Entering Eleanor’s Sweets & Sodas in downtown Saline, it’s hard to figure out where to look first—at the floor-to-ceiling shelves of rainbow-hued Jelly Bellys, the tidily assorted boxes and bags of candy, or the wall of bottles of colorful flavored syrups for Italian sodas. It’s no wonder social media exploded when it opened in 2021.

Owner Karen Tadd credits her children, Eleanor and Chris, now thirteen and sixteen, respectively, with floating the idea of opening a candy shop.

“They just thought that would be cool,” says Tadd. She liked the nostalgia of operating an old-fashioned candy store and then, in a modern twist, encouraging kids to use their math and budgeting skills.

“That kind of helped us form that foundation of, how do we help kids get more confident shopping?” says Tadd, an auto company engineer, “but also do something fun that kids actually want to shop at.”

She says it’s “amazing to watch” young customers wander the store figuring out what they can afford. “They’re focused on staying within the budget, instead of begging for more candy from mom or dad.”

The 1890s-era building had been vacant for several years, and Tadd and her husband, Andy, who teaches chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, spent about $100,000 to refurbish it. Tadd says their best-sellers include freshly made cotton candy, giant gummy bears and worms, sour treats, and Kit Kat bars. 

Eleanor’s Sweets and Sodas, 108 S. Ann Arbor St. (734) 470–6323. Mon. 2–6 p.m., Tues.–Fri. 2–8 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Sun. noon–6 p.m. eleanorssweets.com

After two large local toy stores shuttered their doors over the past few years, Lisa Roberts saw an opportunity to jump into the space for kids.

Roberts, now the owner of two area Rock Paper Scissors gift stores, opened Rock Paper Scissors Junior in downtown Saline last September. 

“Junior is a great place to really find fun and learn regardless of age,” Roberts says. The shop is packed with toys, from Brio trains and Lego sets to books, stuffed animals, and games to jars of slime, stickers, and jewelry. Prices range from stickers for 50 cents to the train sets that ring up at more than $100.

The Rock Paper Scissors stores, in Ann Arbor and downtown Saline, feature an eclectic mix of gifts with a little “snark and sass,” but Roberts admits that they often received feedback that there were too many swear words on the mugs.

“So we were, like, ‘Great, we’ll make it easy on you. Here’s a location you can bring your kiddos to and we promise it’s swear free,’ ” she laughs.

During fair-weather months, she will keep tables outside with games that families can play. No need to buy something in the store.

Rock Paper Scissors Junior, 101 S. Ann Arbor St. ste. 1. (734) 316–2603. Tues.–Fri. 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Closed Sun. & Mon. 

Bone Heads BBQ Food & Spirits originally aimed for a spring 2020 opening in Saline. With the onset of Covid-19, that got pushed back to August 2020, and even then, says general manager Chris Clancy, the first seven months were carryout only.

But Bone Heads has now been firing up its four smokers daily for eighteen months, and Clancy says sales have been better than projected, confirming their choice to locate next to Emagine Saline.

“We thought that a plaza next to the movie theater would be a very good location,” Clancy says. “Lots of traffic. It would almost do the advertising for you.”

The original Bone Heads in Willis is a 200-seat restaurant. The Saline location can seat fifty-two for indoor dining and has a scaled-down menu, focusing on barbecue, fried chicken, and jambalaya.

“We’ve been very happy with the support that we’ve gotten in Saline,” says Clancy. They’re already thinking about expanding to a third location.

Bone Heads BBQ, 1333 E. Michigan Ave. (734) 470–6175. Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. noon–8 p.m. Closed Mon. boneheadsinc.com

The 109 Cultural Exchange and Gallery opened at the end of 2019 as a “multipurpose people space” and nexus for art and cultural happenings in downtown Saline. A Saline Main Street initiative, it showcases local art and cultural events to entice more people downtown and encourage them to linger longer after dining or shopping or just grabbing a coffee.

Holli Andrews, the 109’s director, says this “third space” will benefit restaurants and shops by helping create an even more vibrant downtown.

 “If you have a place where you can go see art or a show then, all of a sudden, you grab a bite to eat, you walk around while you wait for the doors to open and maybe go shopping,” she says. “It becomes a place where you spend more time.”

It has been, by necessity, a slow start. The 109 launched with a concert and some open mic nights before the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020. With such venues forced to temporarily shutter, it quickly pivoted to become a space for assembling kits for local businesses that included masks, locally sourced hand sanitizer, information on social distancing rules, and Covid-related signs.

This year promises to see the pace pick up, with plans for art exhibits, artist receptions, live music, spoken-word poetry, storytelling and live theater.

A month-long exhibit of oil paintings by local artist Sandra Difazio runs through May 18. In June, Mind the Gap Productions will present a Neil Simon comedy, Last of the Red Hot Lovers. For tickets, call (810) 580–9126.

Andrews says a recently awarded $20,000 state grant will pay for a gallery hanging system for art as well as new speakers, backdrop kits, and lighting for live events in the brick-lined 2,000-square-feet space.

“It’s extended our reach,” she says. “It’s given many different people a reason to come downtown on a regular basis.”

The 109 Cultural Exchange, 109 W. Michigan Ave. (734) 717–7406. Tues. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., Wed. noon–5 p.m., Thurs. 1 p.m.–5 p.m., Fri. noon–5 p.m. and by appointment. Closed Sun. & Mon. facebook.com/the109CX

Trading on the Saline Hornet school mascot, The Buzz Nutrition opened late last year in the Baker’s Nook Plaza.

Owner Tracey Bailey says the store uses Herbalife Nutrition in its meal-replacement shakes, energizing teas and supplements.

“If somebody is just looking to incorporate nutrition into their life, we can do that,” she says. A large sign on one wall lists a myriad of options and flavors for shakes and teas.

The Buzz Nutrition, 901 W. Michigan Ave. ste. B. (734) 316–7277. Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–2 p.m.  Closed Sun. 

The site of the former Pineapple House in downtown Saline remains empty two years after the home goods and gift store closed. Saline resident Joyce Ely, the owner of the now-closed store and the property at 101 E. Michigan Ave., says she has fielded numerous inquiries from people interested in renting the space, but as of now it is still available for lease.

Earth Elements in February closed its spiritual gift shop at 104 W. Michigan Ave. and is exploring moving to an online business model only.