Tag Archives: Antiques

Canton Ohio: Cool Old Stuff

23 Jan

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Today we are meeting the city of Canton. We’ve traveled extensively through Ohio but somehow never managed to visit this city. When you hear Canton the first thing you think of is the Pro Football Hall of Fame, we’ll get to that. First we’re going to dig into the city, explore what makes Canton unique. Kris came across the name of a shop claiming to be Ohio’s largest dealer selling Mid-Century Modern furniture and decorative arts; Main St Modern, here we come!

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We come into the city from the west and the south, we’re in an old industrial area; train tracks, abandoned buildings, empty lots. An ancient brown brick structure looms ahead, we’ve arrived. The building is huge, 40,000 sq. ft, windows have been boarded up, Rebecca greets us as we enter the building. I look from one side to the other, a blur of color, cool shapes and designs fill my view as far as I can see; there are three floors to explore. I’m guessing this is an old factory, paint peels off exposed rafters, the wood floor creeks under our feet. Individual pieces and vignettes of living and dining rooms are set up on carpet remnants; well-known brands share floor space with knock-offs. There are so many outstanding pieces, fabrics with funky designs, stripes and colors. Tables and chairs are trimmed out in chrome, glass tabletops are available for a dining room or coffee table, the legs are always interesting too.

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Plastic was popular in the 1960’s and 70’s, I like the brown circular chairs with the orange cushions. Items are stacked one upon the other, vases and other decorative items rest on dressers, buffets and china cabinets; we look through stacks of vintage paint-by-numbers. Chairs hang from beams, bicycles are mounted on a wall, lamps are abundant, couches are everywhere. Chairs are made of smoky lucite, bar carts hold cocktail shakers, furniture is odd-shaped, we’ve always liked large pieces of metal wall art. We’ve covered all three floors, sadly we’re not bringing anything home but it’s been fun going back in time to the days of shag rugs, tulip chairs and chrome. Were heading downtown where we’ve got lots more to see.

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The Canton Classic Car Museum is much more than a simple car museum, it’s more like a tribute to all things Canton. Marshall Belden was the great-nephew of President William McKinley, this building holds Belden’s classic and special interest autos and thousands of pieces of historical memorabilia he and his wife collected throughout their lives. From Tonka trucks and Hot Wheels to fabulous fashions, vintage advertising and political memorabilia, this place is fascinating!

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Just inside the door we are greeted by a 1901 Oldsmobile with the famous curved dash, historic photos and memorabilia cover every inch of wall space, antique light fixtures illuminate the room, there’s so much to look at. The building was built in 1900 by George Monnot as a bicycle shop that also sold Indian Motorcycles. With the Lincoln Highway just 6 blocks away he turned the building into a 24-hour auto repair shop. In 1914 Monnot decided to sell Ford Model T’s; unable to afford complete cars he and Henry Ford agreed to send parts by train which Monnot’s employees would assemble by hand then place on the showroom floor. This was the largest Ford dealership from 1914-1931–who knew? Walking slowly we make our way to the Canton Room, a 1937 Studebaker bullet-proof police car takes center stage, back in the 1920’s and 30’s gang violence, racketeering and bootlegging was commonplace; they say sightings of John Dillenger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Ma Barker’s Gang were not unusual. The vehicle has 1-inch-thick bullet-resistant glass with a closeable Tommy gun porthole. We read that at one time Canton was a manufacturing powerhouse; home to the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner Company, Tiemken Steel, Belden Brick and Diebold– maker of bank vaults, electronic voting devices and ATM’s, which is still located here. 

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Vehicles intermingle with Oriental rugs, historic photographs, nostalgic pieces from Meyer’s Lake Park, elegant ladies’ hats and gloves. The 1937 Packard Hearse has hand-carved mahogany body panels. An orange 1970 Plymouth Superbird is parked on the original tile floor. They have a Bonneville, a Coupe de Ville, a 1937 Cord, an original 1937 Ahrens-Fox Quad fire truck and Walter P Chrysler’s swanky burgundy 1932 custom Chrysler Imperial. In another area a Pee Wee Herman doll drives a Midget race car, a grouping of coin-operated machines can do everything from telling your horoscope to showing a movie, a traffic light is a must in a car museum.

