Bill Harris–a regular customer at Chelsea’s Cranesbill Books before it closed last December–has teamed up with former Cranesbill manager Jeremy Montange to open Just Imagine, a toy and book store, in the same storefront. Harris says they are focusing on children’s toys and books first and are adding “grown-up books” and music products as they get customer feedback.

“We’re too small to carry everything, and we have to be sure what we carry we can sell,” says Harris, a former technical writer and software engineer who moved with his family to Chelsea from California six years ago.

Harris and Montange, a fifth-generation Chelsea resident, saw a need in town for quality educational toys, games, and children’s books. “Some parents and grandparents were running out to Ann Arbor to pick up special gifts,” Harris says. Since their May 1 opening, they’ve sold many gifts for children’s birthday parties–Harris says customers appreciate their free gift wrapping.

While the store gradually adds merchandise, Harris says they’re glad to special-order books for customers. Montange hopes to bring in Purple Rose Theatre apprentices to read during children’s story times and says local book clubs already are calling to ask if they can use the space for their meetings.

Bill Harris’s wife, Nancy, had been running her Resale Bliss shop out of the building, but moved to Old US-12 in March. She says she’s trying the location in the strip mall for six months to see if it attracts customers. All proceeds from the sale of Resale Bliss’s used clothing, household goods, books, toys, and collectibles–after she pays the lease–benefit her Chelsea nonprofit, Hearts Community Service.

Middle Bead is returning to Middle Street, taking over the old Cranesbill second floor. In the midst of the recession, Marc Rafferty moved her jewelry and bead business into her home a year and a half ago, but now she’s back, upstairs from Just Imagine. “At home and on my website I was selling more of my finished product than the beads, and I really missed seeing other people create,” she says. Rafferty says she offers a huge volume and variety of beads, including ones made from Michigan glass. Rafferty plans to offer classes and also has a table open for customers to drop in and work on their creations.

Just Imagine, 108 E. Middle. 562-2040. Tues.-Wed. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Thurs. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (till 9 p.m. during Sounds & Sights), Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. noon-3 p.m. Closed Mon.

Resale Bliss, 12855 E. Old US-12, suite 5 (Oak Tree Plaza). 433-1101. Wed. & Fri. noon-5 p.m., Thurs. noon-6 p.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Sun.-Tues.

Middle Bead, 108 E. Middle (upstairs). 433-0595. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Sun. & Mon.

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Wayne Robert came to Chelsea to buy some equipment from Scooples ice cream shop–which was closing–for a place he was opening in Northville. While he was here, he says, he “fell in love with Chelsea and its hometown atmosphere and people.” He ended up renting Scooples’ former spot across from Chelsea Milling to open Robears.

Run by Robert and his sister, Darlene Greenwood, Robears serves Ashby’s Sterling ice cream made in Sterling Heights, plus soft serve, slushies, coffee drinks, hot dogs, chips, and candy.

“There’s huge potential with our outdoor seating,” Robert says. He wants to add music as well as a large-screen television on the outside patio, and hopes to offer kids’ movies and other activities during the summer.

Robears, 114 N. Main. 474-3155. Daily noon-9 p.m. March through October (weather permitting).

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Almost two years to the day after a fire at the Chelsea Shopping Center closed the Chelsea Grill, owner Gina Pantely reopened the renovated restaurant in May. “I’ve brightened it up, and it’s roomier and I think more comfortable,” says Pantely, who also owns the Broken Egg in Ann Arbor.

Pantely says everything about the restaurant is new–the decor, the staff, and the menu. She’s kept some customer favorites from the grill’s former incarnation, such as the spaghetti and meatballs, but says she and chef Greg LaBute plan to introduce new items frequently. Selections include appetizers, sandwiches, salads, steaks, seafood, and pastas.

The 200-seat space includes a long bar featuring Kathy Lorenz’s mural of Chelsea landmarks. There’s no longer a separate banquet space, but there is a room that can be reserved for private parties.

Chelsea Grill, 1120 S. Main (Chelsea Shopping Center). 475-7714. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

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Jet’s Pizza franchise owner Jason Povlich saw potential in the vacant suite next door and convinced Jet’s to approve the first full-service restaurant in the 300-store national chain. Jet’s sports room opened last December and seats up to seventy people. The restaurant offers the full Jet’s menu–including pizzas, salads, subs, and wings–plus beer and wine. The dining room, which includes six televisions and satellite service, can be rented for special events.

Jet’s Pizza, 506 N. Main. 433-9700. Sun.-Thurs. 9:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 9:30 a.m.-midnight.

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After a four-month renovation, a new owner reopened North Country Store as Marathon Country Store, a gas station and convenience store. “I’m very picky about location, and I saw a great opportunity in Chelsea,” says Ron, who wouldn’t give his last name but says he owns another Marathon station in Hamburg. The store, which opened in January, sells groceries, alcoholic beverages, camping and barbecue items, ice, and firewood. In the next three months, Ron says, he plans to open a Pizza Hut Express–responding to customers who’ve told him they miss the pizza that was sold at North Country.

Marathon Country Store, 20941 North Territorial. 562-9050. Mon.-Fri. 5 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 6 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

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Phil and Jennifer Tolliver have purchased the Bearclaw Coffee Company franchise in the Oak Tree Plaza on Old US-12 next door to their Northwoods Beef Jerky store. Phil Tolliver says Bearclaw corporate owners Debi and Doug Scroggins, who previously owned the franchise, were such great neighbors that a year ago the two couples created an interior doorway between the stores to encourage customers to roam and browse.

“Both products–the jerky and the coffee–are high quality, and I hope that, combined with our intense focus on customer service, will keep us successful,” Tolliver says. Bearclaw sells coffee drinks, smoothies, bagels, and pastries–and he says they often sell Northwoods’ jerky through Bearclaw’s drive-through.

Bearclaw Coffee, 12855 E. Old US-12 (Oak Tree Plaza). 475-1300. Mon.-Fri. 5 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-5 p.m.