2021, Ben Fogt
What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?
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[0:00] [Ben Fogt] This is episode 15 of What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?
The podcast exploring the people, places, history, and events that make Grosse Ile unique. I'm your host, Ben Fogt.
I once had a food truck.
[0:14] I was set up at the farmers market in my small Indiana city, burning in my oven and selling some baked goods the week before I would start selling Wood Fired Pizza when Max showed up. Max was a dignitary. His father and uncle started a doughnut shop and factory that became part of a Dolly Madison plant.
[0:34] He catered for high-end affairs, weddings, corporate events, and even on tour for Jewel, the singer. If I remember correctly, it was Max's birthday, somewhere close to 80 at the time. Here's Max sticking his head in my 900 degree oven.
[0:49] We get to talking between people coming over to talk with him, wishing him happy birthday. Now he'd considered doing what I was doing. He knew my business plan. In fact, we would be competing for catering jobs, or at least I would be competing with his daughter if things went well.
[1:06] But here's what Max told me, "Ben," he said. "Thank you for investing in our community."
[1:13] I'll never forget that. You see, businesses are risky. Very few survive at any point along the way. Beyond the jobs and the products and any wealth they create, businesses,
[1:26] New businesses in particular, are investments, bets really, that the community is thriving and will support something new or maybe one more of something that it might already have.
My guest this week has taken that bet.
[1:40] In spite of limited access to the island because of the bridges and a global pandemic, she and her mother doubled down and furthered a dream that just maybe has helped transform Macomb Street into the boutique shopping district so many believe in.
[1:57] I think that once people can travel freely to Grosse Ile, her business as well as others on the island will become the places to browse and buy while enjoying our island vibe.
[2:09] One of the shops that's turning Macomb Street into a destination is Island Goods. I was in there before Christmas and they had a little of everything for just about anyone.
[2:18] There's even a man corner with beard balms and other manly accessories. Emily Wellman is the proprietor of Island Goods. We talked about recording this episode months ago and we finally found time in her schedule. Thank you for being on What's the Deal, Grosse Ile? Emily.
[2:32] [Emily Wellman] Thanks for having me. This is so cool. I listened to a bunch of your podcasts. I think it's a really cool thing to do. I think you know I'm a huge fan of Grosse Ile. I think it's the best place on Earth to live. So this is just a great thing to do to bring highlight to that.
[2:49] [B] Well you know, we're here to talk about Island Goods and if I were to describe Island Goods to someone, I'd really have a difficult time. How do you describe the store to people?
[E] I think the little phrase we came up with... And when I say we, I mean my mom. My mom's in this with me. I couldn't do it without her. The phrase we always say is "It's just a cool neighborhood store" and really I think we left it to that just so that didn't back us into any corner. Everything we pick is hand-picked. I would personally buy everything in that store. And I wanted the ability and the room to change it and you know really kind of to make it what we wanted, when we wanted. So that's how we describe it, as just a cool neighborhood store. Little bit of everything for everyone.
[B] So what made you decide to invest yourself in Grosse Ile the way you have?
[E] This is always been a dream of mine, to own a store since I was little, and I don't know where that came from. I just always wanted to. My mom and her four sisters can spend hours in a store the size of mine, which I think is amazing, and they, she has four sisters. And it was always that sometimes they would bring their daughters so I would get to go. They would make trips, weekends, out of it. So stores like mine are something I've been going to for a long time and always just thought it was a really cool thing. So when we moved back to Grosse Ile four years ago, I was finally in the right place and my mom was right down the road.
[4:13] I started a screen printing and embroidery business three years ago, which is kind of the foundation that Island Goods is built on. That's been going really well so in a conversation with my friend Dr. Christine Crawford, she had said she was opening her business and I said well I'm going to open mine too then. And that's how it started was over her dining room table.
[B] So give us a tour. Obviously we can't we can't look, but if we come in the front door, what do we see?
[4:42] [E] Well the first thing I want you to see when you come in is we have a main table in the center and that's something I always have kind of highlighted. Whether it's a grouping or it could be something new. Right now it's all plant things. Kind of a fresh new beginning for the new year. So that's kind of always front and center. As you work your way around the store I have my little man stuff corner. I want guys to always feel comfortable coming in or if you want/need to get a gift for a guy, we have that. Greeting cards. We have a full selection of greeting cards. We always carry the appropriate holiday cards too. And then we have a little kids corner for baby gifts or maybe a little last-minute birthday gifts, puzzles and different fun things for kids.