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Wagons, sleds and birdcages live side by with movie and circus posters, a motor analyzer, one beautiful car after another including a Holmes automobile manufactured right here in Canton; at one time the were 7 auto manufactures here in town. One are is dedicated to President William McKinley, this was his adopted home and where he lived while he was governor and campaigning for the presidency. I poke my head into the Director’s office and meet Char, Canton’s most enthusiastic keeper of history. I ask questions and listen intently to her stories of local families, mysteries, inventions and wealth; I could listen to her talk all day but Kris and I are starving. She’s given us the name of the perfect place to have lunch in Canton, I’ll tell you all about it next time…

The Burbs: Hidden Treasures

13 Apr

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It’s the first Saturday of the month, we’re driving down 26 mile in New Baltimore we turn onto N Bay Dr, cars flood one parking lot in particular, we don’t need to see the address to know it’s the Stahls Automotive Foundation building. The contents of the building belong to one man, Ted Stahl, executive chairman of GroupeStahl which specializes in heat printing on fabrics. About 25 years ago Stahl began collecting vintage automobiles, outgrowing his previous space, his current ‘garage’ is a 45,000 sq. ft. building in Macomb County. The idea behind opening the doors to the public is to “build an appreciation for history.” “Each car was chosen based on engineering achievements that made it an important part of the evolution of the automobile.” There are over 80 vehicles on display, some are more than 100 years old. Let’s take a look.

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The lobby is home to an unexpected collection of music-playing devices. Juke boxes and a gorgeous, inlaid wood, Victorian Porter music box share the room with an amazing Hupfield Phonoliszt-Violina which plays 3 real violins along with a beautiful Mortier 87 key cafe organ in an Art Deco style cabinet dating from 1930. I’ve never seen anything like the Mills Violino-Virtuoso or the Wurlitzer PianOrchestra, they are all restored, operational, and works of art to look at, not to mention the beautiful melodies they produce. All of a sudden a loud, happy tune explodes into the air, it’s coming from the other room.

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We are now in the main section of the building, the music and all of the activity puts me in the mind of a circus. The music draws me to the largest instrument in the Stahl collection, a 1924 Wurlitzer theatre organ built for the Wurlitzer family mansion in Cincinnati. There are 1524 pipes ranging in size from 16′ high to the size of a pencil, an organist sits in front of the keyboard, his fingers dancing across the keys, people sit in folding chairs tapping their toes and smiling. Vehicles are arranged in chronological order, the oldest being a 1899 De Dion-Bouton Tricycle. There’s something to look at in every direction, signs, banners and flags hang from the ceiling and on the walls, vintage neon and porcelain steel signs from the 1920’s to the 50’s delight visitors. Gas pumps with fancy glass globes wear names like Polly, Gilmore and Sinclair. Memorabilia covers walls, sits in shelves and fills display cabinets, a Route 66 theme is carried out throughout the space.

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The cars, yes, those stunning mechanical works of art are the main attraction, get this, there are no ropes surrounding these incredibly valuable vehicles, you can walk right up to them, they even have towels draped across the top of the door so you can peek right inside. Hoods are up, tops are down, placards tell us about the vehicle, paint colors span the rainbow. Spoke wheels, huge headlights, wide white walls come on Hudson’s, Packards, Chryslers, to name a few. Special emphasis is placed on the cars of the 1930’s and 40’s, the Depression and Art Deco eras. The oldest is a 1886 Daimler prototype, the newest a 1967 Pontiac GTO Convertible, and of course there’s everything in between. Brands found here : Oldsmobile, Locomobile, Oakland, Ford, Chevrolet, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, Cadillac, Willy’s.

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Row after row of polished chrome, fancy hood ornaments, spectacular grills and leather interiors leave us in awe. Cars from movies such as The Great Race, The Reivers, the Whoville family sedan from How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Tucker look perfectly at home. Kris’s favorite is the magnificent deep blue 1932 Chrysler CL Imperial but I think he’d take any one of the American luxury cars from the 30’s, the details are incredible inside and out.

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We amble up and down aisles, all of a sudden the 1924 Mortier 97 key dance organ comes to life. Completely restored, this organ traveled through Belgium providing music and entertainment at 17 different fairs every year. It’s absolutely beautiful, the cream-colored cabinet is elaborately painted with landscape scenes, ornamental details are colored in pearly pastel colors, I just love it. In the corner is a life-size diorama of a Bob’s Big Boy complete with a soda fountain, like being back in the 50’s. Stahls Repair Garage pays tribute to the old-fashioned service station; you couldn’t get nachos or a slurpee, but there was a guy who actually pumped your gas, checked your oil and could even repair your car–ahhh, the good old days!

