PIERSON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Michelle Larsen’s skills as a teacher come in handy on a daily basis at Sticks N Stones Market.
“I still have my teacher hat on, because the kids come in here. I still educate them,” she says. But she switches back to wearing the owner hat, “pretty much just switching from the teaching role to being a small owner and living out the dream.”
That dream started for Larsen when she bought Sticks N Stones in 2013, a business that was started by others in 2003. “It started out as a garden center, very small, just selling pretty much hanging baskets and flats of flowers."
Since her involvement, the business has expanded to include a restaurant, ice cream, a gift shop, even a pen area where the kids can get up close with goats.
That kind of diversity has been the key to Larsen staying in business during the ups and downs of the pandemic. “If I was just a restaurant, I wouldn't have survived. So, everything helps me become a successful business.”
Right now, Mothers Day is the focus. “Mother's Day weekend, hands down,” Larsen notes. “It's hanging baskets, getting something for Mom. Maybe it's a local piece of metal art: I have beautiful local Michigan-made flowers, things like that. Bears are huge too.”
After that, it’s planting season, and Sticks N Stones helps with that. “as the spring season goes on, then people are buying their flats of flowers, their veggies to get their garden going, their herbs, and maybe it's mulch to put down in their yard.”
Then there’s the gift shop for panic buying or simple shopping: “Maybe they just have a girlfriend and it's their birthday and they run over here and grab something.”
And how about a day at the lake cottage where the weather is bad or the grandchildren just need a break? “We have the kids area, where if they're with grandma and grandpa, they got to pick them up something to send them home with.
And, of course, there’s ice cream
While all this is available, the pandemic continues to have its effects, Larsen says. Restrictions put a damper on the restaurant, but that’s improving. Then there’s the challenge of hiring and training season workers who tend to be high school students from the area. And supply line problems persist.
But Larsen appreciates every prospective customer to stops in. “It's very important for people to come out now during this time to support local businesses. We are trying to figure out the pandemic like everybody else, trying to get great product in, and just coming here and buying one or two things instead of supporting the big box. You're able to help support, local kids getting a job paying for their college, and just supporting the people in the community that that need the jobs.”