MiGreatPlaces: Old Mission General Store

Hard to remember a time when there wasn’t a big box store in every town, a pharmacy on every corner, and gas stations lining our streets. But you won’t find that on Old Mission Peninsula.

Instead, there are farm fields, beautiful beaches and a couple dedicated to preserving an integral piece of our past.

In tonight’s MiGreatPlaces, Corey Adkins takes us to the Old Mission General Store.

“Welcome everybody to the Old Mission General Store. The first retail general store between Fort Wayne and Detroit, down river and Mackinac Island, MI.”The history alone sets this store apart.

“The original opened in a wigwam or cicciup as they call them in a shack on the beach right behind the store.”

That was around 1830. And today, owner Jim Richards does all he can to teach and entertain his customers with a true general store.

“I just have a passion for antiques and old signs from the past and I combine that with the new. Some people find me. Faygo found me when they started to do glass bottles again. We were honored to have glass bottles back with soda. That’s what makes s a real general store. We make things from scratch from cheese to bread that we bake to canned goods and this and that.”

There is certainly plenty to see, but the stories behind this store make it so special. Even Henry Ford knew it. He owned a nearby island and brought friends and family up here.

“Ford knew this, that we were a destination spot so he talked to family who ran the store, the Lardie family. He talked them into building this north wing as along as two-thirds was what he called a ‘combustion engine destination spot.’ Well the name didn’t stick but gas stations did. We were the 2nd gas station in the state of Michigan, Red Crowns, possibly the 3rd gas station in the world.”

An actor, cherry farmer and historian, Richards and his wife Marcy Levine fell into what was the perfect career for them.

“The store is a work of love and respect. We want to preserve this building and this style of shopping,” explains Marcy.

Jim says, “I like to spark an interest and learning into children and I believe how to do that is through good storytelling.”

“His tail is sticking out!” And from coonskin caps to kazoos… “I want the superman!” Children are considered special here, but adults will have just as much fun.

“This is one of the best kept secrets in town right here in our little barrel.” And there’s a famous cheese to go with your wine. “12 and a half years old. What makes it Pinconning is we brine it like a feta for years. We have customers younger than our cheese,” Jim explains. 

Chances are you won’t leave here empty handed. 

“I want them to see the preservation and care that’s gone into setting this up to be the way these stores used to be.”

“I try to apply an ideology that I do for show to the store and I try to keep it as simple as I can that by the time people come in and leave they’re a bit better off. “

If you want to visit the Old Mission General Store, they are located at 18250 Mission Road, Traverse City, MI 49686.