Hometown Tourist: Gitche Gumee Company

A lifestyle brand that started in Northern Michigan is handcrafted in downtown Traverse City.

Hometown Tourist takes us to Gitche Gumee Company to check out their handcrafted items inspired by Lake Superior.

“Loosely translated there’s various versions from Ojibwa and Chippewa, but it loosely translates from a vast sea or a great lake,” said owner Michael Wahlstrom.

Lake Superior is also known as Gitche Gumee. At Michael’s store he wanted to create a way to “wear Superior”.

His store is filled with hand crafted items from luggage and wallets, to caps and textiles

“I’ve been wanting to start a lifestyle brand that’s a Michigan brand, that’s authentic but not obvious. So kind of creating a full brand instead of one product category,” said Wahlstrom.

You won’t see the state of Michigan on his products.  His goal is to instead take subtle inspiration from our Great Lakes.

“Kind of taking notes off of the lake where sometimes it can kind of be pristine and beautiful and clean, and then the next day it can be completely rough and dark and gloomy. I mix that rough and soft with the textures and the colors and things like that, so that kind of like pulls an inspiration from that,” explained Wahlstrom.

You are met with the smell of leather and a workshop in action as soon as you walk in the door.

You’ll find Michael working away stamping, stitching and sewing each unique piece. And each detail has a meaning.

“When I first started I used to stitch five x’s on things. It was one x to represent each Great Lake and then I would stitch one x bigger. That kind of evolved into part of the logo and branding, so you’ll see the five x’s across a lot of my products,” said Wahlstrom.

Each item here is made small batch, with a lot of craft and intention.

“You get that sense I know where it’s made, I know who made it, I know it’s ethical, I know it’s local, I know it’s a small business,” said Wahlstrom.

Categories: Hometown Tourist