From bikes to bites to gifts and thrift, we know small businesses in Michigan span the gamut. On Small Business Saturday, these community-minded businesses will keep your money local.
Michigan would not be the state it is without the small business owners who preserve generations-long culture, introduce new traditions, and provide the supply of everything you could ever ask for. The pandemic has tested even the strongest of Michigan small businesses, forcing them to adjust how, when, and where they work. For those that are still open, they’re still acclimating to the impacts of a pandemic that rocked their careers and passions. But that’s the point—they’re still here, open for business, and looking for new faces to meet.
After the hullabaloo of Thanksgiving and Black Friday die down, Small Business Saturday takes place Nov. 27. Though this year might be different, our small businesses in Michigan are still here for us, and Small Business Saturday is one chance of many to be there for them.
The ‘Gander is featuring 11 small businesses from around the state that you can pop into this weekend or whenever you’re in their area. All are well-reviewed online and locally owned. Happy shopping!
Yates Cider Mill
1950 E. Avon Rd., Rochester Hills, MI 48307
Before the big, red, water-powered barn structure was a cider mill, it was a grist mill in the 19th century. But tracking back more than a century and a half, one thing has remained true, which is that the Yates family has owned the cider mill since its inception.
Inside Yates Cider Mill, you’ll find tasty treats, from hot apple cider, to a variety of fresh pastries and pies. Locals have been stopping by for decades, literally, along their commute or school route, and often pick up a cider to go for a hike around the back.
“My wife Katie and I are the sixth generation owners of Yates, so we consider it an honor to not only preserve the history, but to preserve the influence that a place like Yates can have on literally generations of peoples’ stories,” owner Mike Titus said. “We recognize that we are a truly unique business and its roots have grown over the years by being a part of so many people’s experience and memories.”
Thanksgiving is a favorite time of year for the Yates family. Not only is their hot, cinnamon-rich cider a perfect way to warm up inside and out, but the property also is enveloped in rich colors.
“We have so much to be thankful for,” Titus said.
West End Ski & Trail
101 S. Main St., Ishpeming, MI 49849
Downtown Ishpeming is coming back, and West End Ski & Trail is part of the push. What began as a small bike shop in a 460-square-foot showroom has become a premier cross country skiing and cycling shop in the region, with a brand new, 5,000-square-foot renovated location.
On Google, the shop boasts nothing but five-star reviews from loyal customers.
“It’s amazing, but I’m not proud, I’m humbled,” owner Spencer Prusi said. “I’m humbled by the support of our community, our customers, our staff, and our brands to help us not only survive a pandemic, but to thrive!”
Walk inside, and you’ll find high-quality bikes and skis that fit all needs and sizes—Pivot, Scott and Rocky Mountain bikes and Madshus for skis. West End also has Atlas snowshoes so that you can experience all parts of the Upper Peninsula’s wilderness expanse.
“I am proud of one more thing, the geographical area in which we live and service,” Prusi said.
140 Bridge St., Dimondale, MI 48821
Wren brings vintage household items from around the country right back to mid-Michigan, where they’re on display to suit your home. Owner Lisa Gnass goes through each of these items one-by-one herself, whether looking for a newly made, retro-fitting piece of jewelry, or an eclectic, rare, copper vase from California.
“Each one has a story behind it,” Gnass said.
The store itself beckons customers in too, with a charming aesthetic and a friendly feel. Gnass not only collects and trades these rarities. She actually does the work to help customers combine them to create a “warm and stylish—and thoroughly modern—look.”
“I’m so proud to give customers well-vetted items to choose from in a place where they can feel welcome, creative and content with their purchases,” she said.
25020 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores, MI 48080
Some of the best bass fishing in the country comes in Michigan, and specifically, you’ll find it at Lake St. Clair, just northeast of Detroit. On the shores of the pristine, stunning lake is St. Clair Shores, anchored by nautical culture and one of its longest-operating businesses, Gifts Afloat.
