one-level accessibility, with a handicapped parking spot in front, make it a welcoming place, very important to retired special education teacher Lynndee. She says many locals familiar with the building’s earlier usage – the Hillbilly bar, a dance studio, attorney’s office, custom printing studio and thrift shop, are excited to discover its new incarnation.

If all the shopping has gotten you hungry, (or even if it hasn’t), be sure to stop in to Midtown Bakery & Café, where owner Marybeth Kurtz is preparing to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The delicious baked goods and lunches prepared by Marybeth, a former pastry chef for an upscale seafood restaurant, and her staff of eight, and the casual, colorful atmosphere are key to its success. Marybeth says, “Customers know they can sit, and hang out, and eat, and drink, and have fun here.”

A mid-June renovation will help meet the demand for more seating, further supporting the relationships Marybeth has formed here. She explains, “I love the people, their warmth and acceptance. High school students come in saying ‘It’s the cookie lady!’ because they’ve been coming here since they were toddlers. When my customers are laughing and having a good time, it makes my heart sing.”

You can also enjoy relaxing and socializing across the street at Panache Events, Décor & Boutique. Owner Janice Chittler says she loves having women come in and socialize with their girlfriends, whether they’re buying anything or not. But you just might want to buy – she stocks handmade clothes you won’t find anywhere else in the U.P., most made by Michigan moms working from home. Janice’s creativity also pours into the painting parties, craft and art classes she offers for both children and adults, and the decorating, coordinating and rental items she provides for events such as weddings and theme parties. She loves creating with her clients, and getting kids excited about art. You can check the current schedule of activities at her Facebook pages – Panache Boutique and Panache: Events, Décor & Boutique, LLC.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2016 issue.