Mid-Michigan Explorations – Downtown Dime

As a college student living in what I consider to be a small town in the middle of the mitten there is one thing I miss: shopping. I personally am not a huge fan of “big box” stores that run the little guys out of business, and though we still have some small shops left in Alma, I know that many of them have been forced to lock up and close their stores because they just cannot compete with the existing Walmart and the Meijer that will be opening in June.

Map to Downtown Dime, located at 166 E Center Street in Ithaca, Mich.

Map to Downtown Dime, located at 166 E Center Street in Ithaca, Mich.

When I went out searching for a place to write a Mid-Michigan Exploration blog about for this week, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would find. I drove around in Alma for awhile, but realized that sometimes it is OK to venture a little farther to find something interesting or different than what is always around me. I remembered a small shop I had stopped at in Ithaca last fall as I was looking for a place to get a birthday card. When I stopped in the first time, the store was not actually open, (it was a Sunday – I’m not used to that either! In the Detroit area, everything is open 7 days a week!) but the owners were in, stocking the shelves. They saw me run up to the door to check the hours and one of them came to open to door for me saying “If we’re here, there’s no reason you can’t come in!” When was the last time someone at Walmart did that for you? Remembering that interaction, I wanted to revisit this store during their regular business hours and spend some time truly exploring the store. This store is called Downtown Dime and is located at 166 E Center St, Ithaca, Mich. (It’s just 9 miles from campus!)

When I arrived at Downtown Dime, I couldn’t believe how much of it I had missed before. Last time I stopped in I got what I needed and got right out to let the owners get back to work, but today the people working there were very friendly and chatted with me as I browsed through all the aisles. One of the things they have an abundance of is crafting supplies. Being that March is National Craft Month (more on that next week!) and being that crafting is one of my favorite pastimes, I loved browsing through the craft aisles and finding unique and different things than what Walmart or even JoAnn has for sale.  Downtown Dime has a diverse selection of fabrics (flannels, fleeces, and many many others!) and they differ from all of the ones you see used over and over again because Walmart has a relatively small stock. I even found hot glue gun sticks that were a foot long and they only cost me 14 cents each!

One of my favorite craft finds—a bowl of buttons!

One of my favorite craft finds—a bowl of buttons!

Aside from crafting items, Downtown Dime has a huge variety of other items as well. You can find party supplies, home and garden décor, spray paint, greeting cards and balloons, grocery items, baby supplies, and a huge candy bar as well! The staff was very helpful and friendly and was very knowledgeable about everything they had for sale.

In the future, I will make the 10-minute drive to get a different shopping experience than that which Walmart gives me. I know that it is not always logical or feasible to shop at a smaller store that is further away, but if you make the journey I can promise that it will be a nice change of pace from big-box stores and that you will find some treasure that you just can’t get from a mass-production store at Downtown Dime.

Mid-Michigan Explorations: Rozena’s Recipiez

Well, it’s my favorite time of the month again! Yesterday I headed out into the community in search of finding a blog-worthy local “hot spot” to feature for this month’s Mid-Michigan Exploration post. Thanks to Meghan Litwiller ’15, a local student who currently commutes from St. John’s, Mich., I found Rozena’s Recipiez in Ithaca, Mich.

Rozena's Recipes in Ithaca, Mich. Photo by Miranda Parker Photography.

Rozena's Recipes in Ithaca, Mich. Photo by Miranda Parker Photography.

“Eating at Rozena’s is like eating in your own kitchen. Home cooked food, and people who genuinely care about how you are doing and make the experience a personal one. It’s comfort food when you need a break from the busy Alma College life,” said Litwiller.

So I headed over to Ithaca and had the pleasure of meeting with Rozena and learning all about the store and her family. The first thing I noticed upon arriving at Rozena’s was the tagline one the front of the building…  “Where life is a little lopsided and moments melt in your mouth.” The second thing, the cupcakes display case! That case held some of the most beautiful and creative cupcakes I have ever seen.

Cupcakes at Rozena's Recipiez

Cupcakes at Rozena's Recipiez. Photo by Miranda Parker Photography.

