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Business is in bloom in downtown Rochester

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 11, 2016

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ROCHESTER — Daffodils and tulips aren’t the only things popping up this spring in downtown Rochester. A number of new businesses have opened their doors over the past few months.

East Street Home, at 300 East St., is a home décor and interior design studio that opened at the end of January. Merry Stephenson, who owns the store with her husband, Bob, said the couple wanted to open a neighborhood shop close to home that blends reclaimed antique goods with modern homewares and accessories.

“We love a play on old stuff, mixed with the new, and we thought an old building would be great to house our business,” Merry Stephenson explained.

The 1901 structure that East Street Home occupies used to be a church. The couple decided to pay homage to that by repurposing an old pew on the front porch as a bench and leaving the original confessional door inside the store, which always catches the eyes of visitors.

An interior designer by trade, Merry works with clients and runs the shop.

“I’m an interior designer, but I’m a little more fun and casual about it,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be this stuffy, make-your-house-perfect thing; it’s all about making-your house fun and comfortable.”

Bob Stephenson handles the antique “picking” to make sure the business is constantly stocked with new and unique items.

“Many times, he will stumble upon a barn sale or an elderly person that will contact us and just want to get rid of things — which is fun because they want it to go to a good home, rather than just put it out to the curb, and they know we will refurbish it and take care of it,” Merry Stephenson explained. “... Some people will even call us from Detroit and let us know that a building is being demolished and they will let us take a look at product, so we have found things that way too.”

The store is also home to the couple’s French bulldog, Reuben, who has become somewhat of a local celebrity.

“He is perfect, because he just hangs out and he never barks. He has this little following. Everyone always comes behind the desk and hangs out with him. He is here most days, unless he is misbehaving,” Merry Stephenson said.

In addition to furniture décor, the shop houses a number of homemade Michigan items and its ever-popular homemade soy candles, which come in 12 different scents and benefit the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan.

In March, downtown Rochester welcomed SEE (Selective Eyewear Elements) at 417 S. Main St. SEE founder Richard Golden said he always wanted to be in the middle of the action in downtown Rochester.

“We just couldn’t find the ideal location, and then the Village of Rochester Hills was built. Once the opportunity arose to move from the Village to South Main Street, we were incredibly excited to open a store downtown,” he said in an email.

SEE offers an exclusive collection of prescription and non-prescription eyewear at “hip without the rip” prices, according to Susan Berryman, vice president of marketing for SEE. Visitors can also come in for comprehensive eye exams and contact lens exams by Rochester native Dr. Judy Antennuci.

Just this month, LeConte Fine Men’s Apparel opened at 316 Main St. Michael Browe, who owns store with his wife, Suzanne, said LeConte actually got its start in downtown Rochester in 1986.

“We started in downtown Rochester in 1986 and we were there until 1991, when we moved to the west side of town — to University Square on Adams and Walton. Now we have come full circle, and we are so happy to be home again,” Michael Browe said. “The camaraderie, the fellowship, it’s just dynamic — we have missed it so. And, very frankly, the attention and the outpouring from the customers has just been wonderful.”

The full-line men’s clothing store specializes in tailored and custom clothing, outerwear, sportswear and accessories.

“We have everything from custom suits and clothing to underwear. We do it all,” Michael Browe explained.

For more information, visit the Rochester Downtown Development Authority at www.downtownrochestermi.com.

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