March 3, 2024

From Blog to Brick-and-Mortar Store

The evolution of Cadillac’s Charming North
By Alexandra Dailey | Dec. 10, 2022

Sometimes great ideas start small. It could be a word or phrase that inspires a novel, an overlooked ingredient that alters an entire recipe, or a glimpse of a sunset that provokes a painted masterpiece. And sometimes, that little inkling takes the form of a blog that sparks an idea for a store.

Situated in downtown Cadillac is a delightful boutique shop called Charming North, owned and operated by Ted and Ashley Clark and featuring local and Michigan-made products. In just a few years, the Clarks have grown from writing a blog together to buying and renovating a large store and event space.

Website to Storefront
While living downstate near Grand Rapids, Ashley, a stay-at-home mom and photographer, decided she needed a personal creative outlet. The Charming North blog was born in 2017.

“The blog was an opportunity for me to combine some of the things that I love, like photography, design, and all things creative, and share them with others,” says Ashley. “What I enjoy most about blogging is sharing my visions, passions, and being creative.”

Hundreds of posts later and having outgrown their home, the Clarks traded city life for country life and moved north to Cadillac. Once settled, Ashley and Ted decided to invest in starting their own business that combined their skills and passions.

“There was always a dream to start some kind of business out of Charming North, though it did kind of evolve on its own over time,” says Ashley.

In 2019, they opened Charming North—a retail shop focused on home décor and furnishings with local Michigan flavor. Ted builds, restores, and refinishes furniture and keeps the accounting books, and Ashley does the merchandising, designing, displaying, and social media accounts, all while continuing to blog.

Starting a business was a huge undertaking and a decision not made lightly. But the Clarks say their leap of faith was made possible through starting small and growing as they’ve been able.

“We started Charming North with a really small budget,” says Ashley. “And so, when we first opened, our store was spread out through the unit and looked very empty, but people liked what they saw and were encouraging, so we kept plugging away at it and building on it little by little.”

By doing most of the renovation work themselves, having knowledgeable landlords, and eager inventory consignors, the Clarks made it through the challenges that faced business owners during the pandemic and its repercussions.

“We hit our one-year anniversary in the middle of the lockdown for COVID, so nothing about our first few years has been quite normal,” Ashley says. “If I could give advice to anyone wanting to start a business, it would be to be prepared to work hard and put in the hours; don’t be afraid to try new things and DIY as much as you can; pick a location in a community you love and a business you are passionate about; and pray hard and have big faith.”

Already Expanding
Though the store has yet to celebrate its fourth anniversary, the Clarks are already moving into new spaces—literally.

In January 2022, Ashley and Ted took ownership of the neighboring store—RJ Grants, a men’s and women’s clothing store—after being approached by its owners. With some minor renovations, they combined the two stores, creating one large, airy retail location. Then, after buying the building that housed the newly-expanded Charming North, Ashley and Ted added an event space in the third vacant storefront.

The North Room is a 3,000-square-foot private event space with a 99-person capacity that can be used for various programming and gatherings, like wedding receptions, baby showers, art exhibits, classes and workshops, office parties, and more. A multi-purpose site, the North Room is available for rent to businesses, local makers, artists, and community members.

“The event space made sense, as it offered us a space we could use for our store,” says Ashley. “But, it’s also a gorgeous space with a lot of historical character, and it provides a stunning setup for all kinds of private parties and events—something different than anything already in Cadillac.”

Holiday Shopping
Now, with the holiday season upon us, Charming North is offering locally made/Michigan-made gift options, including leather handbags and jewelry by Two Copper Sparrows out of Rockford; metal stamped jewelry by Cadillac’s Little Craft Closet; Petoskey stone jewelry, knives, and accessories by Rocks Over Broadway from Lake City, plus home décor, clothing for men and women, wool blankets and scarves, hand-stamped cards, and more.

The store also carries Fusion Mineral Paint, perfect for those who love to DIY without all the sanding, first coat, second coat, and top coat nonsense. The acrylic paint is commonly used for breathing new life into furniture and household items like cabinets and doors, and has a matte finish that fits in well with shabby-chic or farmhouse-inspired designs.

“There are so many nice quality options for clothing, accessories, and décor for both men and women and with such a large variety of items to choose from,” says Ashley. “We also offer gift certificates if you’re like me and can’t choose just one thing.”

Visit charmingnorth.com to shop online, learn more about The North Room, and read the blog responsible for bringing the store to life.

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