Thursday, January 4, 2018

Meandering Michigan, Sturgis


Just north of the Michigan-Indiana border, is the city of Sturgis. If you are looking for a small downtown full of personality, history, and local businesses with charismatic owners and employees, this town is a must. Thanks to an invite from Amy York, of York Mercantile, we had the pleasure of spending the day meandering Sturgis. 


York Mercantile is a distinctive shop full of treasures offering home décor, furniture, custom quilts, soaps & other bath & body products, kitchenware and food, candles, and many items made in Michigan and Indiana. You can also find artwork and books by local artists and authors. As we visited the other stores and locations, the praise for Amy and her dedication to their town was a common conversation. She is responsible for some very popular events in Sturgis and organized a great visit for us as well.





When walking up to Great Lakes Chocolate & Coffee Company, you can smell the aroma before you open the door. We are tea and cocoa girls, so we had chai tea, some tasty baked goods and of course purchased enough chocolate treats for our ride home. Locals may be familiar with Great Lakes as they've been around since 2002 with small kiosks in local malls and stores in Michigan and Indiana. Owners, Paul and Jared Smith, opened the Great Lakes Chocolate & Coffee Company in Sturgis where they offer a large selection with most of their coffee grown on small farms, picked by hand, and all roasted in Sturgis.  You can also purchase their coffee and chocolate from their website: https://myglcc.com/collections



Willer's  Shoes is a long-time Sturgis staple, in business since 1934. There have only been two owners in that time, Harry Willer and Todd Maynard. While shopping at Willer's you will find shoes by Bed Stu, Brooks, Aetres, Taos and Pikolios just to name a few of their most popular brands. The boutique-style clothing is carefully selected  with a small but nice offering. They also carry jewelry by Brighton and Uno de 50.

We were very excited to find an artist's co-op in Sturgis. The non-profit co-op is located in one of the town's oldest buildings, that was home to Purdy Grocery Store in the 1940's. One of the most unique things about the building is an original pulley elevator, still in working condition. The co-op is located on the first floor. Renovations are being done on the second floor and the goal is to eventually renovate the entire building with artists work on every level. The gallery is completely ran and maintained by volunteers, as is the restoration.  There are currently over 20 local artists featured, offering pottery, paintings, jewelry, wood-work, videos, fiber - paper art, and more.






The Craftsman's Daughter, a charming boutique is a mix of new, vintage, and hand-crafted merchandise. Owned by Sturgis local, Ellie Patrick, Craftsman's offers stylish clothing, jewelry, home décor, and some locally made items as well. This store can't be missed when visiting Sturgis.














If you are looking for antiques, vintage items, or something unique as Laura Jean's store name suggests, you should stop by and see her. Laura Jena's has consigned clothing and accessories, a wide-selection of jewelry both antique and modern, furniture, and many other great finds as well as locally made candles, soaps, and lotions.





Before leaving town, we stopped at Boundary Waters for a late lunch. We had the spinach dip and a gyro. The food was excellent. The dip was cheesy and the gyro was authentic in flavor with well-seasoned beef and lamb and tzatziki sauce - my favorite. Their menu has a wide-variety of pastas, steaks, sandwiches, burgers, fish, and other entrees. Boundary Waters also features a large selection of craft beers and fine wines.

There were a few places that we were not able to make it to in town, but we will surely be visiting on our next trip back: Ringenberg Farm MuseumZus & Zo European Lifestyle, From Moments to Milestones, LLC, So Vintage,   and Lowry's Books and More.




An important piece of Michigan history, the Sauk trail, now US Highway 12, played  a large part in the establishment of the town of Sturgis as well as other towns in the area. Originally traveled by Native Americans, the trail started in the Detroit area continued through what is now the heart of downtown Sturgis and then toward Chicago. Sauk Indians, were part of the Eastern Woodland group, native to the area. The path they followed was used by wildlife, like deer, explaining some of the curvy, winding roads. 




The Sturgis Rail Depot, originally built in 1895, is a reconstruction of the original wood building from 1852. In 2014, the depot, weighing over 300 tons, was moved to it's current location. Construction of the site,  moving the building, and renovations were made possible from grants, donations and the hard work of volunteers.  The original design was kept with every section and detail of the Depot as it was moved and restored. The Depot is now home to the Sturgis Historical Museum.




While small in size, the museum is packed with history including interactive displays. We were greeted by Bonnie Mort, museum board member, for our tour. Bonnie's husband, Mike Mort, is the president of the historical society and has produced several movies about Michigan which can been seen and purchased at the museum.







We started with the Native American exhibition of authentic items including  hand-woven baskets and pelts. Next we moved to the civil war area, with a several interactive pieces including a mini-movie.  We progressed to an attractive construction of a full size setting -room belonging to Judge John Sturgis. Being one of the first to settle in the area, the city was named after him. The picture on the wall of the room, comes to "life" and "John" tells a story of the history of the town.



The tour continued with the railroad station master's office where the station master also appears to tell his story. The last room included Sturgis-area history with a piece of Sturgis's oldest tree, dating back to the 1730's, the story of a Sturgis women who was on the Titanic, and tickets from a 1974 Duke Ellington concert in Sturgis.  Each of the museum's displays included  well-maintained, original items as well as a great selection of photography. At the end of the tour, you can sit and watch short , rotating films  in the "The Electric City Theater." Volunteers are continuously updating displays and coming up with new ideas. This is by far one of the most interesting and unique city museums in the state.



The City of Sturgis was selected as a venue for the Detroit Institute of Art’s 2017 Inside|Out program. While visiting Sturgis, we had the pleasure of viewing some of the reproductions that were still in town. Hype Brand Management, of Sturgis, made a great video to show the fifteen pieces that were on display throughout town: Sturgis Street Paintings Movie.


While at the Depot Museum, we noticed a picture of a Hot 'n Now Restaurant. Hot 'n Now is a Michigan-based hamburger restaurant  chain that started in Kalamazoo in 1984. This was a popular lunch choice for some of us in high school … not to date myself! Sturgis is home to the last Hot n' Now in the World.







Langley Covered Bridge just outside of town, near Centreville,  is the longest remaining wooden bridge in Michigan.  Hard to believe this one-lane bridge was built in 1887. It is named for Thomas W. Langley and family, who helped establish the Village of Centreville in the ­1880s. In 1965, the bridge was designated as a Michigan State Historic Site. We loved the covered bridge, keep an eye out for more posts as we are continuing to visit other Michigan Covered Bridges - hopefully visiting them all eventually.






Sturgis - The Electric City
Going back to the early days of Sturgis, the city approved the construction of the Sturgis Hydroelectric Dam.  Close to Centreville and the Langley Bridge the dam is still in use. Sturgis was named the "The Electric City" because it was the first city in the area to have electricity. At that time, a city the size of Sturgis having electricity, was extremely rare.  The town celebrates with an Electric City Night Parade during Sturgis Fest.



We want to thank the business owners and volunteers in Sturgis for inviting us and welcoming us to their town. We had a great time and will surely be back.




More to come from the mind of ...

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