by Amanda Chaperon
Lansing Township News Staff Reporter
Old Town, a community in Lansing at the intersection of North Grand River and Turner Street, is a local gem, full of shops designed to appeal to anyone and everyone. If you do not know about it, that’s where the Old Town Commercial Association comes into play.
Old Town itself was first settled in 1842 and was then officially named Lansing Township. John Burchard of Mason became the first official resident of the area. Old Town then became part of the “Main Street” program in 1996. The area is rich with history.
Louise Gradwohl, a Michigan State graduate and East Lansing native, is executive director of OTCA. It’s a job she’s very excited about but never thought would actually happen to her fresh out of college.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, and I continue to learn so much every day,” Gradwohl said. “But I have an awesome board of directors and amazing, creative, brilliant people that I am surrounded by daily. It’s quite a blessing to be a part of this.”
OTCA is comprised of several committees and a board of directors that keep the community running smoothly and help get the word out about it. Board of directors member Melik Brown feels each of them have roles as ambassadors and guides for Old Town.
“There are many committees that make positive changes in Old Town,” Brown said. “As board members we must make sure that we are following the guidelines as well as goals that ensure Old Town continues to flourish as a cool spot to be. Our goal is to continue to make Lansing a destination point with fun places to visit.”
Gradwohl said the OTCA relies heavily on events that help spread the word about the community itself. The Old Town Toast, which takes place on the second Tuesday of every month, is one such event.
“Events like the Old Town Toast benefit the community in that it provides different opportunities for people to experience what Old Town is,” Brown said. “People’s schedules are chaotic. We try to offer opportunities to fit their likes and desires as well as their schedules.”
Another event that Old Town held to create awareness was a “chocolate walk” in February. The 16 stores that participated each gave away some kind of treat. People paid for a small box, then walked to each participating shop in Old Town to collect.
“It was a great and tasty way to get people into some of the Old Town shops they hadn’t seen before,” said Preuss Pets employee Ashley Hutchinson.
Hutchinson has been working the saltwater department at Preuss since December. Preuss itself is owned and operated by Rick Preuss, his wife Debbie and his daughter Kirbay.
“It would be rare to walk in and not see one of them,” Hutchinson said. “My fellow employees are all amazing to work with. We are a bunch of very passionate people. The store’s quirky, fun and unique personality fits right in with Old Town. It’s definitely out of the ordinary in the best way possible.”
The consensus around the area is that the people are the best part about the area. Old Town shops are all locally own and run. Many of them are shops you won’t see anywhere else. Hutchinson said the area has so much personality, and everyone works together to create a great community.
“My favorite part of Old Town is the people,” Brown said. “The people invited me to Old Town. The people welcomed me to Old Town. The people are family that we choose. We the people love Old Town.”
Scenes from Old Town