From Souvenirs to Beers, The Old Town General Store Has It All
If you’ve ever walked around Old Town, you’ve probably seen the Old Town General Store, with its amazing storefront and beautiful courtyard.
“Originally, I was a half an owner of a garden center and flower shop in Haslett,” Old Town General Store owner Rhea Van Atta explained. “I was looking for a different challenge, and I always wanted to have a store in Old Town. Old Town is dear to my heart because I grew up in this area.”
The Old Town General Store opened six years ago and started as a food store that featured locally sourced products.
“We started out like a local food store or a mini-grocery store featuring local farms and shelf-stable items like jellies and jams,” Van Atta said. “We also stocked some natural body products and laundry detergent, so the store became like one of those old general stores, thus Old Town General Store.”
While the store started out just stocking Michigan food, Van Atta has continued the trend of pushing Michigan-made products.
“Weʼve always had the beer and wine, but we try to carry primarily Michigan-made products, but when we first started the business there were more national brands mixed in,” Van Atta explained. “But we tried to find national brands that were organic and sustainably produced. Slowly we replaced the national brands with Michigan products of similar value.”
Aside from food, Van Atta has worked to provide more souvenirs and Michigan-branded merchandise. She stocks things like coasters, keychains and shirts.
“I never knew that there could be so many options for coasters,” Van Atta said. “And then there are tea towels, aprons, tote bags, magnets and hats. There are tons of different kinds of T-shirts, so we canʼt carry everything, but we try to have something for everyone’s price point, from a guitar pick for 99 cents that has Michigan on it up to a beautiful Lansing skyline cutting board. It’s just a cool thing about these products, that each one has a story and you know where they came from. And oftentimes we get to even know the people who make them. So that makes it even better.”
With all these products, Van Atta has taken to putting together gift baskets for people to give the gift of Michigan to others.
“The Michigan-made baskets get bought up a lot for corporate business gifts, and around Christmas they are very popular,” Van Atta explained. “But these are great gifts for anybody and can be for any time of year. It’s been great to be able to grow that part of the business. You know, itʼs fun.”
While they can put beers and wines in the baskets, they can’t ship or deliver alcohol. But customers can come to the store and pick from the store’s wide variety of Michigan wine, beer and cider. Van Atta, along with her green thumb, has also built a gorgeous courtyard behind her store.
“The courtyard is basically the same size as the interior of my store, and it’s completely enclosed,” Van Atta said. “We had a stage built in the back of it, and we landscaped it beautifully. We turned it into like a seasonal music venue and allowed some nonprofit groups or some other businesses to use it for meetings.”
So, if you’re looking for Michigan products or are just in the neighborhood of Old Town, come see the Old Town General Store.