Day 79: Heart of Michigan

Heart of Michigan. Photo by Brittany Green.
[box size=”large” border=”full”]Why it’s awesome: Heart of Michigan is an eclectic little shop in downtown Howell that features a wide variety of items created in Michigan.  They have everything from ready to eat ice cream to notebooks made from old records![/box]Heart of Michigan opened up with a huge reception on June 6th 2011, and they’ve been going just as hard ever since.
The owners, Karen and Jon Wing decided to open up the store because they wanted to do something to help out the economy in their home state.  Karen, prior to opening Heart of Michigan worked as a real estate agent. “Being a realtor, I knew how everyone was suffering first hand,” says Karen.  They thought that by opening up a store where they could sell the goods of Michigan artists and businesses, they could reach out to a relatively large group of people. So far the Howell community and the rest of the state has reacted positively to the store.
Heart of Michigan has ready-to-eat and prepackaged food. Photo by Brittany Green.

The store carries art from roughly 40 different artists.  Unlike many other made-in-Michigan stores, most of the artists are local to Howell.  That means most of them are within a 20 to 30 minute drive from the store.  In addition, the owners are willing to listen to customer feedback.  If a customer suggests they get a certain product, Karen and Jon will go out and find that product.

Alongside the art, Heart of Michigan also sells various food products made in the state.  These food items include those that are prepackaged and food that is ready to eat.  They carry 16 different flavors of Ashby’s Ice Cream, which is packaged in Shelby Twp.  They have pasties that are made fresh daily.  They also have Better Made Potato Chips, and Towne Club Soda.  The Towne Club Soda leaves many patrons feeling nostalgic because in the 1980s they were forced to close many of their retail centers.

Another hot item that Heart of Michigan sells are their made-in-Michigan gift baskets.  The baskets themselves are handwoven by a Michigan artist.  The gift baskets are then filled with goodies from Michigan and are ready to be sold.  “A lot of people are coming in here saying ‘my son moved out of Michigan, I want to get him a gift basket with everything from Michigan,’” says Karen.  They offer both custom baskets and more generic baskets.  They also package, and ship the baskets wherever the customer might want to send them.
Heart of Michigan has lots of beautiful handmade jewelry. Photo by Brittany Green.
In the future, the store wants to try to get more ready to eat food, such as Michigan-made hot dogs.  They also plan on selling merchandise with their logo on it.  Selling merchandise with the logo on it wasn’t in the Wings’ original plans, but now they are seeing that customers want to buy Heart of Michigan merchandise.
According to Jon, one customer saw him wearing his Heart of Michigan apron, and decided that she had to have it.  He sold her the apron right off of his back.
Heart of Michigan has a lot of plans for ways to get people coming into the store, such as having Michigan musicians playing outside of their store.  They did this already for the grand opening, the Pink Party, and the Balloonfest; all large events for the city of Howell.  They say that having musicians playing, especially out on the sidewalk, has been a great way to grab the attention of people on the street and get them into their store.
Heart of Michigan is located on Grand River near Walnut St. in downtown Howell.  If you want to see a great selection of Michigan artwork and Michigan-made products, you should definitely stop in for a visit, and grab an ice cream cone while you’re there! ~Brittany Green, Regional Director
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The Awesome Mitten was born when I moved back to Michigan from Nashville, TN in September 2010. Almost immediately, I became frustrated. I couldn’t figure out why there weren’t more Michigan residents singing our states praises! I was so irritated, I wrote a Letter to the Editor. Three weeks later, I had started a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a landing page for the website, determined to do something to make Michigan residents aware of all the cool things going on in their own state. Email me: alex@awesomemitten.com