I learned later that Rozena selects themes for each week, and she bases the cupcake designs around the theme. This week was Thanksgiving Dinner and there were cupcakes made to look like turkeys, and mashed potatoes, and there was even a vegetable cupcake!

Rozena and I had the chance to sit down and chat, so I could learn more about how the business began and the ins and outs of Rozena’s Recipiez. Her business is built on one thing and one thing only – family. Rozena began her business years ago when her family went through a rather large change.

“It was 8 years ago,” Rozena recalled. “Our family went from two children to six children through fostering and adoption, and it was expensive to have six school-age children who wanted to be involved and play sports.”

To help pay for the sporting equipment and other fees that come with being involved with organizations at school, Rozena began baking sweet treats in her house to raise some extra cash. She ended up doing so well with this that she was able to sponsor up to 11 students at one point in time. “Any extra money I raised would go to making treats for the sports teams,” she said.

However, that business she created in her home years ago has been through lots of changes since then.

“Four years ago, we received a call that would change our lives yet again,” said Rozena. Zoey, a very premature baby, was born into the world with no family. Doctors were not sure what her chances were, as she was born with several health complications including Cerebral Palsy. Rozena and her family were called down to meet Zoey and all baking ended at that point in time. Zoey was a fighter, and Rozena’s family officially adopted her. Not long after that Rozena restarted the business to help cover Zoey’s medical costs. 

Both Rozena and her husband (who also works at the St. Louis prison) work all day in the restaurant and never take a paycheck. Their children work in the business as well, to earn some cash to help pay for their things like phone bills and cars. Rozena knew that if she started slow, they’d be able to move up and grow, which is exactly what is happening with the business right now.

Rozena’s Recipiez is heading to a new location in downtown Ithaca. When the move is complete, you will be able to find them in the McCormack building – which used to be home to Sip-N-Knit and the mayor’s office (142 E Center St, Ithaca, MI 48847). This space will allow lots of expansion in the business. The menu will grow, sit-down meals will served, rental space for parties and events will be available, and they’ll be able to keep the shop open longer hours.

Currently, Rozena’s offers food “to-go” style, though you are welcome to enjoy it in shop. They have delicious (yes, I got a chance to try some!) sandwiches, pizza, and “Rozie’s Cozies,” which are similar to a pasty and so delicious! Her cozies come with several options of fillings like ham & cheese, club, walking taco… you name it!  She also serves soups and salads, has a full line of baked goods, and an ice cream bar, too! All of her meals are homemade, from scratch, and are fully loaded with flavor.

Rozena does large orders for special occasions, and she does cakes as well. She also has done lots of donations and charity work, some of her most recent being Mott’s children’s hospital and the Ronald McDonald house and also the new children’s museum in Mt. Pleasant.

Now through Thanksgiving, Rozena’s Recipiez will be collecting baking ingredients (flour, butter, sugar, sprinkles, etc.), which they will use to bake over 800 cookies to send to the troops – a project that they call Operation Confectionation.

Be sure to “like” Rozena’s Recipiez on Facebook to stay up to date with their daily specials and their moving process. Once they are in the new location, they will be open Monday through Thursday from 4:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Friday 4:30 a.m.-9 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Right now, the new location is open from 7 a.m.-10 a.m. for coffee and toast, but it should be fully operational in the next few weeks.

Whether you’re looking for a sweet treat or a nice home-cooked meal, Rozena’s Recipiez will not disappoint.

Check out this YouTube video of the family and learn more about Zoey’s story.

Thank you to Miranda Parker Photography for allowing me to use some of her photos!

Mid-Michigan Explorations: Sweet Rickedy Redo’s

It’s that time of the month again! Buckle your seatbelts, we’re going on another Mid-Michigan exploration. One thing I miss most while I am in Alma is options. When you live in a larger city, you always have options. Options of places to shop, options of places to eat, options of things to do and even options of which way to take to get somewhere—in big cities, options are a huge part of daily life. (Which has made me very indecisive, by the way!)

One option that really has begun to bother me over the years I’ve been at Alma is the one-stop shopping. Everyone seems to go to Walmart, and only Walmart. It is the easiest, cheapest and most all-encompassing store in Alma, no doubt, but what people don’t realize that in Downtown Alma there are several family-owned shops that carry a lot of the products that Walmart has and then some. There is a jewelry store, a musical instrument store, hair and nail salons, a sewing store, a shoe store, antique stores, thrift stores, a natural food/organic store, several delicious places to eat and so much more.