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 The whole time we’re here I have to keep reminding myself, this is some guy’s garage–and what a garage it is. It’s quite generous of the Stahl family to allow all of us a glimpse of his collection. There is no admission fee. The building is open every Tuesday from 1-4 pm and the 1st Saturday of the month from 11-4 pm. We encourage you to visit.

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From here we take 26 Mile into Marine City. We’re having lunch at Blue Pike Cantina on Water St. It’s a winery and smokehouse, you can do a wine tasting, buy bottles of wine and have a snack or a meal. After running out of wine at the end of the year, this is the first weekend they are open again. Inside, we are the only customers. The cozy space is fitted with wine racks, dining tables and counter space. Appetizing looking small plates are being placed in the glass cooler for display. We start with a glass of wine, Super Tuscan for me and Black Raspberry for Kris. The Italian Nachos come out first, homemade pasta chips drizzled with alfredo sauce and topped with Italian sausage, olives, pepper rings, green onions and tomato, it’s really good. Our smoked meatloaf sandwich is huge. Smoked meatloaf made in-house is sliced and placed on a kaiser roll, cole slaw and bbq sauce complete the sandwich, it arrives in a basket surrounded by housemade potato chips, delicious.

 

Roadtrip: M-53ish….

17 Sep

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From now until the white stuff starts falling from the sky, we take advantage of every nice day we get and hit the road. Today is perfect; blue sky, sunny, t-shirt temperature, let’s go! There’s still a lot of country surrounding the big city of Detroit; Kris points the Jeep north toward Imlay City, on the way we’ll stop to check out a unique collection of balloon-tire bicycles, classic cars, toys and lots and lots of old stuff located on the grounds of a quaint make-believe town called Chestnut Hollow. The father and son duo, Jerry and Jerry, have been collecting for over 40 years; when a building could hold no more, they simply built another one. Each unique and old-fashioned looking, they are designated as blacksmith, pool hall, general store, etc. creating their own personal village. There are no official business hours, I get the phone number off their website and give them a call; they say they’ll be there most of the day, we’re welcome to stop by.

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Driving down Bordman Rd we spot the Chestnut Hollow sign, up the driveway a little, we are warned: Beware Of….. the rest is missing, it appears a giant something has taken a bite of the sign, I like a good sense of humor, this is going to be fun. Gravel crunches under the tires, veering right, we spot our hosts, ask where to park and make our introductions. The younger of the Jerry’s will be our tour guide, his father is in the process of mowing a large expanse of land. Stepping inside the first building, we come face to face with a beautiful green, early 1940’s, Ford  sedan delivery. To the right an antique Coke machine is for sale, around the corner from that is a 7-Up machine. Stuff is everywhere; old sleds hang from the ceiling, vintage strollers, car parts and signs fill up the space. A glass case is jam-packed with parts and accessories. Walking over to the building that houses the bicycle collection we pass the Pool Hall; antique stoves and weathered barrels take up residence on the porch, vintage signs are hung on many of the structures, rusty bike frames lay in piles.

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When the door is unlocked, we enter classic bicycle heaven. Wall to wall balloon-tire bikes are laid out in rows, vintage posters and calendars are hung on walls, a traffic light hangs in the corner. Prominently mounted on a shelf above the other two-wheelers is a Bowden Spacelander  in Outer Space Blue; they only made 544 of these fiberglass frame beauties, making them very collectible. One must be conscious of  where one steps, it’s a tight squeeze between Roadmaster, Elgin, Monark, Murray and Columbia bikes, Jerry claims this the largest collection of balloon-tire bikes around, I don’t doubt it. The frames are sturdy looking, they sport features such as front and rear fenders, tanks, skirt guards and large (comfy-looking) seats. Many have springer front-end suspension, head badges are fancy, designs are highly detailed. Kris’s favorite thing is the headlights, some are Deco, others, space-age, all of them are super cool! While wandering I come across an antique cigarette machine; dark wood and mirrored it’s gorgeous, Jerry tells me it is still full of matches, sweet. An airplane hangs above us,  a room to the side has hundreds of tires, bike seats and rims. Here and there we pass once cherished toys, cameras and long-forgotten games.

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The next building seems to specialize in TV and movie memorabilia; autographed photos, a hat from Forbidden Planet, foreign posters and items used in films are proudly displayed. From room to room we admire collections of King Kong pieces, robots and other objects from Lost In Space, lunchboxes, Erector sets, aviation pieces, even a little bit of Abbott and Costello. Back outside the old Ford is sitting in the sun, looks ready for a ride, veteran gas pumps and some old milk cans take us back to another time. It’s impossible to see everything; from funky to fabulous, there’s just so much! We thank our hosts for allowing us to visit, then continue toward Imlay City.