Donna Flaherty opened Gifts Afloat in 1976 after she quit her teaching job to join her husband in his highly successful boat surveying business. A lot has since changed around the area, but Gifts Afloat has remained consistent. Flaherty welcomes customers from all over the country looking to bring home more than a fish but a keepsake of their memories.
“This past summer, I’ve had them from Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, from all over,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty describes her shop as “everything but a marine store related to the water,” and it’s true. You can find clothes, trinkets, and jewelry all inside. She curates the collection herself, and takes pride in what she does.
In addition to running the store, Flaherty also helped shape how St. Clair Shore looks today. In 1993, she and two others founded the business owners’ association, eventually leading to the creation of the Nautical Mile.
“These people that find me, once they come in, they return,” Flaherty said.
GoodFellas Bagel Deli
625 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing, MI 48912
It takes some bravado to open a new restaurant during the pandemic. Adrian Joseph did that, and he did so downtown as so many other people left.
He doesn’t regret the decision at all.
“I realized this specific area of downtown could use more breakfast options,” he wrote in an op-ed to the Lansing State Journal. “Imagine watching one of your favorite mob movies while having that realization — and at that moment Goodfellas Bagel Deli was born.”
Clearly, Joseph is a mafioso. But he’s educated his customers on mob and movie history too, with creatively named and ingeniously crafted bagel creations, including the “Made Man” and the “Don.”
Joseph is a proud Lansing native too. That’s why he wanted to open up in the city’s flourishing stadium district, and that’s why he uses local ingredients whenever possible.
“I believe if you were fortunate enough to survive this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a small business, there is truly nothing that can stop your success now,” Adrian wrote.
Crust – a baking company
104 W. Caroline St., Fenton, MI 48430
From bakery to restaurant to retail, Crust in Fenton is used to doing a little bit of everything. But the pandemic presented a new challenge altogether, as staffing changes, supply shortages, and demand fluctuations flipped the business model on its head.
The business even learned a few lessons from the experience, however. And now not only can you walk in and get your favorite mouth-watering cakes, pies, and pastries, but you can also choose from a freshly made, ready-to-go selection of lunch options.
“It took us a little bit to get under our feet, but it took off,” head chef Sean Coulter said. “It did really well for us doing carryout dinners, because it built a customer base I don’t feel like we had before.”
Now you can order online or even ship your artisan favorites. Specials include a pretzel sandwich with hand-carved turkey and Vermont, as well as savory omelettes and fresh-baked pizzas. Don’t forget the coffee either.
As Crust changed its menu and how it worked, it drew in a new array of followers. Business has not only picked up, but it’s changed to meet what customers and regulars love.
“They helped us be there for the community, and they came,” Coulter said. “They got good food, good quality, good portions, and they realized this is a good place to go.”
11834 E. Pleasant Lake Rd., Manchester, MI 48158
Six generations in and still going, Horning Farms is one of the older dairy farms in southeast Michigan. Now, three generations are on hand any given day, taking care of the hundreds of dairy cows whose milk goes to the Michigan co-op.
Katelyn Packard, part of the newest generation who’s working on the farm, went to Michigan State for her agricultural degree. But her favorite part about working with so many cows is working with family, including her husband, who’s now part of the business.
“My favorite part is that it really is a family business,” Packard said. “That comes with its challenges too, working with family, but I do really like the legacy that our family has and getting to work with my family every day in this business.”
Horning Farms accepts tours and visitors, and you can also stop in at the shop, which has cheese, beef, and other treats. You’ll also see the family members in the community, and around town.
“It’s a family operation, three generations of the business,” Packard said. “And we’re all here every day, working together.”
422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Anyone in Ann Arbor knows Zingerman’s in all its many forms. Best known as the deli where President Obama had a sandwich, Zingerman’s has been serving locals and students circling in and out of Ann Arbor for decades.
