Company grows on Michigan pride

SUTTONS BAY – Opening five stores in one summer may seem impossible. But for Brian and Jeri-Lynn Bailey, it was reality.

The explosive growth of their business, The Bailiwick Co., last summer was simply a matter of not passing up any opportunities, they say.

Their list of stores now include: The Michigan Peddler and Bacchus & Brie in Suttons Bay; The Michigan Peddler, The Christmas Store, Mackinac Cottage and J.L. Beanery coffee shop on Mackinac Island; The Christmas Store, The Michigan Peddler and Mackinac Junction (a train enthusiast’s playground) at the Mackinaw Crossings complex in Mackinaw City; and Michigan Peddler Clothes-Out in Leland.

Whew!

It’s hard to believe these stores started as a retirement project by Brian’s parents, Robert and Patricia. It was, in fact, a rather humble beginning.

“Brian’s family recognized the pride Michiganders take in their state,” Jeri-Lynn said.

So they created a retail operation focused on products made throughout the state. The first store, The Michigan Peddler, opened in Leland in 1988. The product line was basically fruit jams, wines and bird feeders, said Brian, as he recalled his parents touring the state in search of Michigan-made products.

The second Michigan Peddler opened on Mackinac Island and other specialty shops followed. When Brian’s parents decided to officially retire a few years back, they passed the operation along to their son and Jeri-Lynn. While those early products are still a staple of what The Michigan Peddler sells, the product line has greatly diversified.

“There has been an explosion in this niche market,” Brian noted.

From food to clothing to furniture, it’s Michigan everywhere you turn. Today, they work with over 200 vendors, most who initially approached them with their products. One of their newest vendors is Iversons from the Upper Peninsula. One of just two snowshoe manufacturers in the country, the company recently began producing furniture from the same materials.

Then came the summer of 1997, when second and third locations of established stores were opened, as well as a couple more new businesses. The Bailey’s credit their general management team and staff for being capable of growing so quickly and successfully. While Jeri-Lynn handles the purchasing for the stores, Brian oversees the administrative and financial ends of the operation.

What the pair particularly enjoy about the operation now is the variety of merchandise they offer their customers.

“The diversity of products is what is attractive to us,” said Jeri-Lynn “We see something and we know we’ve got a shop that can carry it.”

They also have a bit more space in which to carry it. Earlier this year, the Bailey’s relocated the original Leland store to a location double its size in Suttons Bay.

“The decision to move from Leland was not an easy one,” Jeri-Lynn said. “It came down to logistics and cash flow. Leland is still primarily a summer destination.”

Building on what they have, rather than building more stores, is the focus this year, added Jeri-Lynn. Design and development of new programs for the corporate gift-giving business is one such project. This accompanies a well-established and very profitable mail-order catalog business for The Michigan Peddler. During the Christmas season, 75 percent of the company’s shipping is out-of-state and overseas, Brian noted.

The company has also employed the talent of local artist, Glenn Wolff, to update the image of The Michigan Peddler. The old logo, a man pedaling a bike, will be replaced by a natural scene created by Wolff.

“The change in logo is reflective of the change of our business,” Jeri-Lynn noted.

There has been a lot of change, but this down-to-earth and family-operated business has never forgotten its Michigan roots. BIZNEWS

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