Charlevoix Main Street (CMS) sat down with Elements Gallery owner, Nancy Suzor (NS), for a little Q&A. Read on to learn more about this incredible shop located at 211 Bridge Street in the heart of downtown Charlevoix.
Pictured from L - R: Joanne, Nancy, & Edith
CMS: How long have you been in business?
NS: In May of 1999, Elements opened its doors at 107 Bridge Street (now Scovies Dining Room) in downtown Charlevoix. In 2013 we moved to our present location at 211 Bridge Street.
CMS: Why did you want to be a small business owner?
NS: For a number of years, I wanted to own a business, wasn’t exactly sure what kind of business, a women’s shop, book store, gift shop, I just knew I wanted to have a business. After taking an early retirement from my counseling job, my daughter-in-law, Janine and I started working with a pottery artist in Arizona. We met Kristi at an art show, went to her studio in downtown Phoenix and formed a relationship with her right then and there. I had always loved pottery and her style was so very unique. After working with her in the studio for a period of time, we packed up pottery and came back to Michigan to do the summer art show circuit. It was fun, it was rather grueling at times but we met very interesting people and many artists from all across the country. We started collecting business cards from a variety of artists and talked about opening a gallery. We didn’t know where, but we made a plan that we would look for a place in Northern Michigan to start with and then open a second place for the winter season in Arizona.
CMS: Why did you choose to open a business downtown Charlevoix?
NS: We had a cottage in Elk Rapids at that time, so that was a possibility. We also looked at Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Traverse City and, of course, beautiful downtown Charlevoix. We chose Charlevoix because it’s a walking town with many great shops, the parks and the marina. We loved the fact that visitors could park their cars and just walk mornings, afternoon and during the evening. None of the other towns had the same feel as Charlevoix and their shops, at that time, closed at 5 or 6 o’clock. We were here in Charlevoix a lot during the summer, friends kept their boats here and Elk Rapids was a short drive. It was great to go for dinner and then walk around, in and out of the shops of Charlevoix.
I picked out a location- 107 Bridge- and called to see if it was available- that was in ’98 and it was rented. During the fall of ‘98 it became available. We opened Memorial Day weekend of 1999. In 2001, we doubled our space so we could add additional artists.
CMS: What is something unique about your store/business?
NS: My daughter-in-law Janine and I went through all those cards we had collected at art shows and started contacting the different artists. We also went to a variety of galleries both in Michigan and Arizona to check out who and what they carried. Narrowing down the different mediums was very difficult. Janine has a fantastic ability to put things altogether, her sense of interior design is great and so we went shopping! We wanted items to be unique and not found in every gift shop or gallery and I think we did a pretty job of that.
CMS: Tell me a little bit about your business.
NS: The gallery has changed over the years. The first 2-3 years we didn’t have many Michigan or local artists. Our thought at the time was that they displayed at many local art fairs and/or had their own studios. Today, we have several local artists and others from Michigan. We didn’t carry jewelry until we had the larger space and better lighting. We didn’t carry and original paintings and/or prints. We carried unique furniture accessories and wine holders and unfortunately, several of those artists went out of business during the recession period. Janine lives in Arizona and came back for the summer months for several years. She still is my right hand person in finding new and exciting artists, especially those from the western states. If I have a question, I call her and send photos and she’ll give me a yea or nay.
CMS: What’s your favorite thing about your business?
NS: What I love the most about having a business in Charlevoix is meeting all the wonderful people that visit Charlevoix from all over the United States and, all over the world. It is so interesting and you just never know when you are going to connect the dots. I always ask where people are from, and although many people from the southern part of Michigan don’t always think we know where this town or that town is located, I usually do having grown up between Toledo and Detroit and having gone to Michigan State. A few weeks ago, I actually met a shirttail cousin in the store, and believe or not, my son who is presently working in China met a gentleman in China that had been in Elements during the summer.
CMS: How would you describe downtown Charlevoix?
NS: Charlevoix is beautiful because it’s a walking town with many great shops, the parks and the marina. We love the fact that visitors could park their cars and just walk mornings, afternoon and during the evening. No other town has the same feel as Charlevoix.
CMS: How has Main Street helped your business?
NS: I have been pretty active with the Chamber, the Circle of Arts and now the Main Street programs. I think Main Street has given a tremendous boost to downtown Charlevoix. It was particularly great after the three devastating fires in helping existing business owners and putting feelers out for new businesses. Bridge Street has changed dramatically. We have more opportunities for collective advertising, grants available for businesses to upgrade their storefronts, lots of available information about small businesses. They arrange for seminars, answer questions, take your ideas and present them to right people. The cooperation is tremendous between the city and Main Street. I don’t hesitate to call if I have a question and each month, we have Retail and Promotions meetings so things dovetail and the right hand knows what the left hand is doing- that’s great.