The tiny hamlet of Howell is a bit off the beaten path, yet totally worth the trip. Located just off of Interstate-96 between Detroit and Lansing, this charming town with a population of less than 10,000 is home to a somewhat surprising number of cool eateries and boutiques. It’s also home to this month’s shop worth a stop, aptly named Heart of Michigan.
Proprietors, Karen and John Wing, opened the local favorite nearly six years ago. For a tiny space, it is chock-full of some of Michigan’s finest and most unique products.
Let’s start with the food. The shelves are stocked with a wide range of Michigan favorites from the U.P. classic, Trenary Toast to the Detroit staple, Sanders Candy. You’ll also find baking mixes, cheese, condiments, jams, jerky, pasta, pickles, sauces, soups, seasonings, and sweets that are all locally made.
In addition to pre-packaged food, there is a kitchen on site where delicious pasties are baked fresh daily. They are available in beef, chicken, veggie, and even a breakfast option. Pasties may be purchased warm or frozen to be enjoyed later. Another frozen treat is the selection of a dozen different flavors of premium ice cream from Ashby’s.
If you opt to bring some pasties home for dinner, you’ll be happy to know there is no shortage of beverages from which to choose to accompany your meal. The shop includes an ample selection of wine from different locales around the state. There is also a refrigerated cooler stocked with Michigan sodas and craft beers, the latter of which may be purchased in 6-packs, individually, or as a mix and match collection to suit your curious palate.
While gourmet foods are present throughout, it is likely to be the apparel, displayed high along the walls, that first captures your attention upon walking through the door. There is fairly decent selection of creatively-themed clothing including aprons, t-shirts, and sweatshirts promoting not only the state, but also the community of Howell.
Then there is the distinctive assortment of gift ideas. Whether you are looking for art, books, candles, cards, coasters, games, jewelry, magnets, ornaments, pillows, puzzles, or truly unique items like serving platters and shaving accessories, you’ll find options here. The store has a well-curated collection of unique items, and each time you visit you’re likely to find something new and different.
If you are unable to make the trip to Howell, most of the items found in the store may also be purchased online. Among the obvious exceptions are beer and wine due to the state’s shipping restrictions, as well as the fresh-baked pasties.
One thing you can find in wide variety either in-store or online are the gift baskets. This is an area where Heart of Michigan truly excels. They have many fun themes, including Easter baskets at this time of year, but are also more than willing to work with you to customize something special to meet your needs. Patrons may also opt to create their own gift collections online. The process includes purchasing a box, completing a gift card, and then selecting items to be included. You don’t even have to worry about how many or how few items you select because they ensure that the most appropriate box is used based on your choices, and fill in with colorful shred if there is excess space.
Long known for supporting the local community, this shop even offers a fundraising program whereby participants sell items like candles and apparel that is produced on site, and retain a large profit margin to support school and community activities and initiatives. If you are interested in learning more about this notable alternative to traditional candy bars and magazines, contact the store directly for details.
Once you’re done shopping at Heart of Michigan, be sure to leave some time to explore the many other locally-owned retail destinations in the downtown area. With many options within 2-3 blocks on either Michigan or Grand River, it is a lovely town for a spring stroll.
If you work up a thirst on your walk, you can warm up or cool off with a tasty beverage and some local insights from Uptown Coffee House. There are some scrumptious dining options like Diamonds Steak and Seafood or The Silver Pig nearby or kick back for casual fun at Cleary’s Pub or Block Brewing Company. Feeling particularly nostalgic? Pop into 2FOG’s Pub, the local speakeasy.
Heart of Michigan is open Mon-Wed 10am-6pm; Thu & Fri 10am-7pm; Sat 10am-6pm; and Sun 10am-3pm. It is located at 203 W. Grand River, Howell, MI 48843.
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