[5:27] And backroom we have kind of like a little women's Boutique. It's a cozy little back room that we just have fun, fashionable clothes, accessories, and jewelry. And then as you come around we have like a bath. We have bath bombs, different bath soaps, shower bursts, all that gifty stuff. And then my favorite section is all of our custom Grosse Ile spirit wear that we do. And of course it's my favorite because I made it.
[B] So you've been doing the screen print things for quite a while then.
[5:59] [E] I've been doing it for three years now. We're in our third year. It's actually a separate company that I started with, actually, my best friend. I followed in my younger brother's footsteps in this case. He's been doing it for about 8 years now and I was always.. It's a really cool thing. What a fun way to express your art, creative side. It always intrigued me. He taught me how to do it, so we bought our own setup and then I do all the design work and all the printing and everything.
[B] And you just opened in 2020. So you opened after the bridge closed, if I remember right, and of course that was during the pandemic. I bet that was frightening.
[E] It was frightening. As you know the bridge is terrible, as it is for a lot of people, I do think it's helped us, and I'm not gonna lie, people not wanting to leave the island, even more so now that you have to pay to get across. So I do think it's kind of captivated our audience, And as far as the pandemic goes, it was scary. But I don't think I knew what to be scared of because it was such uncharted waters that I...
[7:05] I didn't even know what could happen or what you know just like most people in the end I think. It was a little bit of a blessing because it kind of made us slow down a little bit maybe we didn't open when we... I thought we would or should it put us about a month behind, but it really gave us time to take our time. There was no pressure to get open because we couldn't open.
We took things online which is not something that I had planned on doing but ended up being really fun because we were offering free on island delivery. And I think that it was a great time for people to be able to send something to somebody, a little bag of cheer on their porch. And it kept us busy in a really scary time and a little bit distracted too. So...
[B] Absolutely. Well, what we skipped over is where is the store?
[E] Our store is pretty much mid-Macomb. So we are mid-town Grosse Ile. We are next to Island Realty and Hawthorne and Vine. A lot of people know it as the Old Post Office Building. We're across from Hungry Howie's. So 8474 Macomb Street.
[8:17][B] All right, and what are your hours when you're open?
[E] We are open Tuesday through Friday 10 to 6. 10 to 5 on Saturday and 10 to 2 on Sunday. The only day we're closed is Monday.
[B] And you started to talk about the online store. Is there anything that's in the online store that isn't in the store? I suppose there are things in the store that aren't online.
[E] Vice versa. There's a lot of things in store that aren't online. Like I mentioned, the online store wasn't something I saw us doing. It was really kind of an overnight where I realized we're not opening for at least a few weeks, but we have a store full of stuff. What can we do? So we kind of threw it together overnight. I was really glad we did because it was really well received and like I said I think it was just great timing and so there's definitely things
[9:08] in the store that are not online. And sometimes it's because it might be a unique thing that we only have one or two of or something that really has to be appreciated in person. But we understand that there are still people who are uncomfortable coming into stores. And want to give them the option to either pick it up curbside or have us bring it to their house or if they're off Island we're happy to ship.
[9:32][B] What are your favorite things in the store?
[E] I love everything because, like I said, everything is hand-picked. I go through every single thing in there. But I would say that my favorite things, like I said, are probably all of our Grosse Ile stuff just because it's something that I not only actually make it myself personally, but I also do the design work. So I'm always honored when I am... It's never gotten old seeing my t-shirts or my sweatshirts or my hats out, as I call it, "in the wild". I smile every time I see one. It's a very cool thing when I see one walking down the bike path
[B] So now you said you've listened to the podcast and you know that you've been mentioned a few times already. Marie from Grosse Ile Pet and Garden Center mentioned you,
and of course you came up in the Christmas Jamie Drive episode that we did at Christmas time.
And from all that I think everyone knows that you love being involved in the community,
[10:41] the DDA and well beyond that with some of our charity work on the island. It's obviously important to you and I'm sure you're ready for a lot of those activities to start back up here.
[E] Oh I am for sure. I think that's one of the things that I was so excited about opening a business and being part of the business community and the in the community as a whole. Not just a resident but also a business owner and having that voice or that.
