Brick + Mortar: Dream of ‘general store’ becomes reality
IRON MOUNTAIN — About two years ago, Mike Pearson told his wife, Kate, he was envious she was able to do something she loved every day.
He then worked in construction and carpentry, plus sales for a wholesale company. She owned The Good Earth Salon in Iron Mountain.
So she asked him, “What would you love to do every day?” His response: “Own a general store.”
The couple almost immediately began searching for a potential site for what he had in mind, looking at “a ton of buildings,” Mike Pearson said.
The right fit came when they were shown the former Vintage Sundries Antiques building at 213 E. Hughitt St.
“We walked in and I started crying,” Mike Pearson said. “This is what I’ve been looking for. We jumped on it right then and have been working on it day and night, until a couple of weeks ago.”
While Brick + Mortar opened its doors to customers Oct. 5, its grand opening event was Saturday and it will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.
The Pearsons credited Camille and Dave Butsic, the previous owners of Vintage Sundries Antiques, with giving them a huge jump-start on the property. The Butsics had reinforced the structure of the building, lifted the floor and returned the original hardwood. They added intricate tin, windows, doors and bookshelves from historic neighboring businesses.
“B+M changed the appearance of the exterior of the building, mostly to fit in with the feel of the new business. But as you walk through the store, you’ll be greeted with elements of the Butsics’ masterpiece. From the sink in the planting bar, salvaged from their office, to the old register displayed on the remnants of the old brick chimney, to the use of remaining tin on the front of the new office desk, pieces of their passionate renovation will always be a part of 213 East Hughitt,” Mike Pearson said.
The Pearsons also were awarded one of the four facade grants offered by the Downtown Development Authority this year. The $3,000 grant made it possible for the couple to add new siding and trim, plus purchase lettering.
“What a wonderful opportunity to use something provided by our town to refresh an already amazing storefront. We are thrilled that we were awarded the grant, and look forward to working side-by-side with the DDA in the future,” Kate Pearson said.
The Pearsons also are grateful for their friend, Dean Ellis, who assisted Mike in fabricating the racks, the tables, the shoe wall display, metal railings and more.“Dean is just incredibly talented,” Mike Pearson said.
The new owners are adamant about giving credit to the previous owners. “We did not restore this building, the Butsics did. But we got to come in and decorate it and we are maintaining it and keeping it going,” he said. “We’d like to thank the Butsics. Thank them for providing us this downtown historic building in which to build our dream. Thank them for all the work involved in the restoration. Thank them for giving us shoulders to stand on to continue keeping this building alive and well.”
The term “Brick + Mortar” refers to a traditional business that offers products and services to its customers face-to-face, in a physical storefront. Mike Pearson said the historical brick building helps validate the store.
With an eye for all things leather, wood and metal, Mike Pearson has hand-selected apparel, accessories, footwear and custom leather goods aimed at both men and women.
“We will be carrying high-end, crossover adventure clothing and boots. You can go from the office to hiking to dinner, all in the same clothing. It’s durable but fashionable,” Kate Pearson said.
“And we price match,” she added. “Any of the items we have in store that you find a different price online or in other places we will match that price … all these places people know about, we would like to honor that price.”
Eventually, the store will offer succulent propagation classes in the backroom and they plan to soon add home decor and handmade furniture. “The store will be changing as we learn about our demographic. We are figuring out what sizes we need to carry and what colors we carry. We want to cater to local people. … We are always making notes. We are trying to learn what the area needs,” Mike Pearson said.
One unique offering at the business is a plant bar, reflecting Kate Pearson’s hobby of cultivating succulents, a family that includes jade plants and aloe.
“One of our favorite places to go is Milwaukee’s Third Ward. It’s a lot of historic buildings that mostly younger couples in their 30s have taken and renovated. It’s the place to be in Milwaukee these days and it’s what downtown Iron Mountain is turning into. I got a lot of my inspiration for that back room from my favorite store, called ModGen, which stands for modern general, but it’s a lot of miscellaneous useful gifts and books and plants. They have a planting bar there and I thought it was so amazing that you can go and pick out your plant and pick out your pot and they will pot it for you for a small fee. I always loved to go. And then our house became a greenhouse. I said to Mike, ‘If my hobby can be taken away from the house and I could have a room for this, I think people would enjoy it for a gift.’ It just evolved,” she said.
Michael and Kate Pearson are both Iron Mountain natives and 2003 graduates of Kingsford High School. Kate graduated from the Douglas J. Aveda Cosmetology School in East Lansing in 2005.
Now that her husband’s store is up and running, she is ready to return to her dream job at The Good Earth Salon. “I can’t wait to get back to my salon. I love doing hair,” she said.
Mike Pearson is excited to start this next chapter. “It is something I’ve always wanted to do — a dream to have a store. It’s all the products that we love and were traveling for, so we decided to bring it here. The way Iron Mountain is growing, we wanted to be right in the middle of it. Now I’m very happy and very fortunate to be doing what I love.”