The Grosse Ile Pet & Garden Center

October 22nd, 2020

Host: Ben Fogt

With Marie Pucak, Owner

Gi Pet & Garden Center With Marie Pucak

Marie Pucak tells Ben about the Pet & Garden Center and plans for the holidays.

2020, Ben Fogt

What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?


[0:00] [Ben Fogt] You're listening to the 6th episode of What's the Deal, Grosse Ile, a podcast about what makes Grosse Ile a unique place to be.

[0:10] I'm Ben Fogt, your host and producer. Today's episode, number 6, is with Marie Pucak from the Grosse Ile Pet and Garden Center. Now, before we get started, I want to apologize. We had some sound issues and so there might be some some little bleeps and bumps, along the way. No actual bleeps. We didn't say anything that wasn't supposed to be said, but there might be some staticky sections. I tried to eliminate as much of that as possible. Some of it I couldn't get rid of and I apologize for that. We're going to make some improvements here over the next few few weeks and get that fixed.

[0:47] Also you'll want to stay to the end. We've got some news and some ways that you can contribute to the podcast and help get the word out about about things that are so great about Grosse Ile. Let me fill you in a little bit on the Grosse Ile Pet and Garden Center.

[1:03] It's on Macomb street right next to Lloyd's and it's set back a bit from the street. A lot of people can drive right by it and not even notice it sometimes. You'll see the sign out in front.

[1:13] The the entryway to there, especially right now with the way that construction is going on for both businesses, it can be a little obscured by Lloyds especially as you're traveling East. But it's a great place to go in. I recommend that you go in through there. You can park back behind Lloyd's or you can park way out in front by the place where they keep the plants. The section by Lloyds right now is used for a lot of the food pick up at night but wherever you can find a place to park there is good. So the Grosse Ile Pet and Garden Center has been part of the community and a community focused business for as long as I've been in Grosse Ile. Marie has been extremely active supporting the general business environment of the island

and it's a pleasure to talk to her today. Thank you, Marie, for being on What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?

[2:00] [Marie Pucak] I'm pleased to be here.

[B] So tell me about Grosse Ile Pet and Garden. How long has it been around? Did you get it started or did you buy it from someone else?

[M]Actually my husband Rick and I were the third owners of this property. Long time Islanders will know and remember Bob Greene. When Bob had the store it was called Grosse Ile Farm Market and it was very seasonal.

He would do, you know, spring flowers all the way through Christmas trees. He also did some produce on, you know, on the grounds.

[2:31] That's when he owned it. And then 17 years the family Linda Zara and Jimmy Proctor owned it as Grosse Ile Marketplace and it was true family business Jimmy, Linda, Nadia, Diana, the whole family worked here and while they owned it during that 17 years they made a decision to bring the pet food down. So when I started working here in 2014 it was called again called Grosse Ile Marketplace. A lot of people around town, you'll hear them say "I'm going to run up to the market", there's that market word or a lot of people still call it Jimmy's Place. There's a lot of love for Jimmy Proctor in this community. But yeah, it's somewhere along the line they brought the pet food in. So when, my husband and I bought the store in 2016, that's basically the biggest change I made by changing the name to Grosse Ile Pet and Garden Center. Just so that they would be more of a that pet presence because it's actually the pet line of products that keeps the doors open year-round, and it's actually what kept us opening during the pandemic shut down because pet food is essential. We had a fair amount of panic buying of pet foods and products. It was a very very interesting time.

[3:51] [B] Well that's that's true. So the theme of the store, it's obviously Pet and Garden but there's lots of other things there. What other things can we get?

[M] We kind of look at it as kind of being three parts. We have the seasonal flowers and greenery and pumpkins and Christmas trees. And then the pets which everything from

[4:14] food to supplements, vitamins, treats, combs, brushes, shampoos. Ask me how many people adopted puppies during the pandemic and how hard it was to keep shampoo in the store. So that you know those two. And then, the other side of the business is our gift line which kind of includes like indoor and outdoor gifts. I mean we have a lot of lawn and garden items that are just fun to decorate a plant or your yard. But for the gift line we look for a lot of products that are made in Michigan, made the United States. I go to a Michigan-based show every year and I'm always really excited. I'm nervous. I'm like the football coach, preparing for the Super Bowl. I want to go in and I want to find those really cool things to bring back to the store. It's such a compliment when we get customers that say "You have such a neat things here." So that's the gift line. It's just fun. We have some collectibles. We're always trying to look for new items, keeping it fresh.