[11:07] That was one of the things I was really excited about when I first opened, Angela Sukockas was still the DDA director
[11:14] and I knew her from some of our screen printing work and from school and Elba-Mar. So her excitement and all was contagious. So that's kind of what was another part of why I wanted to do it. So I can't wait for all that stuff to come back and because that was really something that I was looking forward to to doing.
[B] Yeah and we'll talk to Trisha pretty soon about about all the things that are going on with the DDA. I'm not going to ask you to talk about any of those. I'm gonna guess that when we get the all clear it's just going to open up and we're going to have all sorts of things there too.
[E] Yeah. I think in the communications we've gotten from Trisha so far, as you know, she's right there with us, kind of chomping at the bit to get back to all those things. So absolutely.
[B] Two things that I actually didn't tell you I was going to ask, I just came up with. So the first one is
[12:06] what would you say to encourage people to invest in starting businesses, especially retail business or brick and mortar businesses on the island.
[E] Oh well I guess I can only speak from obviously any business or any thing like this you know is scary and daunting especially in our world that we're in today. But as far as the island and I know there's the stigma about opening a business on the island and obviously it comes with its challenges, bridges being one. But the support we've gotten has been... it's indescribable really. People have been... They're so willing to support our business and I think it's because they see the effort we put in. I'm there every day and I love talking to our customers but I really think if you're in it wholehearted, we got back I feel like what I've put in it and that's just... So contagious like it just makes you want to do better and do more. So I guess it's not as scary as I thought it was going to be. Is it a lot of work? Yes but it's a lot of fun.
[B] But it sounds like it's worth it.
[E] It's totally one hundred percent.
[B] And the second thing was I'm interested in the screen printing business that you do. Do you take custom orders if somebody...
[E] Yeah. We started that way. So the name of the business is Wellit Apparel.
[13:35] And we started doing all custom stuff. I end up doing a lot. We've done work for the Grosse Ile Gridiron Club, the Grosse Ile Athletic Boosters. We did have a tent at Paint the Town Red. We do a pop-up spirit wear shop. We did one at paint the town last year as well. This year, obviously, was in front of Island Goods. We started with custom work and then I like doing my own stuff. I like designing my own things. I did some... I did work for a retail store in Wisconsin
and kind of saw how they do it and I was like "well, I could do that and I could
have a store." It all kind of it works together. So that was kind of the foundation that I had knowing that I could provide that.
[B] Oh that's great. And of course as always I'll provide all the links to all these things. So if you're interested in any of this and you're not driving or anything you can
you can get it out of the episode notes.
[14:32] And now of course we're at that part of our talks. As you know, I ask guests to share a wish for Grosse Ile. So if you could have a wish granted for the island or for to the community, what would that be?
[E] I thought long and hard about this one. I listened to your other podcasts and I always thought about well what would I what would I say? So I have two parts. Of course, that our bridge reopens and I know that's a burden on people and I think that's an obvious one. But my second one is that all of our island businesses or island resident owned businesses that can't be open or have been stifled by the pandemic and all the restrictions, that when they open, re-open,
are they open to this overwhelming support that we've seen. That they thrive after that. So that's my wish. We feel fortunate to be able to be opened during this whole thing and watching other small businesses go through it has been difficult because I can't imagine. So just hoping that when they do it's a warm welcome back.
[B] Well thank you for taking time to talk today, Emily.
[E] Yeah. Thank you for having me.
[B] Well I want you to know that I appreciate you and I appreciate the vibe that you're pushing out into the island. It's really noticeable. And thank you for taking the risk on us, on that.
[E] There was no better place to do it.
[15:56] [B] Thank you to Emily Wellman for sharing the story of Island Goods today. I really hope that you can stop in and see what she has going on there. I’d suggest that you beat the rush.
[16:07] I’ll vouch for the Detroit Grooming products, especially the Traverse City Beard Butter. That’s something you massage into your beard to give it some hold to keep it from blowing around.
[16:20] The episode notes have links for Island Goods and Wellit Apparel.
Take a look at the web sites. You’ll love what they’re doing.
Speaking of Love…
With Valentines Day coming up, I’m collecting what YOU love about Grosse Ile for episode 17 on February 11th. You can message, email or comment on social media post or you can even send one in with your Patreon support of the podcast, but the best is if you call and leave it as a voicemail. All of those ways are in the episode notes.
Thank you for your contributions.
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 whatsthedealGI@gmail.com.
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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 SoundClick.com as Antii's Instrumentals.
Thanks for listening to What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?