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Seems everybody’s talking about Mike and Matt Romine’s gastro pub called The Mulefoot. It doesn’t get more fresh and local than this; they raise the Mulefoot pigs used in the pork dishes themselves, produce comes from the family garden and nearby farmer’s fields, even the money raised to open the place came directly from community members, how awesome is that? Seems the twin brothers have shared a life-long interest in food, both growing and preparing it. After culinary school then working in some of the finest restaurants in the US and abroad, they returned to their hometown of Imlay City to open a place of their own. The former banquet hall has been transformed into a hip, stylish, yet comfortable space. Old barnwood, and animal skulls remind us we’re in the country, the art work is bold and colorful. The food menu changes frequently in keeping with the seasons, Michigan craft beers and spirits are featured along with about 50 wines.

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It’s Sunday, everything on the brunch menu sounds delicious; Kris picks something sweet, I choose the savory. Our server is friendly and outgoing, he takes the time to explain the restaurant’s farm to table philosophy. I sip on a glass of luscious red wine recommended by the sommelier; now, as fancy as that sounds this is really a very chill, blue-jean friendly place. Our food is brought to the table, the kitchen was nice enough to split both dishes for us…..I love when they do that! I start with the MF Huevos Rancheros; house-made chorizo and beans in a yummy sauce topped with a chunk of bread and a fried egg, it’s sooo good! Make sure you get a little bit of everything on the fork at once for a perfect bite. The french toast, made with homemade bread, of course, is topped with strawberries and whole almonds. Fried in the perfect temperature butter it creates just the right crunch when you bite into it. The strawberries are fresh, not mushy, and lightly sweetened, the almonds nice and crisp. We had a chance to talk with Mike before leaving, his knowledge of food is incredible. From making vinegar from apples to sauerkraut and homemade walnut liquor, his enthusiasm for all things food is contagious!  I’d advise making a reservation, word is getting out……

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We get on old Van Dyke and begin going south, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven down this stretch of road since I was born; surprisingly, things haven’t changed that much. In Almont we see an open farm market, Blake’s, and pull into the lot. A large bin in front holds the biggest ears of corn I have ever seen, bushel baskets are filled with ripe, red apples in several varieties, mums and mini pumpkins are piled on a table reminding us Autumn is right around the corner. Following the aroma of donuts being fried, we are drawn inside. The building is fully stocked with fresh peaches, plums, tomatoes, jars of jam and honey; it’s very cute inside. In the distance, hot donuts are calling our names……At the bakery counter we watch as the donut machine is being filled with batter, the batter is then dropped into the hot oil, it travels down the short river of fat where it is then flipped, cooking the other side. Finally the hot bundle of goodness lands in a wire bowl where it will cool. It’s a simple and effective process that leaves one longing for one of life’s tastiest treats: cider mill donuts. Kris and I eat one each, if it hadn’t been for brunch beforehand, there’s no telling how many we may have eaten. The batter has a hint of vanilla, the outside is slightly crunchy, the inside still warm, in other words, perfect! Can’t ask for a better ending to the day.

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Grand Rapids: Grand Getaway !

27 Jan

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Today we are heading West across Michigan, to a thriving city named Best Place to Raise a Family by Forbes Magazine, 1 of 10 best vacation cities for beer lovers, home to five of the world’s leading office furniture companies, 2010’s most sustainable midsize city and Michigan’s second-largest Metropolis, any guesses? That’s right, Grand Rapids. With its picturesque location on the Grand River, growing foodie culture and the Art Prize competition, the city is receiving positive accolades in newspapers and magazines across the country. Once you visit you’ll understand what all the buzz is about.

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We begin our visit in East Grand Rapids, an area called Gaslight Village. Once a resort area complete with an amusement park, theatre, pavilion and steamboat rides on Reeds Lake, the land was redeveloped into Gaslight Village after the park closed and fell into disrepair. Today it is a charming little village of boutique shopping, dining, public spaces and places to purchase everyday necessities. We park on Wealthy Street in front of Ramona’s Table, where we will be having lunch. Inside the contemporary interior a corner fireplace heats the room, we order at the counter then have a seat in the sunroom. We have a lovely view of the streetscape, the sky is blue and the sun is shining, the sidewalk is busy with the hustle and bustle of pedestrians. Our food arrives at the table, the Strawberry salad is topped with sweet strawberries, candied walnuts, blue cheese and a homemade strawberry vinaigrette. The Venetian Swing sandwich is layered with ham, brie, greens, tomato and an apricot wasabi dressing served on grilled sourdough bread. They were nice enough to split the sandwich and pasta salad,  brie gently oozes from the cut side of the sandwich, I had to take a bite, yum! The team at Ramona’s concentrate on local food and flavors, everything is homemade, and delicious.

