“Useful. Durable. Dependable. Those are the standards for everything we sell,” says Downtown Home & Garden owner Kelly Vore. “You won’t find cutie-pie stuff here.”
You never could. The storefront at 210 S. Ashley was erected in the mid 1890s for Mann and Zeeb Elevator, a supplier of field seed for farmers and grain for poultry. The Hertler family purchased the business in 1906, renamed it Hertler Brothers, and held onto the property for sixty-nine years. The barn they built on the south side in 1908 was at first used as a livery stable.
In 1975, Mark Hodesh, a young townie who’d made a success of the Fleetwood Diner, bought the building and, step by thoughtful step, evolved it into a contemporary home and garden store.
In 2015, Hodesh sold the business to Vore, an employee. This February, Tom Garthwaite, who owns 208 S. Ashley next door, asked if she was interested in assuming Three Chairs’ lease there.
Three Chairs owner Susan Monroe, whose main store is across Ashley in the former Schwaben Halle, had used the space to highlight her Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams lines. “I wasn’t expecting them to move, but I had wished for more space,” Vore says. “I said yes immediately.”
Downtown Home remained open throughout the pandemic. “We’re entirely a brick-and-mortar store. We don’t have an online presence,” Vore says. She had to lay off half her staff, but with phone and email orders, “we maintained our customers and kept our business going.” By early June she had rehired six of the people she laid off and was hoping to bring back the rest.
She’s aiming to open the new 2,500-square-foot showroom by July 4. She says she’ll use the added space “to expand our greenhouse business and stock more outdoor furniture, grills, and gardening tools and supplies.”
This year, Vore ordered three times her usual inventory of vegetable plants and flowers, anticipating an upsurge in demand from people stuck at home. But her hard-pressed Michigan suppliers could give her only one-quarter of what she received in the past. “Seed potatoes were in as much demand as toilet paper,” she says. “Many people had no idea how to grow them, but they knew they wanted to try. Everyone was intent on raising food, not tending hobby gardens. Other vegetable plants went off like rockets, too.”
Downtown Home & Garden has become a clothing store, too, starting with Muck Boots, then expanding to hats, casual clothes, and outerwear. Vore will greatly expand that inventory but is especially excited about expanding the kitchen tools and accessories.
“One of our hottest lines is Polish Pottery,” she says–the hand-painted multicolor stoneware developed in the Polish town of Boleslawiec “has a huge fan base.” With the added space, “we’ll become the largest source of the pottery outside of Hamtramck,” she says with satisfaction. “I like to say we’ll have more to love.
“We’re forging ahead, putting one foot in front of the other,” says Vore. “We strive to be highly adaptable, particularly now.”
Downtown Home & Garden, 210 S. Ashley, (734) 662-8122. Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.