One shop that I happened to stumble upon while I was out searching for a place to buy my mom a birthday present is new to the downtown scene. Full of all sorts of interesting pieces for the home (and dorm room!) and also lots of gift options, Sweet Rickedy Redo’s quickly became one of my favorite stores in town. The minute I walked in the door, I just knew this store was going to be my go-to shop when I needed gifts or a new pick-me-up for my dorm room.

Sweet Rickedy Redo’s has only been open since July 2013, but it does not lack in selection or quality because of it. Every wall, corner, and shelf space in the store is covered with beautiful works of art. If you’re looking for a bright blue chair, or a wooden panel with a quote painted on it, there’s a good chance you can find it here. The owner has deemed it an antique, vintage gift shop, though some items are new as well.

“My love of vintage items started at a young age. Painting furniture came later. I’ve always wanted my own shop to sell fun unique items. As the business grows I hope to expand my lines of brand new items as well,” said shop owner Danielle. “I look for things everywhere; from estate sales to flea markets.”

If you have not been in to Sweet Rickedy Redo’s yet, be sure to take a few minutes to stop by, say hello and take a look at all the beautiful items that are for sale. I guarantee you will leave there with something, or at very least, with a wish list or a desire to do your own DIY project. The store is open Tuesday-Thursday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. “My favorite piece in the store is the hutch that I sell my vintage fabric out of,” said Danielle. “I don’t really care if something is valuable or not, so long as it has character.”

Mid-Michigan Explorations – Hearthstone Oven

Most of my blogs are related to campus life and events going on within the Alma College community. This year, though, I’m also going to take some time each month to explore areas around the campus and share what I learn and find with you.

I think it is important for all students, at any school, to take some time to explore the community and cities around their campuses. Around Alma there are several small towns and villages that have a lot of great things to offer.

The menu board at Hearthstone Oven

The menu board at Hearthstone Oven

This week I’m going to take you to one of my favorite off-campus eateries, located just 7 miles away in Ithaca: The Hearthstone Oven. I visited the Hearthstone Oven for the first time two years ago, on the recommendation of a long-time Alma resident. This was one of the greatest “local” tips I’ve received since I began college here at Alma.

Whether you are looking for a place to go to get off campus, get a good meal and get some studying done, or maybe you’re headed south or in Ithaca and looking for somewhere to get a quick lunch, Hearthstone is the place for you.

Driving to Hearthstone (or biking, if it’s a nice day!) takes just two streets… Head east on Superior Street until you hit State Road (the flashing red light down by the Citgo station) and turn right. You take that down a few miles and Hearthstone will be on your right.

All sorts of treats await at the Hearthstone Oven

All sorts of treats await at the Hearthstone Oven

Upon entering Hearthstone one of the first things you will notice is the bakery counter. There you can typically find cinnamon rolls, fruit rolls, cookies, bread, and many other delicious baked goods. I believe these are strategically placed at the door because they know it is hard for customers to leave without picking up a treat (or two!) to go, which you can see is true by the bags of treats people tend to leave with.

The menu may be small, but the tastes it provides are nothing short of fantastic. Some of my favorites are the spicy chicken bacon ranch sandwich, which comes served on one of their homemade specialties, a butterhorn. A butterhorn is similar to a croissant or roll but tastes buttery and kind of sweet… just go try one, it’s too hard to describe!

The Hearthstone Oven is open for breakfast and lunch only

The Hearthstone Oven is open for breakfast and lunch only

Another Hearthstone must-have is a side option they call graham cracker fluff.  It is a mixture of pudding and Cool Whip and graham cracker crumbles that come together and taste incredible.

A word of warning: you need to be conscious of the hours when going to Hearthstone, as it is only open for breakfast and lunch hours and also closed on Sundays. Monday-Friday it is open 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m. On Saturdays, 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Get out, go explore! Let me know if you find any other local hotspots, or have a favorite that you’d like me to check out. It may just end up being featured this year.