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We join the foot traffic along Wealthy and pop in and out of shops along the way, by the time we reached Mary Ann’s Chocolates, we figured it was time for dessert. It’s a darling shop with a dazzling gold-colored tin ceiling, candy fills glass cases running the length of the store, from chocolate to candied fruit slices take your pick. Kris and I head straight for the chocolate, one truffle each, they are excellent. Continuing our walk, we check out the Christmas Tree on display in the public space, in the summer people gather to enjoy the fountain, there’s always something going on here.

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Back in the Jeep we drive west into downtown Grand Rapids, over to an antique district on Century Ave SW. A huge brick building stands five-stories tall, windows line the facade, a smallish sign near the center of the building says “Antiques”. We begin at the far end, a place called Buckley & Douglas, it doesn’t seem much warmer inside than out, after a few moments I no longer notice as my attention is captured by the vast variety if items on display. Resting on worn shelving vintage blenders and toasters have been re-purposed into whimsical lights….. slick, we meander across the worn wood floor, an old Standard Oil sign, antique typewriter, desks, and tool cabinets fill the room. Some of the pieces are in nice original condition, others have been spruced up or re-worked, some just left in their rusty, patina glory. Remnants of a laboratory are found throughout the area; beakers, petri dishes, glass tubes and microscopes, stuff I don’t usually see. Kris points out the clever use of window panes as a space divider, cool.

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The next shop, Lost & Found, is an unexpected surprise, with most of the pieces ranging from the 1950’s through the 70’s, we are right in our element! At first glance it looks as if we have wandered back in time to a furniture showroom, pieces are grouped into room displays complete with lamps, wall hangings and accessories, I can’t even decide what direction to go first there’s so much I want to look at. Taking our time, we explore the extensive collection of pieces; lighting, bar stools, radios, cabinets, dishes and more. I could stay here all day, but there’s more to see…..The next couple of shops in the building are more of what you’d expect from an antique store; depression glass, dishes, figurines, books and magazines, decorative items and small pieces.

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The new Downtown Market opened just a few months ago to great fanfare. Built using reused, recycled and re-purposed materials the end result is a gorgeous two-story building filled with artisan foods, there’s even a greenhouse on the roof! We park by what will be the outdoor market in season, inside, the building has an open, airy feel, everything is a neutral color except for the splash of lime green accents. Lighting is easy on the eyes, there’s sort of a Zen feel to the place, vendors are grouped into neat spaces sans walls, it smells good in here. We begin by strolling past fresh produce, a fish market, and meats. Field & Fire Bakery has samples of whole grain bread for shoppers to taste, chocolate, a taco stand, juice bar and fresh pasta all are worthy of our consideration, but it is the Sweetie-licious Bake Shop that stops us in our tracks. Think Betty Crocker doused in pink….Vintage recipe books, aprons, rolling pins and doilies decorate the counters, did I mention the Easy-Bake Oven? Pie is the specialty here, but the oversize cookies and cupcakes appear equally delicious. It is snack time, the decision of what kind of pie to get was tough, Pumpkin Cheesecake won. What is pie without ice cream? Kris is heading over to Love’s Ice Cream for a scoop while I grab a couple of coffee’s from Simpatico Coffee, we meet at a table on the second floor. From here we overlook the entire market as we indulge in gourmet goodness from the local vendors.

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We are staying downtown at the City Flats Hotel on Monroe Center, the building, formerly the legendary Fox Jewelers Building, has been transformed into a 5-story, 28 room boutique hotel. What makes it unique is its LEED Gold Certification; the furniture and decor was all designed and manufactured with local materials and rapidly renewable resources. The majority of all finished products were manufactured in Holland MI. We like the hotel for its great decor, rooms are super quiet, the bedding is the most comfortable of anyplace we have stayed, they have a full service restaurant and bar on the first floor, and it’s centrally located downtown. Once we have checked in and relaxed for a bit we hit the street in search of dinner. It didn’t take long to find what we were looking for, XO Asian Cuisine drew us right in. It is a weekend, the restaurant is busy, we are seated quickly and given thick menus, the food on surrounding tables looks wonderful. Kris chooses a specialty sushi of the house, I go with Pad Thai, we will share both dishes. The sushi is fantastic, edible flowers decorate the plate, the noodle dish has a unique seasoning here and is quite tasty, when we can eat no more we surrender our chopsticks.

