“In retail, you can’t sit still too long,” explains Jennifer Fairfield, owner of the Garden Mill, who reopened her Main St. shop February 6 after a month-long renovation. A handcrafted twig arbor now greets customers as they enter the century-old storefront, along with freshly painted pastel green walls and a more open floor plan.
Fairfield, who’s lived in Manchester for nearly two decades, purchased the shop four years ago from Trinh Pifer, who’d opened it in 2005. Fairfield’s husband had recently passed away, and “I decided after his death that I didn’t want to be in the corporate world anymore.” Instead, she chose “an avenue to pursue my passion and share it with others.”
Growing up in Pitman, New Jersey–a small town that she says reminds her a lot of Chelsea–she’d followed her grandmother around her garden, doing whatever was needed, from weeding to harvesting. “It’s what makes me happy,” she says. She shares tips and knowledge in a monthly e-newsletter, gardens with Manchester preschool and elementary school students, and says running a small business while supporting local artists is “refreshing” work.
As longtime manager Maureen Tobin leads a tour of the store, she invites customers to smell the “nutmeg almond biscotti” and “gourmet orange” soaps by Chelsea resident Holly Koch. She points out colorful handmade baskets by Chelsea’s Sue Perino, as well as Ypsilanti artist Douglas Nelson’s hand-painted ceramic wren houses. There are Grand Rapids-made weather vanes in novel designs, Michigan-based Organically Done soil products, and ergonomically designed garden tools from Ann Arbor-based Radius. Concrete statues, including St. Francis and his many animal friends, from Owosso’s Dave Hoag, stand at attention throughout the shop. And Tobin notes Chelsea artist Charlene Harris’s pottery dishes with inlaid prints of leaves from Harris’s own gingko tree.
For more than a decade fairies have colonized gardens in and around western Washtenaw County, and Tobin thinks they may be here to stay. The shop sells a large selection of fairy ware, from homes and cottages to wee furniture. Grandparents and their grandkids are big fans, she says, as are workers who keep tiny gardens in their offices.
Holiday items and home decor are big draws during the colder months. Fairfield says that, come spring, the shop will be stocked with Mother’s Day gifts and “lots of seeds and starter plants.”
The Garden Mill, 110 S. Main St., Chelsea, 475-3539, Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Closed Mondays (hours change seasonally). thegardenmill.com
“I’m so excited! I’m finally getting a kitchen!” says Zou Zou’s Cafe owner Marie-Ann Fody. Her next-door neighbor, In Chelsea Hair Design, is moving across the street to the former Pierce’s Pastries Plus, allowing Fody to expand Zou Zou’s–which she opened in 1998–into its space.
Fody and her staff have been making soups, salads, sandwiches, and baked goods out of a “microscopic” kitchen. They’ll get extra workspace with the expansion, and customers will get more seating. She also hopes to add wine and beer to the menu because “in keeping with a French cafe, you need to be able to order a glass of wine!”
Zou Zou’s gets its name from one of Fody’s mother’s friends, not the character in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life (though that reference is fine with Fody too–“it’s my favorite Christmas movie”). Fody’s mother is French, and Fody was born in France. Raised in Detroit, she has lived in Chelsea for twenty years.
Renovations will begin before spring, and Zou Zou’s will remain open during construction. Fody hopes to be done by June.
Zou Zou’s Cafe, 101 N. Main St., Chelsea, 433-4226, Mon.-Thurs. 6 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri. 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. zouzouscafe.com
The former Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurant in the Clocktower Commons finally has a tenant: In mid-February, Los Tres Amigos–which has fourteen other locations statewide–was finalizing its lease. Corporate rep Diana Torres says the restaurant will move in at the beginning of March; renovations are expected to take two to three months, with plans for a summertime opening. Booths and tables will be handmade in Mexico, and the murals will be hand-painted by a Michigan artist. The company’s website promises authentic fare and “the best margaritas in Michigan.”
Pam Conn wore her “boot bling”–a rhinestone anklet–over her ostrich leg Tony Lama boots for the grand opening of her and husband Bill’s new Mule Skinner Boot Shop, one block north of their former location on Main. David Rowe sported his Stetson, which he’d purchased years ago from the shop; Lynn Cottrell wore her burnished leather Corral boots with cut-out designs; and Stephanie Moran, a self-described cowboy boot fanatic who has two dozen pairs in her closet, wore her black Noconas: “Bill shaped and resized them for me–they’re so comfy!”
Asked his thoughts on the new store, Bill was succinct: “I own it, and it’s bigger!” He and Pam also plan a wine and kitchen gadget shop–yet to be named–next door. Pam says they’re aiming for a June opening.
Meantime, Potting Shed owners Scott and Bonnie Cook continue to renovate their new space in the neighboring storefront of the same building. Bonnie says they will probably open their new shop, which will feature baby and children’s gifts and toys, sometime in the spring.
Mule Skinner Boot Shop, 112 N. Main St., Chelsea, 475-0342, Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Mon.-Tues., muleskinnerboots.com