on side streets and inside hotels are distinctive
stores selling the unique, the vogue and
Photography by Johnny Quirin
find a Gap or a Williams Sonoma — there’s
not a trace of a department store.
And because of
that, many people assume there is no retail
in downtown Grand Rapids. But take a closer
look and the city’s urban center may
surprise even the most avid shoppers. Tucked
away on side streets and inside hotels are
distinctive stores selling the unique, the
vogue and the hard-to-find.
In the Amway Grand Plaza, Boutique
Emmanuel has specialty women’s clothing
in casual, office and elegant evening styles,
sizes 2 through 16. Don’t be fooled by
the small store front; the boutique is larger
than it appears, with a creative selection for
all ages and lifestyles. For bargains, Emmanuel
Too is the store’s clearance center.
Just a couple of blocks away,
Gina’s Boutique at 40 Monroe Center NW
brings a taste of Los Angeles and New York styles
to West Michigan. Shoppers will find easy-going
denim, tops and dresses, as well as professional
attire. The shop features a bright, airy atmosphere
and spacious dressing rooms.
Around the corner on Ottawa Avenue,
F. David Barney Clothiers specializes in custom
and made-to-measure men’s clothing. Even
casual slacks are shown un-hemmed to insure proper
fit for the discerning customer.
But quality doesn’t mean
costly. The store carries “custom clothing
options at affordable prices — not just
top end,” said Bruce Tuttleman, sales assistant
and fit consultant. “A lot more casual
wear than customers expect, and an incredible
selection of hand-sewn ties.”
Reynolds & Sons Sporting Goods at 12 Monroe
Center NW, claims to be one of the oldest sporting
goods stores in the state. Established in 1927,
it’s family owned and operated. “We’re
geared for urban footwear and hats,” said
Jeff Reynolds, “but we also excel in rocket
With a full line of football equipment, Reynolds & Sons
is a destination store for customers who want
to insure a proper fit. For streetwear, shop
the selection of Nike Jordon footwear, or see
the selection of New Era hats. Team and staff
apparel is also available, as well as varsity
jackets and other special order items.
Celebrating its 68th year in downtown Grand
Rapids is Van Hoecks Shoes at 95 Monroe Center
NW. It started as a Dr. Scholl’s store
and has evolved into a destination for the hard-to-fit
All City Kicks,
below, carries streetwear, a fusion of
skate and hip-hop attire.
do what other people don’t,” president
Greg Clarins said. “We service the customer
who can’t find their size anywhere else:
narrows, slims and larger sizes. A woman who
wants a shoe size of 11 and a half can’t
walk into any (mall) store and find her size.
We have customers who drive in from Lansing and
all over to shop at our store.”
Schuler Books & Music at 40 Fountain St.
NW offers music, DVDs, gift items and books,
of course — and a café where shoppers
can sit and enjoy a quiet escape from the streets.
While there, you might catch an author reading
a selection or signing books. If you don’t
know what to read next, the knowledgeable staff
can help you choose.
A trip to downtown is hardly complete without
a stop at Groskopf’s, 112 Monroe Center
NW, a fixture in Grand Rapids since 1881. Specializing
in fine luggage and travel items, the store has
a loyal following, said manager Doug Bickel. “Most
of the customers we know by name. I know we have
some third generation shoppers, probably some
Groskopf’s has a wide selection of gift
ideas, too, from out-of-the-ordinary games to
wood jewelry boxes and fountain pens. The inventory
changes regularly, giving frequent shoppers something
new to see on every visit.
Another downtown store claims an even longer
history. Founded in 1850, Preusser Jewelers hold
titles as “the oldest jeweler in the state
of Michigan” and “the longest-standing
business of any kind in Kent County.” But
don’t let its age fool you: The store carries
an up-to-date selection of fine jewelry and some
of the most recognizable names in the industry,
such as Ritani, Christian Bauer, John Atencio,
Sakamoto Design, Verragio and more.
Grand Central Market and Deli, 57 Monroe Center
NW, opened in 2005, offering wine, cheeses, deli
specialties, fresh produce and general grocery
needs to downtown shoppers. Now under the new
ownership of Tom and Cheryl Powell and Christina
Klunder, the market is expanding to offer an
even larger selection. Chef-created desserts,
deli sandwiches on organic breads, and a hummus
made on the premises are just some of the foods
Within walking distance of Monroe Center are
shops on Weston and Division streets offering
eclectic — and really hip — merchandise.
Bohemia Too at 10 Weston St. SE has a mix of
antique furniture, beads, jewelry and upscale
urban clothing for men and women. A Chinese cupboard
displays hand-knit slippers from Pakistan. Shoes
by Tsubo and Red Tape are at home amid cast iron
teapots and contemporary carvings.
Premier Skateboarding sells the latest athletic
shoes, apparel and skateboards, plus board parts
and accessories. Here you can buy a $220 Nixon
watch or a set of Hubba Lusty Lemmon Wheels for
And if you love streetwear, don’t miss
All City Kicks, 139 S. Division Ave. The store
operates by the motto “keeping it fresh,” introducing
customers to such hip new brands as Play Cloths
and 10.Deep. “Streetwear is a fusion of
skate and hip-hop,” said Jason Stewart. “Over
the years, the two styles have blended.”
Music fans have a couple of choices for buying
their favorite tunes: Vertigo Music at 129 S.
Division Ave., and Dodds Record Shop, 20 S. Division
“We are primarily an independent label,
non-mainstream music store,” Vertigo owner
Herm Baker said. “Music with a little more
artistic integrity. You can get a Miles Davis
record here, too. But we don’t carry ‘American
Idol’-type artists.” The store also
offers a wide selection of new and used vinyl
records, posters, patches, T-shirts and used
Dodds has been serving music lovers since 1951.
Boasting a big selection of vinyl records and
even cassettes, the store carries a wide variety
of music styles.
“Everything,” said Gerry Dodd. “Popular,
jazz, blues, country, and a small selection of
classical.” Record enthusiasts will find
their favorite vinyl along with new needles and
other parts for their turntables. Remember Andy
Williams? George Beverly Shea? You can find them
Close to the corner of Division Avenue and Cherry
Street, Sanctuary Folk Art has displayed contemporary
folk pieces for 11 years. Owner Reb Roberts welcomes
shoppers to enjoy more than 500 paintings and
3-D art in a welcoming, come-as-you-are atmosphere.
A champion of the local arts, Roberts displays
only works by West Michigan artists.
On the north side of downtown, art enthusiasts
will find works by more than 50 artists at LaFontsee
Galleries and Underground Studio, 820 Monroe
Ave. NW, which also carries personal accessories,
urban crafts and home décor.
At the same address, Metal Art Studio sells
handcrafted fine jewelry by several local artisans
unique art glass chocolates by Hulet & Hulet
Art Glass Confections.
Looking forward, plans are under consideration
for a year-round indoor-outdoor market on Ionia
Avenue just south of Wealthy Street that would
feature locally made produce, food items, merchandise
and art. While the market isn’t expected
to be open for business until 2012, developers
are excited about the project.
“We’ve done the feasibility studies, we’ve
talked to the developers, and we’re confident
that we can make it happen,” said Jay Fowler,
director of the Downtown Development Authority.
The agency frequently reviews plans for new retailers
and expects downtown shopping to continue to
Mary Timmer is a freelance writer based