GTPulse: New Traverse City Shop Has All Your Space-Age Bachelor Pad Needs
During my time in Traverse City I have heard little pieces of the city’s history through interviews I’ve done with story subjects. I’ve heard history ranging from the days of Wild Bill Germaine in the 1800s to history that’s not so old. If there’s one place that I could travel back in time to in Traverse City history it would be InsideOut Gallery. The art gallery showed unique, thought-provoking and risque art in a mid-century modern inspired space. The warehouse market location opened in 2003, closed in 2016 and in one review was called the pioneer of the district. The space had a bar and hosted a lot of local events. Owner Mike Curths truly made InsideOut what he wanted and he has done the same with his new men’s shop Men’s Emporium.
“InsideOut was a lot of low-brow art, outsider art. I thought if it lasted six months it would be a success, and then it just kept going. I had some health issues so I started thinking about shutting the gallery down. I felt like I wanted to retire and I just wasn’t feeling it anymore, so I retired for a couple of years.”
A couple of years of sitting around and watching Bonanza and Andy Griffith was enough time for Mike to get antsy and want to find work to shake off some idleness. He took a part-time job working the counter at Raduno. While working, he began to dream up the idea for a men’s specialty shop.
“For about a year I began thinking about doing something like this, and it grew out of my frustration for finding a nice place to buy shaving products. I used to sport a pretty big handlebar mustache and certain products just made that work. Where do I go to get straight razors and things like that’s not a drugstore with big fluorescent lights? Where do guys like me go?”
There was a commercial space for rent right across the street from Raduno and this past July he took the plunge and rented the space.
Although Mike still has a lot he wants to rearrange in the shop, he has clothing, grooming products, artwork, books and retro cocktail glassware displayed tastefully. The unique sets, shakers, jiggers and stirrers are all worthy of sitting on a living room bar cart.
“I’ve always loved cocktail culture, especially in the ‘50s. When I was a kid I always knew when it was five o’clock because you’d hear the martini glasses clinking.”
Beyond the vintage bar tools, it was important to Mike to curate a shop that offers products for the modern man. Men’s Emporium, or M.E., stocks men’s straight razors, specialty shave and grooming products from Detroit Grooming Co. and has a couple of styling seats in the back where his wife Kim will take appointments to do men’s styling and cuts.
“She’s a stylist and had done a salon for years in the InsideOut space before I retired. Has to be by appointment though, she still has clients of her own.”
Mike knows that opening a niche shop like this is a risk, but risk in business is something he’s comfortable with and he’s done his market research.
“I started watching men on the street while I was having a glass of wine at Left Foot Charley’s. I noticed a lot of guys are well-groomed and well dressed. I thought that guy is my market, so I started putting it on paper and looking up how many men are in Grand Traverse County and what’s the age.”
The shop is a great place to stop and wander around on an afternoon out. It looks like the love child apartment of Hemingway and Don Draper, with framed pictures of old-school Hollywood starlets, displays of men’s ties and classic books, and even a bowl of free candy-colored condoms with a sign encouraging patrons to take what they need and not brag to their friends.
M.E. is officially just over a month old, and Mike is looking forward to adding to the store and building a dedicated customer base. He loves to talk all things mid-century and hopes that customers will look at self-care, a newer notion, in a not so new way.
“When you’re getting ready to go out you take your time to clean up and shave, when you make a cocktail you take time. It’s about taking care and time for yourself.”