Sometimes eclipsed by the notoriety of neighboring Ann Arbor, another college town awaits your visit. Ypsilanti has a history and charm all its own. Home to Eastern Michigan University, it is a quiet town enlivened by youthful energy and marked by creativity that is uniquely Ypsi. The bevy of local artists, along with proprietor Janette Rook, are the force behind The Eyrie. Nestled in historic Depot Town, this eclectic shop features a wide array of Michigan-made products.
Unlike many of the people that open up artists’ markets, Rook was not seeking a space to show and sell her own work. She is actually a former flight attendant and union activist who felt a calling for a new chapter.
“It started to feel like everywhere you went things were more and more the same. I got tired of it and decided to open my own business,” said Rook.
She chose to fill a store primarily with the work of Michigan artists, and selected Ypsilanti as the home for her new venture, which opened its doors in 2012. To this day, according to Rook, 95% of what she carries has been made by a Michigan artist. There are a few other items that were added in response to customer desires, but the primary focus remains Michigan-made work, and the reaction has been strong. So much so that the business has already made a move from its original 750 sq. ft. space across the street to one of 1000 sq. ft. that features lightly painted brick walls and pretty windows.
Rook’s market is not a co-op. She works in the store herself and curates the broad and ever-changing array of products. At first, she combed through websites like Etsy and browsed events looking for work that she thought would be a good fit. Now, most of the new additions come from artists who approach her. She jokes that another good reason to keep the store focused on Michigan is to handle the inquiries. “I get so many emails from artists now, I can’t even imagine what it would be like if I took stuff from around the country.”
She has featured the work of upwards of two hundred different artists, and finds the process of determining what will be a commercial success always a bit of a guessing game. It is clear that she fills her space with items that she likes, and like most proprietors, then hopes that the public will react in the same way.
There are practical pieces like wearables from Cyberoptix and candles from Walker’s Hollow. Shoppers will also find hand-crafted soaps, jewelry, decorative tiles, wooden pens, picture frames, photographs, paintings, and unique sculpted pieces, among other treasures.
Creators interested in having their art featured can email Rook at firstname.lastname@example.org. They should include a link to their work or a complete description with photographs in order to be considered, and allow up to two weeks for a response.
In addition to The Eyrie, there are plenty of other things to take in on a jaunt to Ypsilanti. Visitors can check out the campus of Eastern Michigan University, as well as three unique, nearby museums. Located just steps from The Eyrie, the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum details the city’s role in the automotive industry. Down the street is the Michigan Firehouse Museum, which shares the stories of brave firefighters and promotes fire safety. The town also has its own museum of local history, aptly named the Ypsilanti Historical Museum, which is housed in an 1860 dwelling.
Depot Town is naturally home to an old brick train station worth a look too. Nearby Riverside Park and Frog Island, both of which are on the Huron River, are worthy of a stroll, weather permitting. Pop into the recently renovated Ollie for scrumptious locally-sourced food and spectacular craft cocktails, or sink your teeth into a classic slice at the original Aubree’s Pizzeria and Grill.
The Eyrie is open Tue-Sat 11am-7pm and Sun 12pm-5pm. It is located at 50 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti, MI 48198.