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Walking along Monroe Center St we follow the glow of the blue LED lights to the public skating rink, it is jammed with skaters. A long line forms of folks waiting to take the ice, skilled skaters show their stuff in the center of the ice as the less experienced hang onto the side railing. The snow-covered grass glows under the blue and white lights. The scene is beautiful, festive; trees throughout downtown are smothered in lights, horse pulled carriages clippity-clop over the brick streets, winter in Michigan.

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Back at our hotel, we stop at the bar for a night-cap and chat with the bartender, we talk about all the exciting changes taking place in the city. Time to get some sleep, we have so much more to do tomorrow.

Daytrip: Flint

18 Mar

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I have always had a soft spot for the underdog, which is part of the reason I like  Flint. The city has more going for it than you may have imagined; Great museums, delicious food, and a fascinating history. Don’t look now but downtown is starting to make a comeback too! Did you know the first completed production Corvette rolled off the Flint assembly line in 1953? It was one of 300 hand-assembled ‘Vettes made that year. The 1950’s and 60’s  were the height of the city’s  prosperity and population. The economic and industrial struggles the nation faced through the years were even more magnified in this auto producing town. Today you will find new life in long standing neighborhoods and institutions, and a breath of fresh air sweeping into the city.

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It has been a while since we were at a farmers market; the sky was clear and blue, the sun was shining, what better time to drive out to the Flint Farmers Market?This year-round public building was built in 1940 by WPA workers, it has been a vital part of the community ever since. During the summer there are all sorts of vendors outdoors, this time of year it is mostly contained indoors. As you would expect you’ll find produce, meat, poultry, breads and baked goods. I love the initial scent as I walk into a market, it’s always a wonderful mix of aromas! The building is laid out in one long aisle from end to end, a wine shop caps off one of the ends. d’vine Wines has a generous variety of wines both local and international, along with beer and even dairy items from the ever popular Calder Dairy. 

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We strolled the main aisle, up one side and down the other; spices, jams, dips and cut fruit all available to sample. Ethnic groceries, cool looking sea salt, deli sandwiches fresh cider mill style donuts and hot coffee all beckon to be purchased. The cheese vendor has an especially large variety to choose from, Kris picked one out and we got a chunk to eat while we walked. Upstairs is home to an art gallery; jewelry, ceramics, photographs, and paintings fill the display. Across the hall is a restaurant called Steady Eddy’s Cafe, this place is always packed, today was no exception. Serving breakfast and lunch the menu leans towards vegetarian and vegan selections, they also have homemade soups daily. Satisfied with our market stop it was time to move on.

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If you’ve never been to the Flint Institute of Arts, put it on your to-do list, this is a terrific museum. The museum itself is 150,000 sq ft with 25,000 sq ft of gallery space. The building also houses a cafe, gift shop, art school, library and theater. We were there on a Target Free Saturday, so there was no admission fee; good to keep in mind. We have been here many times and still my favorite space is the Viola E Bray Renaissance Gallery, it is superb! The gallery itself was built for a single purpose: to display the 60 Renaissance and Baroque items donated by Mrs. Bray. The most exquisite being a collection of  10 tapestries made in France in the 17th Century. The tapestries represent the legend of Rinaldo and Armida as told in Jerusalem Delivered, a poem by Torquato Tasso. One of the gallery volunteers told us  that it is quite unusual for anyone to hold a complete set of tapestries. Not only did Mrs Bray donate the items, she also donated the money to build the gallery; it is elegant, ornate, magnificent. Floors are marble, the ceiling coffered, reflecting true renaissance style. The tapestries themselves are made of wool and silk, take a close look; the borders are filled with symbols such as laurel wreaths, Mercury, Urania, Justice and Victory; the detail is awe-inspiring.  Don’t miss the Decorative Arts Gallery, they have a sensational collection of glass paperweights. With the recent expansion the layout guides you easily from gallery to gallery; painted in bold colors such as berry, Celadon and bright yellow, the artwork really stands out. You could easily pass a couple of hours traversing the space.