The bread is divine, everyone agrees. But equally as much thought goes into the ingredients that fit between the buns.
“I wanted a sandwich shop when I was in culinary school,” Rodger Bowser, head chef and managing partner, said. “Sandwiches are good! Now I’m here. Now I own one, a unique one.”
Bowser didn’t find Zingerman’s (that was Ari Weinzweig, Paul Saginaw, Frank Carollo and Maggie Bayless), but he is now famous for some of Zingerman’s most beloved meals, including the potato chips and the Rodger’s Big Picnic sandwich.
Next time you’re in town for a Michigan football game or driving through, call ahead, and you’ll guaranteed leave happy.
Cedar Springs Brewing Company
95 N. Main St. NE, Cedar Springs, MI 49319
Cedar Springs Brewing Company has brought a pint-sized sip and taste of Bavaria to West Michigan. Owner and founder David Ringler describes it as a “taste of Munich without the plane ticket.”
Since opening in 2013, Cedar Springs Brewing Company has received its fair share of attention, especially in the form of awards. Most recently in 2021, it was recognized by Australian International Beer Awards, but that’s only one of the more than 30 honors it has received.
Ringler always had an eye for travel, and after living abroad for several years and working in the hospitality industry, he wanted to bring what he grew to love abroad back home.
“I returned with a desire to share “Gemütlichkeit” (a warm, comfortable, feeling of friendship) as much as I could with my hometown,” Ringler said.
Cedar Springs Brewing Company has experienced the pandemic as much as anyone, but that feeling is still there, carried on by the staff and Ringler, whose official title is “director of happiness.”
“I enjoy working with our team and our guests and get tremendous satisfaction watching people enjoy the flavors that I fell in love with while living abroad,” Ringler said.
Michigan Barn Wood & Salvage
352 W. Columbia St., Mason, MI 48854
In 2015, Kendra Patterson and her husband Trevor hatched an idea they’d been sitting on for some time: What if they could take reclaimed farm wood and turn it into art, crafts, and furniture. A fun hobby for the couple quickly scaled up to a robust business, where they sell furniture and lumber made from the wood, as well as feature the woodwork creations of more than 100 Michigan small businesses in a massive showroom.
Michigan Barn Wood & Salvage is based in Mason, Michigan, and the business itself reclaimed a 30,000-foot historic downtown building and transformed it into a wood studio. Then, they knew they had to stock it full of Michigan-made products.
“Wow, it’s so much more than just lumber,” is what customers always say, Patterson noted.
“It has been an incredible experience building friendships with the families who stock our store with their goods,” she said.
The best part of it all when you shop at Michigan Barn Wood & Salvage is not only are you recycling wood; you’re supporting Michigan-made products and Michigan-based families.
“Being able to help our team of makers grow their businesses and even being able [to] help our community has been the thing we are most proud of,” Patterson said.
Old Town General Store
408 E. César E. Chávez Ave., Lansing, MI 48906
The Old Town General Store in Lansing’s art district is actually what its name suggests: Just like community hubs of old, it has everything you could ever need. But it comes with a modern twist—takeaway gifts and decorations for locals.
When Rhea Van Atta began the store, she envisioned it as a gathering place selling organic, locally sourced foods and hosting concerts and events. Quickly, she realized that wasn’t going to pay the bills. In 2014, she shifted to items with longer shelf lives and a selection of Michigan wines and beers. Business boomed.
“The store will continue to evolve but one thing that we hope remains consistent is that the Old Town General Store evokes the warmth of a traditional general store with a progressive approach to customer care and an emphasis on curating products sourced from Michigan suppliers whenever possible,” Van Atta said.
Now, you’ll find everything from farm-fresh eggs to dry soup mix made in Michigan. Van Atta said you never know what you’ll stumble across. She’ll also deliver her specialty gifts and goods to your doorstep if you live in the area.
“We love our state and all the creative Michigan-based vendors we help promote,” Van Atta said.