By Ariel Rogers
Grand Ledge Gazette staff writer
GRAND LEDGE – Grand Ledge’s paint-your-own pottery studio, Piece of Mine, picked up business and moved across the street to a smaller, environmentally friendly building in January.
“It’s a much greener space, and I feel better about that,” owner Autumn Spencer said. “The energy use in the old building was painful.”
Piece of Mine’s new location at 223 S. Bridge St. was previously Inspired Green, an energy auditing company that was recently renovated with eco-friendly insulation and lighting. Before Inspired Green, it was a pottery shop for 20 years.
Autumn considered moving Piece of Mine next door to the empty Miller Pharmacy building before Inspired Green made its move across the street at 216 S. Bridge Street. She quickly swooped in and claimed the building once it was available.
“I love the new place,” said employee Kelsey O’Neill. “It’s so much quieter and welcoming. I do worry that people may think the shop closed and may not notice it simply moved, but I figure it’s a small town and people should figure it out.”
Piece of Mine has seen new customers since its move to the new location, attributing to making this January an unusually successful month.
Piece of Mine opened in 2003 and has had three owners.
“A woman named Judy Walters was tired of her job as a corporate headhunter for management ‘talent.’ She saw a growing trend toward individualizing products in quirky cool ways on a piece-by-piece basis,” Jerren Osmar said. “She did her research, quit her job, took out a $75,000 business loan, and built the shop into much the way it was when I took over.”
Osmar took the business over in 2006 and was passed on to Autumn in 2012. Osmar describes Autumn as his “pseudo-sister-in-law,” as she is the mother of his niece.
Small business in Grand Ledge
Running an independent business in a small town has been a difficult venture. Large corporate businesses on Saginaw Highway, just outside of town, reduce the amount of traffic in Grand Ledge.
“Saginaw kills us,” Autumn said.
Autumn’s father, John Spencer, recalls when downtown Grand Ledge was pinpointed to the Bridge Street area.
“The hardware store used to be in town, but moved out on Saginaw with the urban sprawl,” John said.
Grand Ledge has seen many small businesses come and go, but the pottery shop has persevered through the fluctuating economy.
“We’ve chosen to be here even when it’s hard, even at the personal expense of the owner,” Autumn said.
Autumn sad Osmar had been working three jobs at once to support Piece of Mine at one time.
“Running a business can be pretty brutal on the soul,” Osmar said.
Social media and business
Autumn uses the expanding popularity of social media to promote her business on Facebook and built her own website. She also uses these resources to inform customers of the business’s move.
“People don’t know they like painting pottery, so we have to convince them to come try it out by using imagery on our websites,” Autumn said. “It plants a seed in peoples’ minds.”
Using coupons and deals to attract customers has brought business not only to Piece of Mine, but to the surrounding shops as well.
“Business owners in Grand Ledge have a lot of solidarity,” Autumn said. “We try to help each other out. Small business isn’t the first place people think to go, and we want to change that.”
Keeping art in Grand Ledge
O’Neill doesn’t do her job for the money, but for a more personal reason.
“Usually when I work there, I do it for free or trade because I simply enjoy being there,” O’Neill said. “It’s a place that’s centered around creativity, and the idea that anyone and everyone can be creative.”
O’Neill describes pottery painting as a creative experience with the purpose of tapping into ones creativity rather than just creating an end product.
“Sometimes it just takes a little courage to try that first time,” O’Neill said. “Even if they create something akin to a 5-year-old’s project, hopefully it’s still fun for them. After all, it’s only pottery.”
Piece of Mine’s purpose in the town of Grand Ledge is more than just making money. It’s about the art.
“We enjoy art and what it brings to the community,” Autumn said. “We enjoy its existence and have made sacrifices to make sure it exists.”
Although he no longer owns Piece of Mine, Osmar has an optimistic view of the shop’s future and hopes it will last in Grand Ledge as long as he does.
“Retail is dying, but learning to put your brain on and hustle is the best thing a young person can do these days,” Osmar said. “I love this little town and hope to bury my bones here.”
Grand Ledge Gazette staff writer