After WWII ended in 1945, entrepreneurs Carl (C.G.) and Ruth Shorter returned home to Petoskey from Detroit with the idea of opening a souvenir store downtown. In 1946, Carl began buying crafts from local Ottawa Indians (now also referred to as Odawa), making several trips over the winter to Cross Village to purchase goods for sale at the couples new shop.
The Shorters business began in a tiny 8 wide by 24 deep rented building and opened for their first customers on Memorial Day weekend in 1946. Little did they know that their first Memorial Day weekend would lead to 65 more Memorial Day weekends and four generations of Shorters working in that same business, albeit a bit larger.
The store was a hit, selling locally crafted Native American items, such as quill boxes, ash baskets, bow and arrow sets, birch bark birdhouses and more. The store also sold deerskin gloves and jackets, Minnetonka Moccasins, pennants from the area and surrounding towns, birch candles, balsam fir pillows, incense and sterling silver jewelry.
By 1956, the Shorters moved out of their tiny space to bigger digs next door -- their present 301 E. Lake Street location -- a building that still oozes the atmosphere of an old time general store. In 1998 the front of the building was taken back to the way it looked when originally constructed in 1881. It is a Mesker tin-faced building and is the oldest of its kind in Petoskey.
In a news release from the family, Jennifer Shorter, third-generation proprietor, credits the success of the business to hard-work and great customers who keep coming back. The store has repeatedly won awards for the Best Gift Store in Northern Michigan from publications including Northern Express and Traverse Magazine.
Jennifer grew up in the family business. She would come to the store after school and, at $2 an hour, earn spending money by emptying garbage cans, marking product, and vacuuming. She left after high school to attend the University of Michigan. After college and a brief stint in corporate America, Jennifer returned to the family business and has never looked back.
To commemorate their 65th anniversary, Grandpa Shorters recently installed a penny press machine for the enjoyment of their guests.
This is the first and only penny press machine in Petoskey, and there are four designs that reflect the history of Petoskey, from a drawing of our building, our million dollar sunset and break-wall, Gaslights, and the Petoskey Stone, all rendered on your penny, Shorter said.
Grandpa Shorters has also installed a wall of history inside the store, showcasing photos of generations of the family and the stores progress through the years.
When the store turned 60, in 2006, Grandpa Shorters installed a mural, painted by Terry Dickinson, on the cement wall that overlooks Shoppers Lane behind the store. Due to leakage behind the mural, Grandpa Shorters is going to have to have it repainted. The repaint of the mural will be changed to more accurately reflect the four generations and their contributions to the stores history. The mural will be installed this summer.
Grandpa Shorters is located at 301 E. Lake Street, in Petoskeys historic gaslight district. Additional information about the store and upcoming events are available at www.grandpashorters.com.