Old Town’s very own grocery store

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By Shanin Thomas
Old Town Lansing Times staff writer

Old Town General Store’s unique and colorful building matches the artistic atmosphere of Old Town, said local resident. (Photo by Shanin Thomas)

OLD TOWN LANSING – Unlike anything else in Old Town, the Old Town General Store provides convenient food products.

Unique, yet convenient 

Items sold at the general store are primarily Michigan made, organic food, owner Rhea Van Atta said. The fruits, dairy products and alcoholic beverages found in the store are all produced by local farms.

This sign hangs in the window of the Old Town General Store to reel in custumers with its unique, local products. (Photo by Shanin Thomas)

Laura Millikan, employee of the general store, said people in Old Town believe in the concept of a general store.

The Old Town General Store also sells unique, Michigan gift items such as pottery, oven mitts, t-shirts and more, Van Atta said.

“Michiganders are proud of where they come from,” Van Atta said.

Van Atta said the store fits in with not only Old Town’s philosophy, but the need for a type of local, grocery store.

“There isn’t anything else like that done here,” said  Carol Lamb, owner of Lambs’ Gate Antiques.

Lamb said she has not only gone into the general store to get specialty wine, but to grab convenient items on the way home.

“I think Rhea Van Atta fits in well,” said Sarah Christiansen of Katalyst Gallery. “She has an eclectic mix of different things.”

So who came up with this good idea?

Rhea Van Atta was born in South Korea, but raised in Old Town, she said.

After 24 years, Van Atta sold her part-ownership of Van Atta’s Greenhouse and Flower Shop to her partner and decided to start a new business in Old Town, she said.

The Old Town General Store sits away from foot-traffic on Turner Street, but its colorful signs attract customers. (Photo by Shanin Thomas)

“There was a need for a food place in Old Town,” Van Atta said.

Her passion is agriculture, and she is drawn to the farming aspect, Van Atta said. “It is an intriguing, yet hard lifestyle.”

Louise Gradwohl, executive director of the OTCA, said Van Atta made an effort to get involved as a business through festivals and events.

The general store has only one full-time employee, Millikan, who has been working there since April of last year, she said.

Millikan met Van Atta by chance and although they have not known each other for long, Millikan said Van Atta is kind, passionate and has a sweet spirit.

“I’m amazed by the amount of people Rhea knows and the support they bring to the store,” Millikan said.

Van Atta said, “I am most proud of being able to bring together Michigan, based products in one little store.”

Van Atta has planned great things for the general store’s one year anniversary in June, she said. “Stay tuned.”

Comments? Contact Shanin Thomas at thoma955@msu.edu

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