Full occupancy returns to Leland

LELAND – Lying on a sliver of land between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau is the picturesque village of Leland. Leland blends a 140 year-old historic fishing village, the well-known cedar shingled shanties called Fishtown, with charming main street and courtyard shopping areas. Leland's relaxed charm has drawn artists and visitors alike for years.

But during the 2003 summer season, the business community found itself in a rare situation of having several vacant stores.

"Most villages have their ups and downs; Leland generally hasn't," said Rick Lahmann, president of the Leland Business Association. "But last summer, the Leland business community opened their season with eight to eleven empty retail locations…depending on how certain locations were divided up. This was uncommon in Leland's history, but it was not to last for long."

It didn't last. This summer, the town has filled all but one of the vacant retail spaces. Some of the credit goes to the Leland Business Association for their continuous effort in promoting Leland's potential through advertising and special events.

Following are the new shopping choices for Leland visitors:

Ceramique Chien Noir: Ben Maier recently finished a six-month residency program at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snow Mass, Colo. He returned to Leland for the summer season, which runs from May through October, to open a pottery studio on Main Street. He began working with clay at NMC with instructor Carl Spork. He also attended classes at MSU and several workshops throughout the United States.

Maier's studio displays a wide range of simple and linear forms. Large vases, candlesticks, sushi plates and accessories, and various other functional vessel forms are arranged artfully throughout an attractive studio. Much of his work is soda fired, giving an unpredictable element to the firing process and a unique quality to the piece. This is Maier's first retail experience in Leland. His hours range from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week with longer hours on the weekend.

Florentine Ceramics: Delia Bertoni and Megan Winchester have moved their business of fine Italian ceramics from the Gas Light District in East Grand Rapids to Leland this season. Located in Harbor Square off Lake Street, Florentine Ceramics offers an impressive display of handcrafted and handpainted majolica and ceramics from Italy. The artisans who create these pieces follow the same ancient tradition of 500 years ago, forming the pieces of art on the potter's wheel then hand painting them in colorful designs. It is a popular living art in Italy, where quality and artistry define the true majolica piece.

Bertoni and Winchester travel to Florence and the southern part of Tuscany each year in search of unusual and beautiful pieces, including large and small decorative pieces, bottles, pitchers, dinnerware, lamps, tables and even linens. Their season in Leland starts the first of May and will continue until after Christmas. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Brenda J. Clark Gallery: This is Clark's first full summer season in her gallery in Harbor Square. In her gallery you can experience landscapes of Leelanau County through original expressionist paintings. Bold strokes and bright colors portray rolling hills, lakes, the nearby islands, panoramic skies, orchards, fields, and farms. Clark prefers to paint on location.

In addition to teaching at MSU for 10 years, she has been an artist in residence for design in the arts at Suttons Bay Middle School. She also paints documentary portraits, objects of significance and scenes of everyday living.

Her gallery is seasonal, open from May through October. Hours are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Haystacks: Lizzi Lambert designs and makes her own casual line of clothes from Harbor House, a renovated old upstairs dance hall on Leland's main street. The heart of her line is a loose yoga style printed pant, which Lambert calls an energy pant. The material she uses for her clothes is designed and printed in Los Angeles. She also embroiders some of her comfortable styled apparel with various appliqu�s. Through her wholesale business, her line of clothes is carried in 25 other stores in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

Lambert had managed several stores in Petoskey before moving to South Florida. She moved back to Michigan a few years ago, buying farm acreage in the Leland area, which she and her husband had planned on farming�hence the name of her business, Haystacks.

Self-taught as a youngster in a store owned by her seamstress mother, she started her new wholesale venture in Leland a year and a half ago. Lambert decided to open her own retail store for the 2004 summer season.

The retail outlet is located in one of the small weathered shacks in Fishtown and is open from May through the middle of October, leaving the rest of the year to concentrate on product production and her wholesale business.

"Leland is unique; a clean small town with people coming from all over," she states. "The quality of life is important and the people are happy." Hours normally are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Manitou Outfitters: The Rogers family has opened their second store this season. The new store is located in one of the quaint shacks in Fishtown and is managed by daughter, Katie Rogers, who has worked in the main store for the last 15 seasons. Kay and Jim Rogers have operated the original store on Main Street since 1986, but decided that they needed more square footage for their two distinctive looks in apparel and accessories.

They moved their more active and more fun Patagonia and Royal Robbins apparel lines over to the new store along with sandals and casual accessories. Having grown up in the area most of her life, Katie has a soft spot in her heart for Leland.

"Leland has maintained its charm with people coming back year after year to enjoy its unique setting," she says.

The new location in Fishtown is open from May through October with hours 10 am. to at least 8 p.m.

The Columns: Kimberly Freiberg has opened her second store in Leland this season with her friend of 25 years, Ruth Schiattone. Freiberg has been in the retail business for six years. Her first store, also called The Columns, is located in Bay City, Mich. They found Leland to be a destination town with a customer base from all over the country.

The Columns in Leland offers apparel and accessories for the trendy lady, with funky jewelry, purses and sunglasses as big sellers. They also carry a gift line and have a Hawaiian section.

Schiattone (pictured right) said she needed an outlet for her energy in her spare time from her regular employment while she waits for her husband to return from Iraq.

The two partners will keep the store open from May to the end of October. They open at 10 a.m. and close around 8 p.m.

The Decorating Muse: Val DeGroote opened up a new interior design consulting studio in March of this year, designing interiors from either blue prints or consulting by placing already purchased furniture and accessories.

Although the store is a changing work-in-progress, she always carries some furniture, showcases local art and has interesting accessories. She hopes to specialize in readying cottages for her customers. She came to Leland from Rochester, Mich. where she worked in furniture stores and consulted for a builder. She chose Leland for her first business venture because it was a small community and did not have an interior design store. Her goal is making people happy and comfortable in their surroundings.

"It's not all about me (as the designer), it's about the client," she stated. After the summer season, she hopes to stay open year round either on the weekends or by appointment. Her hours now are from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Luv, Leelanau: Although she has worked in other stores in the area, this is the first time Shirley Dunklow has opened her own retail business. Located in Harbor Square, all of the handcrafted products and art in her store are either made in Leelanau County or pertain to Leelanau County.

Dunklow grew up in Suttons Bay, so she is quite familiar with Leland's favorable opportunities. She felt it had the best visibility for someone starting out in a new business.

Her store is filled with a variety of art and goods made locally, including quilts, hand turned wooden bowls, photographs and postcards, china, Petoskey stones, and hand knit items. Her store opens in May, but after October she hopes to be open on the weekends only. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m..

With the variety of new stores and the older familiar ones, it is worth a trip to Leland. Added to the shopping is the bonus of the charm and beauty of the area.

If you would like more information about Leland's stores, you can contact Rick Lahmann, President of Leland's Business Association, at 231-256-7820 or on the web at lelandmi.com and fishtown.info.