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Buy Michigan Now Experiment: April 15th - April 30th

by Guest Blogger: Jennifer Berkemeier on May 03rd 2010

Hello all you fans of Michigan! Thanks for taking the time to check out the blog.  To anyone who is new to the blog and the Buy Michigan Now experiment, here is a quick summary: I challenged myself and boyfriend Pat to buy only Michigan-made products, or items from a Michigan-based store, or things made with Michigan ingredients for six months. Could we possibly do this? To cover the complexities of definitions, we came up with a rating system which indicates how much money spent is kept in Michigan:

Buying a product made in Michigan, from a Michigan-based/owned store, made from Michigan ingredients = 3 Mittens (the highest rating)
Buying a product made in Michigan from a Michigan-based store = 2 Mittens
Buying either a product made in Michigan OR shopping at a Michigan-based store = 1 Mitten
None of the above = 0 Mittens
Check out how we did in weeks six and seven!
PAPER OR PLASTIC? For Blog 3 I took my time and visited five of the independent, Michigan-owned grocery stores that dot our beautiful corner of the state. Visiting these smaller but bountiful markets is one of my favorite pastimes, so these two weeks have been a treat. However I also think that for the next blog I will be checking out the local diet programs! 
April 17 – I do my regular grocery shopping at what is becoming my familiar Spartan store – Heartland in Farmington Hills. I test out their automated bottle return; so very necessary to have a good one at a grocery store! It works without a hitch I am happy to report. 4 miles round trip out of my way; many 2 mitten purchases, some 3 mitten, all at least 1 mitten.
April 17 – What time is it?? I am lost without my watch, and the battery has been dead for too many weeks. I finally take the time and drive to a friendly little watch and jewelry store called Mr. Wigler’s Watch Bands on Orchard Lake Road. This is a true family-owned and operated business and because I’m kind of a chatty Cathy myself, I end up talking to the owner about his recent diving trip to Cozumel with his family; I even got to see some pictures.   On my regular route and 2 mitten purchase. 
April 17 – It’s Saturday night, I had a busy week at work, and I decide to make my first trip to a local favorite grocery store, Johnny Pomodoro’s in Farmington Hills on Middlebelt Road for a dinner splurge. I am greeted by carts of fresh watermelons on the front patio and other fresh fruits. Walk inside and it becomes apparent I am going to have trouble deciding what to buy. This is a great, friendly market with a beautiful cheese display, fresh vegetables, many ethnic choices, huge beer/wine and soda pop aisles, and my favorite thing in a small grocery store, the deli. I choose garlic bowtie pasta, Michigan apple coleslaw and redskin potatoes made with dill. I also buy some blueberry scones by the Irish Baker in Livonia for breakfast. Dinner and breakfast in hand, now the challenge becomes navigating the rest of the aisles and avoiding the chocolate pitfalls around every corner.   4 miles round trip extra driving and everything 1, 2 and 3 mitten purchases.
April 19 – Pat has himself a true Michigan evening, complete with Red Wings playoff tickets and Little Caesar’s suite pizza, a purchase of a bottle of St. Julian’s wine (one of the oldest in Michigan, born around 1921), dinner at Pegasus in Greektown and a trip to Astoria Bakery for German chocolate brownies and chocolate chip cookies (which made their way to my desk in a fancy Astoria box). 
April 23 – On my way to work and I know I have a long day ahead of me. I have found the best way to survive an 18 hour work day is by keeping hydrated. I walk into my little Spartan store on Grand River and begin perusing the water aisle; looking for something different, a variation on water…sometimes plain ole’ just won’t do. And then I see it; it was love at first sight. Something so uncomplicated, so simple, fresh, novel and just what I’ve been looking for. It’s Faygo’s sparkling water in grapefruit flavor; it has no sugar, nothing bad for me; it respects me and makes me happy. I feel like even though we just met, I could stay with this one forever. IT COMPLETES ME. And even better, it comes in orange, raspberry and cherry too. Sigh…just what I’ve been searching for.
April 25 – Pat and I decide to take part in our own mini April in the D and decide to go out downtown for Detroit Restaurant Week. This is something you should all try at least once, if you haven’t already. Get out and come downtown and experience all that Detroit has to offer! Pat and I chose the incomparable Opus One for dinner, where we ate some of the freshest food and heavenly dessert. And the liqueur cocktail the bartender mixed up for me was D-licious. 
April 26 – We just can’t get enough of Eastern Market! Because it’s been at least 24 hours since I’ve had chocolate, Pat decides I need some more. Where better to buy a few more things to make my day than the Germack store in Eastern Market? Pat surprises me with some honey toasted peanut butter (where have you been all my life?), some homemade chocolate toffee and a large tub of energy snacks, all so reasonably priced (polite way of saying “dirt cheap”). Everything 1, 2 and 3 mitten here.
April 27 – Prior to this date, I am sorry to say that I had never before been in a Westborn Market; shameful, I know. I do a web search and find that if I change my route home from work only slightly I will drive right by one of these Michigan jewels. I pulled into the store on Middlebelt in Livonia and again walked onto a front patio filled with asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelons, and into a plethora of smells so fresh I felt like I was on a farm. When I had put a bag of Michigan apple cinnamon bread by Russo’s Bakery in my basket, a bag of Westborn’s tortilla chips, some Michigan cherry salsa and Good-Rich creamed cinnamon honey from Metamora while still standing on the automated front door entrance, I knew I was in trouble. Then like a four-year old girl in an Everything That Sparkles store, I wandered around in awe, reaching out to touch and stare at all the goodies. I was impressed by the fresh whole bean coffee, the eggs/dairy/cheese section, the sodas, beers, wines and ethnic foods. By the time I left I added Garden Fresh Gourmet avocado dip and some Westborn bread & butter pickles to my basket. 0 miles out of my way and everything 1, 2 and 3 mitten purchases.
