Caryn Drenth is the owner of Living MI, one of the many intriguing businesses along Main street in Marshall.
How would you describe your shop?
We have a unique offering of both Michigan-themed and Michigan-produced items.
Why get into that niche?
The thing I like most about it is we get to partner with a lot of other small businesses. So like our Michigan socks, for example, they’re made in Pinconning, Michigan. And so I work directly with the guy who designs them, makes them, the whole nine yards. And that’s the case with a multitude of products we have.
Do you get people from out of town coming in?
So we get people who are visiting Marshall, who are looking for something Marshall or Michigan-themed. We get people who are returning to Marshall or Michigan, that want a reminder from home. And then we get people who live here and want to celebrate their home. We’ve got international travelers, too. We got a postcard from a gentleman in Switzerland who came and bought some things and sent a follow-up postcard.
Do they ever tell you what they like about visiting Marshall?
People like to revisit our historical landmarks. There’s a lot of fond memories about the downtown shops, even though some of them have changed, of course, over the years. Some staples, places like Schulers, where people like to return. There’s a lot of nostalgia about shopping in our downtown. And we’ve been lucky to be able to maintain that over the years.
It’s all small businesses up and down the street. Which is unusual.
It is unusual. It’s all small business. I think we do a pretty good job of trying to complement what the other stores have, versus having the same thing. If you go into the stores, you don’t find the same thing in every store. I think we’re pretty effective in that as a group.
As a business owner in this kind of environment, what’s your favorite part?
One thing I love is our community – because I also own Handle & Hinge – and one thing that I love is how supportive the community is of their downtown. They make an effort to shop local and really support everyone who is working so hard…so do a lot of the different organizations, whether it be the theaters or restaurants. It’s really a group effort to give people a lot of different reasons to visit, so then they can find new reasons while they’re here. So I like that, I like partnering with the restaurants, with the theaters: Franke Center for the Arts, we do the Ice, Wine & Blues downtown. So we host a wine tasting – the businesses – as a fundraising effort for them.
You mentioned Ice, Wine & Blues – so you can come to Marshall year round.
As a retail group, we try to do one collaborative event per month together, year round. So year round, we will do something as a group. So whether it’s a Girls' Night Out themed event, or we have an adult prom coming up next month. We’re going to have prom backgrounds and you can go around and take your prom snaps. Every month we try to do something as a group so people have a year-round reason to visit.