reWorking Michigan: Shopping Local

Nov 21, 2011


reWorking Michigan examines our evolving economy, as the people of the Great Lake State explore new ways to make a living and build a future.

Our reWorking Michigan Monday report looks at the competition for shoppers this Christmas season and how shopping at locally owned stores helps the local economy.

As WKAR's Gretchen Millich reports, one store in the Lansing area is attracting customers with service and a friendly shopping experience. | SKIP down to article

Some major retailers, including Target, Best Buy and Kohl's, will kick off their Black Friday sales earlier than ever this year, at the stroke of midnight on Thanksgiving Day, and Wal-Mart will start its special deals at 10 P.M. on Thanksgiving.

But many cities and towns in Michigan have launched "Shop Local" campaigns to steer customers away from big-box stores. They know that shopping at locally owned stores is one of the best ways to bolster the local economy.

Every year, just before Thanksgiving, Kean's Store in Mason holds a Christmas Open House, with reindeer, live music and Santa Claus. Bunnie Chamberlain, from Haslett, is sampling old-fashioned candy with her granddaughters.

"Avery and Aiden, and they're going to feed me candy," says Chamberlain. "Yum, thank you."

Chamberlain says she's well aware that shopping at locally owned stores supports the local community.

"Oh, my goodness, I've been coming here since I was a little girl with my mom," says Chamberlain. "I love it. It's just warm, and it gets you in the mood. The malted milk balls over there, I've been buying them for 60 years now."

Kean's opened in 1928 as a dry goods emporium. The original tin ceiling is intact, and the store is still family owned. Teresa Wren is a third-generation Kean. Wren says she can't possibly stock as much merchandise as larger stores, nor can she offer holiday specials. What she does offer is customer service.

"Because all the ladies I have working here, that's their cup of tea," says Wren. "We'll help you find the gift and help you wrap the gift, and we do ship. We try to take care of all their needs, so they don't have to go to a lot of different places to shop."

But it hasn't been easy. The big-box stores have been a drain on locally owned shops in Mason. Between that and the economy, several have gone out of business. Wren says at Kean's, she keeps a tight rein on the inventory.

"We have to be really careful," says Wren. "We have to pay attention to what's selling and make sure we feed that fire and keep that on the shelf. The things that are not selling, you're not seeing here anymore. Staying on top of every dollar is maybe why we're still here today."

A lot of those dollars stay in Mason. Mike Rogers is with the Michigan Small Business Association. He says shopping at Kean's and other local retailers means a lot more money stays in the local economy, creating better-paying jobs and contributing to the local tax base. He says shopping at local stores is more fun.

"If you're just interested in buying stuff, you can go to or a big-box store," says Rogers. "But people are tired of that. What they're really looking for is that unique holiday shopping experience that they can share with their family. A small retailer in your community can supply that."

Nita Meyerink from Grass Lake is at Kean's for the first time.

"I have been cruising through, and I love the combination of the old style games that I used to play, and the fabrics," says Meyerink. "This is a very cool store."

Meyerink says she doesn't like to shop at big stores or online, so she's thrilled to have discovered Kean's.

"I like knowing where I'm shopping, and I like being able to say hi to people," says Meyerink. "Keep your money at home, that kind of thing. So, it's nice."

reWorking Michigan
For more on economic evolution in the Great Lake State visit