[B] And I know from our experience as a family, we have special needs for cat food, where a cat was brought up on a certain food and can't eat anything else. So how does that work for pets that have special needs and special orders or actually any kind of product that we might want to get.

[5:33] [M][ Oh absolutely. There are people on this island who are Master Gardeners on this island taking the garden. They'll come in and they'll say, "Do you have BT?" I'm like "No. I don't but I think I can get it." So the customers with a lot more knowledge of some of those products help us grow and make sure that we have the right product on the shelf. And with the pet line a lot of times, if you adopt a pet the groomer will send you with a bag of Royal Canine or, like you said with your special needs cat, if it requires a prescription then we cannot get it. But I want to say ninety percent of the time, if you bring a dog food to our attention, I have four or five different suppliers that I that I order from. We can bring it in for you and we're always happy to do that.

[B] And it's really helpful. So the the business since you've taken it over. It's been about four and a half years.

[M] Five year anniversary in April of next year.

[B] Wow. So how has the business changed over the last few years. It probably wouldn't seem like it could change that much and then four years but we've had an awful lot of bridge problems since then.

[6:42] [M] We are a Proven Winners Certified Garden Center. So we buy all of our plants and products, they're Michigan grown whether it's from Four Star Greenhouse in Carlton or Post Greenhouse. I have vendors that are all over Michigan. I place my order, go down to the Eastern Market, pick things up from them.

[7:05] Herbs. Amazing herbs from Culls(sp?). I think they're in Columbus Michigan. Just, I guess, trying to grow the variety of plants that we have here. And in expanding that gift line. Just you know, giving people the opportunity to say I need an anniversary gift, I need a quick birthday gift and coming in and having something really unique that they can find. We don't have a lot of things for children. I did order in some kid's gardening things that will arrive next March or April, but there's only so much room in this store. But I sure wish I would have had sold seed packets last year because with everyone being home during the pandemic,

[7:47] I could have sold a lot of seeds. Have them ordered ordered. They're coming in in January.

[B] Excellent. And if I remember right, I think when we talked last week you'd mentioned puzzles.

[M] This Michigan show that I've gone to four or five years now, there's been this puzzle booth and I've walked by it and thought "I love puzzles" but I was afraid I didn't have the room for them. But this year [I] didn't have any clue that we were going to. We were at the show the weekend before the pandemic hit Michigan. So I placed my first order with these puzzles. They're actually called Puzzles That Rock and they... A lot of them are based on Michigan lighthouses, the shoreline. I went through probably three or four orders of puzzles until I couldn't get any more. We do have some more ordered now to come in for the Christmas season but a lot of families who were quarantining at home were doing jigsaw puzzles, and they're beautiful. They're absolutely beautiful.

[B] That's excellent. One of the things you definitely do a lot of is seasonal seasonal specialties, whether it's the the plants at the beginning of the season or, the last time I was in, you had mums and straw bales, and Christmas trees are coming pretty soon. What are the seasonal specialties that people like to come in for?

[M] We're really really well known for the mums and we usually get them, traditionally we get them the Tuesday after Labor Day. Well

[9:11] You know I got the call in March or April this year that my traditional mum grower made a decision because you know greenhouses were shut down. They didn't plant mums this year. So I knew that I had to go out in search of a new mum supplier so

[9:28] we accomplished that. We got that done and brought the mums in. But the beginning of the second week of November, we will have greens, wreaths, roping, a lot of boxed bunches for people who are very Martha Stewart like and very creative and create their own mantelpieces. So if you need anything to decorate your house, we will have it here including beautiful porch pots. Probably 4 different sizes of porch pots and some window boxes.

And then obviously the Christmas trees.

[10:02] [B] Sure and the Christmas trees. I remember last year you said that they were in limited supply and this year we're going to have a limited supply again. So what's the reason for that?

[10:14] [M] It all started with the Great Recession of 2008 and the supply and demand.