April 28 – Time to try another Michigan market…which one this time? I decide on Busch’s on Drake Road in Farmington Hills. It’s about 3 miles out of my way, so I leave a little earlier for work. I drive up and see the sign for call-ahead pick-up…so this store offers the option of calling in an order and then WOW, you drive up and someone brings it out to your car. Impress your friends. This morning I am shopping for my boss, who just had surgery and I’m sure will need some gourmet groceries to ease the pain. The store is clean and the smell of fresh flowers hits as soon as I walk in. My favorite thing about the store right away are the very visible markers denoting “Michigan Product”, “Vegan”, “Organic”, “Gluten-free”; now THAT’S thinking of the customer. What makes someone feel better after surgery? Chocolate of course. So I buy some Busch’s own chocolate cupcakes in cheerful colors, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry coffee cake and a few of Busch’s own coffee samplers. Because woman can not live on chocolate alone, I buy some organic lasagna for lunch which hit the spot. Not sure if all the chocolate made my boss feel any better but it sure made the rest of us at work feel pretty good! 3 miles out of my way and 1, 2 and 3 mitten purchases. Well worth the trip!
April 29 – This time it’s another suburban store that is put to the test – local favorite Holiday Market in Royal Oak. I walk in the back entrance and am immediately struck by the strong smell of a good bakery; the visual of a stunning wedding cake in the window makes me want to buy it…but I just couldn’t justify it. I make my way to the bakery, pulled in by the olfactory tractor beam. In keeping with my breakfast theme, I buy some raspberry rugalech and strawberry cream cheese tarts and I begin to wander aimlessly through the smell of cinnamon and fresh bread before a little voice said “JEN STEP AWAY FROM THE BAKERY”. I have always loved Holiday Market, and now I remember why. Also at Holiday they have the signs noting “Michigan Made”, “Organic” and also some geographic signs such as “Imported from England”. Very nice. Since it is dinner time, I head over to the home made section and a very patient man behind the counter finally helps me hone in on some eggplant parmesan that once I get home and eat I discover is the best I’ve ever had, by far. To go with that I purchase from the incredibly smart designer salad bar a spinach salad with chick peas, feta, beets and peppercorn dressing, all chopped and mixed by hand by a friendly salad girl. Of course I will need some chocolate to finish it all off and I, with the help of my friend Traci who works there, find a luscious chocolate dipped pretzel by the Ultimate Pretzel Company made right here in Michigan.   Can be considered on my way home and all 1, 2 and 3 mitten purchases. 
April 29 – Pat makes a trip he’s been wanting to make for years, to Alcamos’ Italian Deli in Dearborn; the rumor of a very cheap large Italian sub drew him in, and the international selection, homemade sausages, cheeses, pastas, breads and pastries made him a fan for life. He found the service incredibly friendly, the store unique and is now wondering what took him so long to get there!  0 miles out of his way and all 1, 2 and 3 mitten purchases.
April 30 – No perusal of local Michigan-based grocery stores would be complete without a stop at Hiller’s Market. Pat and I drive to the Hiller’s in Northville and immediately notice the love of Michigan oozing from every aisle. What can I say? Our basket was full before we hit aisle three. Because we’re now used to gourmet breakfasts in the mornings, we buy coffee-toffee scones from Just Delicious scones (Grosse Pointe) and Awrey’s cornbread toaster rounds (0 grams trans fat but seems pointless to check for good nutrition at this point). Out of a fear of not having enough food for dinner, we buy whole wheat pita chips with sea salt, Hiller’s own spicy Thai noodles and a sour cream and cheddar mac n cheese from the deli. And for the main courses we choose an organic Kashi spinach and mushroom pizza and an Indian frozen dinner. Pat and I now both have baskets which are filling up, but we manage to add some B’drizzled locally made gourmet popcorn with caramel and peanut butter. We are extremely impressed with the beer selection and the Guernsey ice cream selection at Hiller’s, which inspires us to make a stop on the way home at the Guernsey store. This little local favorite corner store and restaurant is hopping! Not only can you buy some of the best ice cream, hand-dipped but you can top it off with Guernsey’s own hot fudge or caramel sauce, or choose from the other Michigan topping king, Sander’s. We buy hot fudge and some peanut butter chocolate ice cream…now I need to buy some stretch pants. 10 miles round trip on a beautiful Michigan evening; all 1, 2 and 3 mitten purchases. 
If you remember from the last blog, I had purchased some coffee from Jackson Coffee Company. I have to report on this coffee and the company itself as being one of the best online purchasing experiences I have ever had (and I’m an expert at the “click here to purchase” type of shopping). I ordered half a dozen bags of coffee (I could not choose and could not deny myself), ranging from Brazilian to African, Central American to flavored. The Brazilian makes me feel like I’m in an exotic port sipping espresso and the Pecan simply is the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. Perfect accoutrement to all the amazing breakfasts I’ve had over the past two weeks, thanks to our great Michigan grocery stores. 
Buy Michigan tips of the week: 1) Just do it! If you’ve been driving by “that cool-looking grocery store” but have never stopped in, now is the time. 2) Just "google" it! Take a few minutes, make a phone call or two and find out where the Michigan stores are in your area. 3) Just route it! Find out how easy it is to make “that store” on your way home; it can be as simple as taking an alternative route home from work.
Until next blog - Buy Michigan!

