Goodbye Bella, Farewell Orchid
November 2017 Marketplace closings
by Eve Silberman & Eric Olsen
From the November, 2017 issue
After thirty-one years, Orchid Lane has called it quits. The ethnic clothing and jewelry store on Liberty posted "We're Closing" signs in early October and put its inventory on sale, half off. Owner Leif Elias says she's hoping to stay open into December, for holiday shopping.
Her mother, Nancy Elias, started the business in the basement of Bivouac on State St. There were eventually two adjacent stores on Liberty: the original, and Orchid Lane Warehouse, where items sold for $15 or less, and stores in three other cities, since closed.
Orchid Lane once was one of the few places shoppers could find the clothing and jewelry she bought in places like India, Peru, and Mexico. Today, Elias points out, they can easily locate similar items online. She says the stores have seen "a slow, steady decline" in sales," especially during the summer Art Fair--"we've seen those sales rapidly decline."
Seeing "the writing on the wall," she went to nursing school at EMU. Lately, she's been dividing her time between the store and a suburban hospital, where she works evenings at an ICU. Her mother, who stepped out of the business a decade ago, is back to help with the final sale.
Elias is proud that the store "was one of the originators of fair trade," explaining that she and her mom met first hand with overseas factory and store owners to make sure workers were fairly compensated and working under decent conditions. "It was a wonderful run," she says. "I got to travel the world."
Sad news for fans of Bella Italia Pizza & Pasta: the restaurant on Eisenhower Pkwy. closed on September 23 after thirteen years in business.
Owners Katie and Jim Millan met while attending Oakland University and working at the same restaurant, Jim as a cook, and Katie a server. After graduation, they bought Bella from founders Giuseppe and Rosa Cincinnato.
They've enjoyed owning the business, and Katie says they had a good relationship
with their guests. "We got to know many of them pretty well, and view most of them as good friends."
But "about four years ago Jim began working for Mitsubishi Electric as an engineer," says Katie. "We have a seven-year-old daughter, and between Bella, his career, and her activities, we didn't have a work/life balance. I primarily ran Bella by myself, although I had a great crew of employees."
As the end drew near, Katie decided to do what she could to help her staff find new jobs. "I began calling friends in the area that owned or managed restaurants, to see if they had room at their establishments for any of our employees. Luckily, everyone I contacted was hiring, so our employees had a couple of spots to consider."
Got a retail or restaurant change? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave voicemail at 769-3175 x 309.
[Originally published in November, 2017.]
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