[10:18] Chain kicked in there wasn't as much demand for live Christmas trees and so a lot of the growers didn't plant what they traditionally planted. And just in doing a little bit of my research it takes 7 to 15 years for that tree to reach the 6 to 7 foot

[10:36] height. So along with them not planting, you had a lot of growers who retired out. You didn't have as many new younger people going into the tree business. So Fraser Fir is been the number one selling tree across the country and that's what we're having the most difficult getting. I place my order every year and I cross my fingers that I get what I want, what I ordered. I did get a call last week that they cut my order back by 16 trees on the Fraser Fir side. We will still have and I'm good. I think around 280 trees. We were around 300 before. And other than the Fraser Fir, there's the Douglas and Concolor and Balsam Fir and Grand Fir. So there's different options to the Fraser Fir, but the Frasers are definitely the most sought-out tree. And another fun fact about Michigan for those that didn't know. We're third in the nation for Christmas tree farms. We're number three behind Oregon,

[11:36] and North Carolina.

[B] And it's become a tradition for people to get live trees at the store, right? It goes back several to the beginning of the store. Back decades right?

[M] Yes and we have and we do have people that come from off island. My husband and I... this is pretty funny... not this past year but the year before we have a family that lives in Gibraltar, they came over picked out there two trees. Went to Lloyd's for dinner. We're delivering the trees to their house and it's dark so we get there. We take the trees out, drop them in their driveway, and I just sent her a text and said "The trees are delivered.

[12:17] Thank you for your business." And I get a text back and she's like "Where'd you put them?" And I mean my husband at this point we're almost back to the store. We literally dropped the trees in the wrong driveway because it was so dark we couldn't see the address. So we had to turn around, and thankfully nobody was home at the house but we dropped the trees out. But we do deliver trees if you need them delivered. Traditionally the $10 fee to deliver the Christmas tree because normally we send our young staff out on in our truck, but I can't believe we just dropped two trees at the wrong house last year.

[B] That's potentially a 45-minute drive.

[M] Exactly exactly so yeah we are.

[B] And you'd mentioned something about a device for a special type of tree stand.

[M] That's cool. It's a it's the greatest stand on planet Earth. It's called the Answer Stand. And their marketing is really creative on it. I mean one of their taglines is "We Save Marriages." I mean, literally, we have a machine that put a fresh cut on the bottom of the tree. Stand the tree up on this stand. You drill a hole with the drill bit into the bottom of the tree, take the tree off and the tree stand has a peg right in the center of the bucket and really within 10 seconds the tree is set up.

[13:47] I mean it's like it is that simple and actually the trees that we have standing up on the lot, we drill them and put them on pegs that we buy from this very same company. So you're seeing that tree displayed on that peg.

[14:01] It's amazing.

[B] That's excellent. So when I went in last week you had these Thanksgiving finger puppets right by the cash register and and they were so cute I wish I would have gotten some. What other holiday items are? Are there any holiday items that you're particularly excited about bringing in this year?

[M] Well, we always have an amazing selection of ornaments. For some reason, well I'm kind of a nutcracker freak myself. So anything in the Nutcracker line. I have nutcracker taper candles and nutcracker ornaments. Different figurines that are in the ornament format. And then you know for the dogs we have dogs and cats. We have stockings if you don't have one. We have treats that are themed for the holiday season, figgy pudding,

[15:07] Santa snacks. Can't forget the animals at the holidays. We have jackets and sweaters and Santa toys. All kinds of animal-based things for the holidays plus just lovely gifts for your house whether it's a candle... we do sell... just a plug for root candles and Medina, Ohio. They're the number one, America's number one dripless taper candle made in Medina Ohio. And taper candles are not all that easy to find anymore and we have them in lots of colors. But

just fun decorations for the house and outside. We have a fair amount of garden stakes some that are solar. Santa has a little propeller that spins on. Just it's really holiday things and then also things that aren't holiday-related. We have beautiful scarves, jewelry, lotions, and spirit wear.

[16:02] We brought spirit wear in probably four years ago for sweatshirts and scarves and t-shirts and we try to have as many sizes as we can. We have a big and tall man section that has things that go up to 3x.

[B] Excellent. And the other part is one of the big events of the season for Grosse Ile that the DDA puts on is Ladies' Night Out and it sounds like that's not going to happen this year. But when would the start of the holiday season for the store be?

[16:34] [M] Well that was traditionally our kickoff and that should have been Friday the 13th in November, so we will be ready for Friday the 13th. We decorate the store, not this weekend, but the following weekend. I have two little elves that come on. My two best friends from high school, they drive up and we just pretend like we're 20 years old and we can stay up all night and the staff doesn't amazing job helping also. So we get the store really rockin and ready for Christmas by Friday the 13th.