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On the drive up we had decided to have lunch at Hoffman’s Deco Deli located inside the Carriage Town Antique Center. First we would eat, then we would browse. Being a deli they have a wide variety of sandwiches to choose from along with wraps, salads and gourmet coffee. A large chalk board hangs on the wall; Items are written in colored chalk giving a full description. We picked the Super Veggie sandwich on whole grain bread, the Farmers Market Salad and a side of the southwest barley salad. Place your order at the counter then take a seat at one of the tables in the dining room or a high-top by the window. The building itself is a restored Art Deco warehouse, the interior of the deli is decorated with funky objects, it’s always fun to look around. Our lunch arrived quickly, which was good because we were really hungry. Everything looked so good we didn’t know where to start! The sandwich was stacked high with avocado spread, feta, sprouts, onion, jalapeno, bell pepper, cucumber, leaf lettuce and tomato with a bit of veggie seasoning, delicious. The salad is a bit unusual in that a drizzle of BBQ sauce serves as the dressing; it works well with the other ingredients such as chicken and crumbled bacon, definitely a winner. The barley salad added  a bit of spice to the meal and was a nice change from pasta salad.When we’d had our fill we walked through to the antique center of the building, the pieces here are in good condition. Items run the gamut from antique china cabinets, loads of colored glass and pottery to vintage clothing, period lighting and Christmas items on the second floor. There are shelves and glass cases filled with beautiful items from days gone by. Vintage collectibles rest side by side with period furniture, heirloom jewelry and an antique organ. It’s a great shop with an ever-changing inventory. 

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We enjoyed the time we spent in Flint, there are many more things to see and do, but they will have to wait until next time. If you’re looking for a change of pace give Flint a try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

Vintage Hamtramck

27 Nov

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Located within the city of Detroit, is the city of Hamtramck, only 2.1 sq. miles  in size, it is Michigan’s most internationally diverse city. Known mostly for it’s Polish heritage, Hamtramck has many facets. Our plan for today was to check out the vintage shops in town. We parked in the centrally located parking lot behind the shops on the east side Joseph Campau, the mild temperature made it a nice day for walking. 

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There was a great deal of activity down one of the side streets; trucks, cables, and huge lights, a now familiar sight around the Detroit area, which means they are filming. Rumor has it GM is making a commercial for the Volt, which is built at the assembly plant right in Hamtramck. Using the city as a backdrop and featuring local residents, the commercial is supposed to air on Superbowl Sunday. Our first stop was the Record Graveyard on Caniff, dealing exclusively in vintage vinyl records, this is a vinyl collectors nirvana. I know nothing about vintage records, yet I find this place fascinating. The album covers immediately grab your attention, with just one look you can usually identify the decade the the album was released. The records are organized by genre; the male vocal selection is dominated by Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, Country Western section, if you like Jazz, you’ve come to the right place. As I walk around and see names like Glady’s Knight and the Pips songs start playing in my head.(Are you humming Midnight Train to Georgia now?) I recognize the names of artists from my parents generation; Steve and Eydie, Frankie and Annette, Boots Randolph,I even saw Pat Boone. Movie soundtracks are always fun to look through, I find myself saying “Oh yeah, I remember that movie”. Lining the top portion of the walls is a collection of the more risque covers featuring scantily clad women in seductive poses.Back in the day it seems that the cover art was as important as the record inside and is now recognized as such. This is a great place to come and browse, you may even find a piece of your past that you want to take home. The building Record Graveyard now occupies is currently for sale, but the owners are committed to staying in Hamtramck, therefore it is a good idea to call before you make the trip! 313-870-9647.

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Detroit Threads specializes in vintage items and new clothing by local merchants, along with records, CD’s and DVD’s. Every inch of the store is packed with merchandise, aisles are narrow and items are displayed floor to ceiling. I like to take my time, there is so much to see I usually have to walk through twice. New t-shirts and hoodies in all sizes and colors feature both Detroit and Hamtramck. The quantity of used clothing is vast; snazzy sport coats for men in tweed, shark skin and metallic  lame, dressy coats for women in leopard print, wool and even fur.They have great accessories for both men and women including hats, shoes, purses and neck ties. When film crews are in town they often stop in when looking for vintage items.  If you look carefully you can find cool items from Detroit icons like Vernor’s , Stroh’s and Kowalski.  Detroit Threads is also well known for their extensive collection of LP’s, they have it all from local techno to disco and import records, local DJ’s are regular shoppers. They have a little bit of everything and each time you go there’s something new to see. 

