Mount Clemens Takes All Kinds
Max & Ollie's Vintage Boutique in downtown Mount Clemens is a mere 300 square feet of space, started in a spot long eyed by two sisters who would regularly stroll by and say, "there's our little shop, one day."
"We finally did it," says Diane Kubik.
What's unfolded from the diminutive space at 42 1/2 Pine Street Street is a hot-pink-facaded force that's a testament to a small business's place in a downtown, to the ease of downtown living, and to the influence of Facebook and online marketing such as ETSY
to turn interest and passion into a commercial endeavor.
In the last year, since learning during a Mount Clemens DDA
boot camp, how to use Facebook to market, sales have increased 30 percent and foot traffic is up 50 percent, and it's happened while Kubik, a mother of five, was a stone's throw from home. Okay, a really hard throw. She lives six blocks from downtown.
"I would never go back to living in a suburb," says Kubik, who moved from Warren to Mount Clemens to be closer to her business. "I hate driving, and I like being close to my business. It's an extra level of customer service. It has so many benefits."
Like the business, Kubik has grown since Max & Ollie's
opened six years ago.
"The first year I was afraid to come out of the store. I was just worried about staying open and I had never done anything like this before." She was a stay-at-home mom known for saving, collecting and doling out old finds.
Kubik shares the memory of her shaky start just moments after fielding a call for a city event she's helping organize: a flashlight stroll on May 6 of the DIA's outdoor art installations. Businesses will stay open late as docents lead tours of the art by flashlight. She's also sitting on a committees working on future events and wearing an "I Heart Mount Clemens" button. A community booster has been born.
She talks about the rough days Mount Clemens has seen and the "dramatic changes that are coming." She is excited about the Emerald Theater becoming a shared community theater and event space and about plans to open the Macomb County Hands On Children's Museum just down the street.
Six years ago Kubik started Max & Ollie's with her sister, Christine Hale, who lived around the corner above John Barleycorns
, a restaurant and bar. The store is named after her two sons.
This weekend an anniversary celebration with extended hours, sales, giveaways and raffles is planned. Then coming in July the shop moves around the corner to a 3,000-square-foot space. Che Cosa
, the coffee shop and restaurant now behind her, is expanding. The two businesses have long kept open the adjoining doors between their businesses so that the owners and customers are welcomed in both. It's another symbol, she says, of the Team Mount Clemens spirit shared by business owners.
After the move, Kubik has plans to team up with a vintage clothing dealer, who has a solid following. It's a good fit for Max and Ollie's vintage and antique dishes, clothing, and furnishings. A quick scan of the store reveals a kneeler from a Detroit convent, a knitted black poodle that fits snugly over a liquor bottle and a coconut purse.
Kubik counts downtown residents and employees and visitors from the courthouse a few blocks away as her regulars and has a steady flow of destination shoppers. She could have traded up, some might say, for a space in Royal Oak, where there's a well-developed appreciation and business scene for clothing and antiques, but she wanted to stay.
"We've had the option to go to Royal Oak," says Kubik. "I turned it down. I love this town. We are a part of a great community."
The "we" is her family, including mom and dad who shop and scout out finds and dad who carves right out in front of the store and draws a crowd. Her sister was only part of the business a short time. She returned to pre-school teaching.
Even with its head shop, Weirdsville Records and Cool Stuff and Detroit Tattoos, she loves where she is.
"What makes Mount Clemens Mount Clemens is the mix," she says. "It's takes all kinds."
Kim North Shine is Metromode's Development News editor and a Grosse Pointe-based freelance writer.
Photos by David Lewinski Photography