[17:04] And I think what we're going to try to do is work with our fellow retailers on Macomb Street. Just to do some theme weekends, maybe some themed days. You just can't have the 25, 30 people in the store. So again, we'll be ready that weekend in November, Friday the 13th. We'll be dressed and ready to go and then the following week outside is when all of the trees and greens and roping will show up. But we just can't have the traditional event. Just isn't safe. So we're going to try new things.

[B] Absolutely. so we're toward the end of our interview here and, as you know, I like to ask everyone to share a wish for Grosse Ile. Something I just shared last week on the Facebook page was my wish. I shared my wish for Grosse Ile and that is that in early December, when the bridge opens, that we can celebrate it by everyone going over the bridge in their own vehicle for free. I think that would be a really great thing and will be socially distanced and then maybe we can celebrate it sometime once all this is done. I think you've had some time to think about your wish. What kind of wish do you want to give Grosse Ile that we can grant?

[M] I guess it's a little bit philosophical. My wish is that we would find ways to come together

[18:27] for the greater good of our community. I just think we've got an opportunity to set a new tone, especially with the state of our country and we're so divided. We have an opportunity here on Grosse Ile that a lot of communities don't have. So whether you're an elected official or business owner or teacher, or you're a retiree, this is just such a lovely community and it's a gift for us live here and we just have that opportunity to be better stewards and kinder to each other. So that's my wish is that we just find a way to come together for the greater good of our community.

[B] I don't think anybody can disagree with that. Well, thank you so much for spending this time with me. I'm glad we got to talk about the Pet and Garden Center and introduce it to some people that haven't haven't gotten the chance to get in there yet. Maybe they will here for Christmas for sure. Thank you so much for spending the time.

[M] You're welcome and I appreciate your time and what you're doing here for our community.

[B] It's been a joy I'll tell you.

[19:29] [M] Well, you're very good at it.

[B] Well, thank you very much.

[19:34] I want to thank Marie again for her support and her time. I'll let you know that I got my requests in and now she's looking for a Statue of Liberty Nutcracker that I've had on my list for my mother as a Christmas gift for quite a while.

That is a long story and if you see me sometime you can ask me about it. I also promised some announcements at the beginning of this pod. If you haven't listened to episodes 4 and 5 yet, you should. My conversation with Jenna Jones about the Real Witch Wives of Grosse Ile launched this podcast into the charts.

[20:02] Apple has What's the Deal Grosse Ile in the top 200 Place and Travel pods in the U.S. from all the people who've listened to it over the last couple weeks. The Wonder Well episode is also very good. That's episode 5. I know I learned a lot from that. The next episode is going to be broadly about the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and specifically about the Gibraltar Bay Unit that's there on East River Road by the airport. Closer to the opening, we'll get back to it and we'll talk about the Humbug Marsh and the center that we've all been waiting for.

I know you want to be able to share some of your thoughts too, and for that I've set up a phone line you can call. (734) 250-9554 You can get that number off of our Facebook page or off of some of the podcasts. And you can leave a message there. Make sure to leave your name and anything you'd like us to know. Because those can be shared here, you can share a wish for the island if you have one or you can tell us what you're thankful for this year, if you get a message in by November 17th I can include it in a special Thanksgiving episode of the pod that will come out on Thanksgiving. So whether you're staying home or traveling over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house, you can hear all the things that we as an island have to be thankful for. And lastly I want to thank you for listening. The goal of this podcast is not fame or fortune. I'm hesitant to get any advertising.

[21:24] The goal is really to produce a way to help people get familiar with the things in our community that take a little bit of an explanation. The appreciation you've shown me is really heartwarming. If you want to really help, you can leave a positive review on Apple Podcasts or any other place that will take it. You can subscribe in an app, a podcast app, or you can share episodes with friends. All of those things help distribute the the podcast and get people's attention.

[21:52] I'm going to take you around the island for as long as I can and I appreciate your company. Thank you so much.

[22:00] What's the Deal Grosse Ile? is recorded and produced by me Ben Fogt. You can keep in touch with me through the What's the Deal, Grosse Ile? Facebook page or email me at

[22:14] You can share episodes from Facebook or hear them from the website And of course it never hurts to subscribe so you can get the latest episodes through your favorite podcast delivery tool like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and so many others. Our intro and credit music is Mocktails in the Rain by Antii Luodo, which is used through a Creative Commons license. Find more of his music on as Antii's Instrumentals.

[22:42] Thanks for listening to What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?