User Comments (2)

Jennifer, This is my first time logging into your blog- what fun. During your quest to buy Michigan, please check out my website- I am a native Michigander, and started an organic skincare co. last year- I live in Brighton. I use as many Michigan-grown ingredients as I can find. Everyone is raving about my cleansers, moisturizers and so much more-I make the moisturizers fresh at order. I would love you to try any one of my line- it is a true Michigan purchase! I look forward to your summer blogs and farm market updates. I will be at the Milford and Birmingham markets every other Thursday and Sunday this summer, and the Brighton market every other Saturday, starting May 22. Stop and say hi!! If you would like to sign up for my newsletter (it lists all my market dates)- email me at Hope to see you around!
Jennifer I am enjoying your blog and notice it is mostly about food. How about entertainment tips too? I try to shop as many local stores as possible and since reading your blog and am looking at the Michigan products they carry. Muelier's Market which has been in Grosse Pte Park for approx. 40 years is now labeling produce when it is grown in Michigan. They also make many in house take home foods the best of which is their homemade salsa I and my entire family have been addicted to this product for 14 years. They also have West Park Farm's Market on Kercheval in front of Muelier's market that has been going on for several years now. There are several local artists and farms who sell their wares throughout the summer months. Good luck I will be back out here to keep up with your progress!!

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