GTPulse: Specialty Michigan Store In An Unexpected Location
Specialty Michigan stores are all over Northern Michigan, typically in popular vacation towns like Traverse City and Petoskey. If you find yourself driving between the two popular destinations on U.S. 131 you’ll pass another specialty Michigan store in an unexpected place, Mancelona.
Rooted is a large specialty store offering all Michigan-made items as well as local ice cream from Ashby’s and coffee from Leelanau Coffee. The store is a great place to stop for a Michigan themed gift or souvenir and owners Jeff Weaver and Mike Nygren are passionate about contributing to the Mancelona community.
“I love when people walk in the door and are surprised that something like this is in Mancelona. We want people to see Mancelona in a higher light. Having nice things like this in a gift shop that people don’t expect, that’s what I really enjoy,” Mike said.
The store opened Memorial Day Weekend 2017. Mike and Jeff live in Gaylord and both shop a lot of local, Northern Michigan stores. Mike had previously owned Breakfast & Burger Express in Kalkaska and currently owns popular local restaurant Iron Skillet. He and Jeff had wanted to bring a specialty store to Mancelona.
“We always enjoyed going to these types of little gift shops” Jeff said. “We thought that this would be a nice addition to Mancelona. It’s all local, a lot of local artists. We change out our inventory a lot. People come in with stuff that they make.”
Everything, and I mean everything is Michigan-made and found by Mike and Jeff. Because they shop at so many Michigan businesses they had an idea of what they wanted the store to look like, however, finding enough product to stock a new store is no easy feat. Mike and Jeff were scouring Etsy and other online shops to curate the kind of store they wanted. They also went to a lot of trade show expos where they had to be meticulous in looking at quality and origin of the featured items.
“A lot of that stuff, you have to weed out what is Michigan-made and what is not even made in this country. We don’t want to be that gift store that sells the souvenir that’s only going to last until the end of your trip,” Mike said.
They stock local jewelry, soap, lotions, apparel and much more. They make trips down state where they’ll find more vendors, but they also have many vendors from the Upper Peninsula.
Rooted is right next door to the Iron Skillet. Jeff and Mike had seen the building for rent for several years before deciding to take the plunge, but they’re happy they did. Rooted works well in tandem with the Iron Skillet.
“After people eat lunch they come over here and shop on their way to Petoskey or Charlevoix or Harbor Springs. A lot of people ask, ‘why are you here?’” Jeff said. “The restaurant is right next door, there’s a lot of traffic going by here.”
But the owners are hoping that soon some of that traffic will be purposely headed to Mancelona. A recent grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority is encouraging houses in the downtown area to add some cosmetic appeal to their exteriors. The town is really making a push to be more than a town people drive through.
Being a business owner in any aspect has its challenges. A challenge Mike and Jeff face is constantly navigating what sells well and what doesn’t. Jeff would love to sell more Michigan-made food items, but has found that they don’t sell as well as novelties. This challenge is balanced out by helpful customers. Customers tell Jeff and Mike about locally made items that they could carry in the store. This kind of feedback is taken seriously by both of them and is helpful to making the store a place where everyone wants to shop.
“It’s worked out where we found companies we haven’t heard of through a customer’s suggestion,” Mike said.
Rooted is a great specialty store that is proud of it’s small town roots that stretch all over Michigan.