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A couple of doors down at 10022 Jos. Campau is a shop called Lo and Behold. Only open for a few months now, the selection is quite random; old furniture, records, posters,knick-knacks, books, clothing, kitchen items, even an old saxophone; the plan is to transition more into records and books. It’s always fun to shop in a store like this because you never know what you’ll find. I always like it when there are several resale type shops grouped together, I can park once and browse for hours.

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Keeping the vintage theme going, we had lunch at Polonia Polish Restaurant on Yemans. Serving up some of Hamtramck’s best Polish and Eastern European food for over 40 years, it has a loyal following. The inside is quaint, a mural depicting life in old Poland covers the back wall, tables and booths line the dining space, authentic Polish dishware is displayed on shelves, Polish music plays in the background. The front of the menu is a Polish Short Dictionary, it includes: Good Day, Please and Thank You, and of course, Kiss Me and I Love You. The phrase is first written in English with the Polish next to it, now if I only knew how to pronounce it……. The combination plate gives you a bit of everything; pierogi, kilebasa, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and golabki, it’s so good! My mouth waters just thinking about it. We love potato pancakes so we ordered those too. Fried to a crispy brown outside, tender and moist inside, slathered with sour cream of course, delicious. Back in 2009 Anthony Bourdain filmed a segment here for the Travel Channel and introduced a whole new audience to the restaurant.

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On our way back home we made one last stop at Bozeks Market on Caniff, not that we needed anything, it’s just fun to look around. The store specializes in central and eastern European foods, especially Polish. The selection of chocolates and sweets is huge; the packaging is pretty, pictures on labels aid in determining what each item is, I’d like to try one of each. Fresh produce, meats and breads are all reasonably priced, everything looks good. Many of the shoppers speak their native language to store employees, the language sounds soft and kind. Besides food you can find cosmetics, magazines and newspapers written in Polish along with liquor packaged in attractive bottles. Before leaving we revisited the candy aisle and indiscriminately chose a candy bar to share, I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it sure was good!

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Ypsilanti; Antiques & Automobiles

20 Apr

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After a late night of watching the Detroit Derby Girls udderly destroy the Madison Dairyland Dolls 205-53, we awoke to a cold and dreary Sunday. Not nice enough for outdoor activities, we got in the car and headed west. It is not uncommon to find us driving down a scenic road on a Sunday listening to Prairie Home Companion, and that’s exactly what we did.

There is a Vietnamese restaurant we’ve been wanting to try in Ypsilanti called Dalat, located on Michigan Avenue, so that was our first destination. It turned out to be a good place to eat, the menu is huge, pages and pages to choose from. We selected three different dishes, each being distinct and tasty.

Ypsilanti is about five miles east of Ann Arbor, it has a central downtown along Michigan Avenue, and a restored 19th century district called Depot Town, located on Cross St.  Like A2 Ypsi is also home to a university, EMU, so there is a lot of activity. Our next stop was just down the street from the restaurant, so we braved the gusting winds and walked down to Materials Unlimited. Upon entering we were greeted by the unmistakable sound of Billie Holiday singing in the background, setting the mood for our visit. You don’t even know where to look as you walk in,  inevitably your eyes travel upward, following the light of dozens and dozens of antique chandeliers dangling from the ceiling.  What’s your fancy? Art Nouveau, Victorian, maybe something Art Deco, it’s all here. From light fixtures to furniture, and mantles to stained glass, there are three floors to meander.The pieces have all come from the finest homes and businesses of a time gone by, and are all available for purchase.

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We were going to Depot Town to visit the Automotive Heritage Museum and Miller Motors Hudson. You might be surprised to learn that Ypsi has an impressive automotive history for a city of it’s size;  Hudson, Kaiser, Tucker, and GM all produced vehicles in this town. GM’s powertrain division (f.k.a. Hydramatic) produced automatic transmissions here too. Ypsilanti is home to the worlds last Hudson dealer,  which is now incorporated into the museum complex. You can see original Hudson memorabilia and cars on display. The museum highlights the importance of  this city and its manufacturing history.  There are rows of vintage cars, engines, and lots of photos to tell the story. This museum is a treat for the auto enthusiast, but even if you’re not, you will certainly enjoy the nostalgia of the collection.

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Before heading back east and home we picked up a couple of coffees and a chocolate chip cookie at a place called the Ugly Mug. It is a small space that roasts their own beans and serves really good coffee. The locals seem to like it here, as there was not a table available. That’s what cup holders are for, so we got ours ‘to go’.