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Grosse Pointe Farms

Annual Holiday Mart ushers in shopping season

Vendors offer handmade items for whole family

October 9, 2012

» click to enlarge «
Hand-carved tiles by St. Clair Shores artisan David Ellison are among the many items visitors will find this year at Grosse Pointe Holiday Mart.

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Shoppers can avoid the malls and get their shopping done early by visiting Grosse Pointe Holiday Mart.

The 54th annual Holiday Mart will feature upscale merchandise for men, women and children — as well as home décor and food items — from 30 vendors from Michigan and across the country from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 19-20 at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial. Proceeds go toward cancer prevention and screening programs provided by Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan.

Holiday Mart kicks off with a patron preview cocktail party from 5:30-9 p.m. Oct. 18. Preview party tickets start at $75 per person. Along with food from Grosse Pointe businesses, including Fresh Farms Market, Da Edoardo, Dish Detroit and The Hill Seafood & Chop House, the preview party features offerings from Slows Bar BQ, Green Dot Stables and Supino Pizzeria. Holiday Mart Chair Helen McKnight, of Grosse Pointe Farms, said this year’s martini bar is sponsored by Hard Luck Vodka.

Besides food and musical entertainment, party guests have first crack at the merchandise.

“If it’s a one-of-a-kind item, that’s the time to buy it,” McKnight said.

While vendors used to come from out-of-state, McKnight said now a number of them are based in Michigan, although Shops Co-Chair Sonya Ackman of Grosse Pointe Park said they have vendors this year from as far away as Florida and Iowa. McKnight said event organizers often host visiting vendors at their homes, which has led to many friendships over the years. They try to make sure what they’re offering at Holiday Mart isn’t something shoppers could find on the Hill or in the Village, she explained.

“We try to have things that don’t compete with our local stores,” McKnight said. “We love our local stores.”

Although more people are turning to the Internet for their purchases, Ackman said a number of the items at Holiday Mart are ones people can’t find online. In addition, she said they select reputable vendors who produce unique items, many of which can be personalized.

“The beauty of it is that it wasn’t produced in China,” Ackman said. “It was made here.”

From classic children’s clothing by Sissy Pie Originals Inc. to fine cashmere from Jennifer T. Knits to educational make-and-take toy kits from Birmingham retailer The Robot Garage, shoppers will find items for everyone on their shopping lists, with a broad range of prices, Ackman said.

Harrison Township-based Brush N’Up will be bringing personalized Christmas items, and the company is also known for its paintings of people’s homes, pets and boats, Ackman said. Shoppers can expect “stunning and unique” carved wood and silver accent pieces, along with wreaths, from Grand Rapids-based Nest: Home, Garden & Gift, she said. St. Clair Shores artisan David Ellison, who created a fountain for the Junior League of Detroit 2012 Designers’ Show House, is bringing his elegant, hand-carved tiles to Holiday Mart this year, and Ackman said shoppers will find designs that will appeal to children and adults alike.

“It’s a beautiful gift item,” she said of the tiles, which can easily stand on their own.

Many vendors have a socially conscious bent, including New York City-based TunicLove, which will donate basic new clothing to children in need for each item sold, Ackman said.

Foodies will appreciate vendors like custom chocolatier Sweet Occasions, the spicy and sweet offerings of Slow Jams and The Spice and Tea Exchange. Those who work up an appetite shopping can visit the Holiday Mart Café.

McKnight, who has chaired this event five times before, started working on Holiday Mart committees roughly 47 years ago. Holiday Mart was initially held in downtown Detroit, at the Veterans Memorial Building and one year at the Renaissance Center, McKnight recalled. It’s now been at the War Memorial for many years, and she said this is “the ideal location for us.” Vendors and visitors enjoy the scenic Lake St. Clair views, and the facility is easy to find and has plenty of parking, she said.

Holiday Mart has raised money for different Planned Parenthood programs over the years, said McKnight, but the funds aren’t used for abortion.

“We feel cancer screening is such an important, important focus for women,” she said. “For so many uninsured and underinsured women, Planned Parenthood is the only healthcare they get. It is vital that they get these screenings. … It saves a lot of lives.”

According to Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan’s 2011 annual report, 45 percent of its patients last year were uninsured. Planned Parenthood offices provided almost 13,000 breast exams to screen for cancer, and more than 11,000 Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer and cervical disease in 2011.

Planned Parenthood has a facility in Detroit near Wayne State University, and recently opened their first Oakland County facility in Ferndale, McKnight said. Last year, she said Holiday Mart raised about $60,000 for Planned Parenthood. Besides admission to the preview party and the mart itself, vendors give 15 percent of sale proceeds to the cause, McKnight said. Since its inception, organizers say Holiday Mart has raised more than $1 million for Planned Parenthood’s education and cancer prevention programs.

Organizers say Holiday Mart provides a convenient, quality shopping experience while supporting an important cause.

“I would encourage people who’ve never been (to Holiday Mart) to check it out to see what they’ve been missing,” McKnight said. “They might find something they’ve never seen before in a store. … (And) it’s such a beautiful spot to be.”

The War Memorial is located at 32 Lake Shore. Holiday Mart admission is $5 at the door. For preview party tickets or more information, visit

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