Above: mugs displayed at Mackerel Sky
How can you show your appreciation for someone who has offered to do hard work of hosting this holiday season? What do you bring for the person who has cooked and cleaned so that you don’t have to? Luckily, downtown East Lansing is full of shops that are well stocked with lots of fun possibilities for the holiday season and beyond.
First let’s talk about the polar bear in the room. Parking downtown is a bit of an adventure right now with the construction starting on Grand River. Albert Ave is down to one westbound lane and what was once Lot One is now a hole in the ground.
You can miss the downtown traffic snarl by turning off of Abbot Road east onto Linden Street, which will take you around the side of City Hall and around the corner to the Grove Street Parking garage. If you’d rather start your shopping journey on the east side of down town, take Burcham Drive down to Bailey Street and you’ll be able to access the Bailey parking lot, or hop on Albert Avenue going west to get to the other downtown parking garages without the congestion of Grand River Avenue. Remember that a lot of downtown businesses validate parking, so if you’re parked in a City-owned lot it’s worth asking after you complete your purchase.
On to the fun stuff!! Here’s a little overview of some of the products that I found while exploring the downtown merchants last week.
Above: Tiles made by local artist Barbara Hranilovich at Grove Gallery and Studio
Grove Gallery and Studios, located at 325 Grove Street, is a cooperative gallery staffed by artists, so the person who is working is usually pretty knowledgeable about the artwork and who made it. There are over twenty artists represented in the Gallery, most from the East Lansing area (all are from Michigan), and prices start at just a few dollars. Nature-inspired tiles by Barbara Hranilovich start at $30. Make sure you move past the front gallery to additional display areas in the back. Because there are so many different artists represented, there is a wide variety of styles, and you can find everything from felted soaps to oil paintings. The Gallery doesn’t open until noon, and is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so plan your visit accordingly.
Mackerel Sky, at 211 M.A.C. Avenue, has a great selection of ceramic mugs which could be paired with a bag of coffee beans or a box of tea to make an offering for your holiday hosts. Pottery is scattered around the store, and there is an endcap of mugs on the end of the checkout station including some from a Vermont artist and sold under the name “Crazy Cat Lady Ceramics.” There is also a large selection of ornaments which might make a nice holiday keepsake.
Above: air plant at Clever Clover
Air plants, low maintenance houseplants that merely require an occasional misting, continue to be a trendy gift. Clever Clover, in its new location at 317 East Grand River Avenue, has a selection of blown glass vessels for air plants, and Mackerel Sky carries a wide selection of air plant terrariums as well. While you’re at Clever Clover check out their selection of candles; there are even some decorative matchboxes to go with them.
Above: socks at Footgear
This might seem like a strange choice, but this being Michigan I can virtually guarantee that your host would love a pair of wool socks. You can get both Smartwool and Darn Tough socks at Footgear at 108 Division Street.
Above: vodka at Spartan Spirits
Finally, consumables are always a good choice when making the holiday rounds. You can grab a bottle of something to share at Spartan Spirits, maybe a bottle of Michigan wine, or if you think your hosts would appreciate something stronger you could choose a locally distilled vodka from American Fifth. Spartan Spirits is located at 221 Ann Street, in the Ann Street Plaza near the clocktower downtown.