GTPulse: 43-Year-Old Beulah Gift Shop Is Loved By Generations

Before Northern Michigan had the broad selection of gift stores that it does now there was Crystal Crate & Cargo. The 43-year-old gift and collectibles store in Beulah has been beloved by generations.

“We don’t just get regulars, we get families. Whenever we have two or three generations in here at the same time I always try to take a picture. I’ve had five generations in this store all at the same time.”

Owner Sally Berlin never planned on being a business owner, but after running the shop for nearly half a century, she’s certainly got a knack for it.

She started out her career as an X-ray technician, and although she is the sole proprietor of the business now, she and another nurse that she worked with back then started it together as a side project.

“My former husband’s sister had a drug store, inside of it they had a gift shop. So, she took me to a gift show in Chicago and I got hooked. There were a lot of fancier housewares and gifts, antiques, glassware, collectibles. I knew that I couldn’t take it all home with me, but I wanted it all the same. My former husband had a rental spot next to his office and that’s what started it.”

As the shop gained popularity, Sally knew she would have to choose between both jobs. She didn’t ruminate long and took the plunge to be a full-time business owner. 

“I managed for about a year and a half working at the hospital and hiring people to take care of the store, and then I would do it on the weekends. I finally quit my job because I was really into the business. Was I intimidated? I never thought about it. When you read stories about people that have been in their profession a long time, they just kind of move through it. You don’t necessarily think too much about it, or you’d probably never do it!”

Although the downtown Beulah store has undergone a lot of changes over the years, including a move across the street for more space, the items Sally stocks have largely remained the same. The only difference is how trends have shaped those items.

“We had pretty much the same categories that we sell now, that we did when we started. Our byline is ‘distinctive accessories for person and home.’ So it’s always been that. We have a lot of gourmet kitchen things, when we first opened, baskets were really huge. We used to sell a lot of scarves, and then those sort of waned. Now they’re back. We always sold a little jewelry. You can see things move around in popularity over the years, but these categories are pretty much in place.”

The large, highly explorable shop has something for everyone and carries all kinds of various kitchen items, home decor items, fashion accessories, and other easily giftable things like kids games, jewelry, skincare, and candles. A variety of local makers have their items for sale at the shop, including 5:14 Candles. She’s happy to help them on their own paths to business success.

“We have a young lady that makes our candles upstairs, that we sell a ton of. They’re great quality and have beautiful fragrances. It just started out as a hobby to sell at farmers’ markets and things. Now she’s about to launch into a really serious business, and she has backers.”

But more than anything, Sally loves her town and the community that she’s built around her beloved store. 

Upon entering the store, there’s a welcoming warmth from Sally or some of the staff that has been working with her for years.

“Everybody’s been here quite a while. The one whos’ been here the least amount of time has probably been here eight years.”

Her staff’s loyalty to her and the shop matches that of Sally’s customers, and there’s no shortage of friendly faces. Anyone wandering the shop can expect to feel like a regular visitor, whether they are or not.

While standing near a woman at the checkout counter, she told me that she and her family had been coming to shop with Sally for years.

“We’ve had three generations of my family shopping here,” she told me.

That seems to be commonplace at Crystal Crate and Cargo. It comes as no surprise to Sally.

“People move all the time. You know, the house, the cottage, the grandparent’s house or the parents’ house, they’re central to the family. The thing that doesn’t change. People live all over the world for their careers now but they still come back to the cottage or the old homestead. Everyone needs a sense of roots, and I think this place gives people that.”

Whether shopping for you or a loved one, check them out 262 South Benzie Boulevard, in charming Beulah, and start a family tradition of your own.

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Categories: GTPulse