Downtown Alpena has grown from decade to decade in a way that it has become a new experience for each group of people that enter into it. As the downtown has grown, so have the businesses that are a part of it. Taking a look at the 1990s to 2000s, it is easy to see that Downtown Alpena has been continually on its way up to what it is now.
In this post, we are highlighting Emery Enterprises, Inc., Traveling Ladders LLC., and Olivet Book & Gift. They shared their stories about their businesses and what they have seen from the ever-changing downtown while they have been a part of it for the last 30 years.
Emery Enterprises, Inc.
This business was purchased about 40 years ago and has since been Emery Enterprises, Inc. It transformed from being a laundromat into the store that you see now. At one point, half of the store was rented out and housed Garant’s Office Supplies before expanding to include both spaces in the Emery Enterprise endeavors. Now they are the sellers of all things Carhartt and Stormy Kromer in Downtown Alpena.
The building was bought when it was a dry cleaning store and still has relics from the days of that era. After being a dry cleaning store, it was an arcade called Games People Play and that arcade occupied one half of what is now Emery Enterprises, Inc. The original building is the smaller half of the store, but slowly it was pieced together and occupies the full larger building. “There has been a concentration lately, especially since the pandemic, on how important downtowns are for people. There is no question that small businesses did much better because it is hard to buy work boots knowing that you’ll be on your feet for 12 hours having never tried the boots on,” says Darin Emery, owner of Emery Enterprises, Inc. There is nothing quite like the personalized service of a downtown and the businesses that inhabit it.
“The downtown has definitely developed very well over the last few years. And it is great to have so many people working on improving downtown to keep it booming.” There are many wonderful people that care deeply about updating and maintaining Downtown Alpena. “Not that long ago we didn’t have those things, we had empty building and old factories and now we have cruise ships and boat tours, hotels and restaurants.” It will be very exciting to see what else we can bring to the town because everything just keeps getting better.
Traveling Ladders LLC.
Traveling Ladders LLC and the building it is in now, was purchased by Rita and Al Hess in 1986 and has been owned and operated by them ever since. As you can see when you walk into the building, the store used to be an old pharmacy, amongst other things. The amount of history in this store takes you back through the decades. It is the perfect place to browse in the summer while you eat some ice cream from across the street or to catch a break from the whipping wind in the wintertime.
The building where Traveling Ladders LLC is located was built in 1881. The store has a lot of history with two floors and the classic tin ceilings that you can find in many of the buildings in Downtown Alpena. It is called Traveling Ladders due mainly to the two ladders that they have in the building that travel along railings on either side of the main floor that were used by pharmacists in years past. They carry home décor, purses, jewelry, and artwork and furniture pieces that are made by the owners themselves.
“The store has seen visitors from all over the United States and around the world; we have been written up in the Saginaw News, the Bay City Times, and for a number of years we were in a book called Off the Beaten Path where the author travels around the US and Michigan in particular. He doesn’t tell you that you’re going to be in the book, he just stops in and then writes about it later. People started coming in the store years ago carrying the book and saying that they found us in the book!” says Al Hess, owner of Traveling Ladders LLC. Since the Hess’s have owned the store there have been many eateries that have come in downtown. “The Fresh Palate has their open window systems in the summertime and the ice cream store on the corner, they make it so that there is great foot traffic. Eventually we’re going to have the new theater which I’m looking forward to seeing because when they were open, we used to get a lot of foot traffic with people coming in waiting for their movie to start.” Over the years, the owners of Traveling Ladders LLC have seen a lot of changes in Downtown Alpena; they were here when Culligan Plaza was rebuilt to what it is now and they are here now to see it being rebuilt again. Alpena is a noticeable place for people near and far, and Traveling Ladders LLC is a perfect example of how far of a reach our small, beautiful town can have.
Olivet Book & Gift
The Olivet Book & Gift store sells Christian books and accessories and has been a part of Downtown Alpena on the corner of 2nd and Chisholm for the last 32 years. Over the years, the store has become a symbol in downtown as a wonderful stop for any and all people at any time of the year. With a wonderfully welcoming environment and employees that are more like a family, the store exudes an atmosphere you want to be a part of.
The building that is now Olivet Book & Gift was built in the 1890s and is a well-known and recognized building for locals and those from farther away. “The joy of this building is that people of every generation have experience in this building,” said owner Mary Rajashekar. When a store changes, the memories do not. “People will come that maybe haven’t visited Alpena for decades and they will walk in the store and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I got my boyscout uniforms upstairs and this used to be that’ and it’s absolutely true because we have all of the original new floors and tin ceilings.” It had been a haberdashery clothing store at one point. As a store, they have truly enjoyed sharing in people’s memories and history of this building as they remember it. Over the years they have expanded themselves and changed, adding new façade to the outside, creating apartments upstairs, and expanding to the back of their store to add more merchandise, but they have employees that have stayed with them the whole time, the heartbeat of their store. Their store and employees feel like a family, and they thrive in the memories that they have created for the community and for Downtown Alpena.