Gifts from Grosse Pointe stores are gifts that give back to the community

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 16, 2018

 Anne Duffey-Leo, owner of Duffey & Co. Inspired Goods in Grosse Pointe Park, stands near some of the holiday items her store is now offering.

Anne Duffey-Leo, owner of Duffey & Co. Inspired Goods in Grosse Pointe Park, stands near some of the holiday items her store is now offering.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

  Unicorns are a hot trend for children and tweens, and the experienced staff at El’s Boutique has stocked plenty of unicorn items to keep parents, grandparents and the like in the good graces of the kids in their lives.

Unicorns are a hot trend for children and tweens, and the experienced staff at El’s Boutique has stocked plenty of unicorn items to keep parents, grandparents and the like in the good graces of the kids in their lives.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTES — Online shopping at sites like Amazon might be convenient, and big box chains like Walmart might be cheap, but what have either of them ever done for your hometown?

That’s one of the many reasons independent retailers are hoping shoppers will give them a try this holiday shopping season, especially during Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24. And shoppers just might be pleasantly surprised to discover that things like customer service and free gift wrapping do still exist — along with reasonable prices, unique merchandise, and stores operated by their neighbors, not a corporate conglomerate headquartered hundreds of miles away.

“We make a commitment because we want to be here,” business owner and Grosse Pointer Ellen Durand said. “I believe in this community so much — raising my kids here, teaching here. I like it. And I want it to stay viable.”

Durand has been a Village business owner for 30 years — first with Village Toy Co. and, for the last five years, with El’s Boutique, 17110 Kercheval Ave., which offers fashionable and affordable accessories and décor for women and teens, as well as baby gifts. She’s an advocate for shopping locally, not just for herself, but also for her fellow business owners.

“You have to invest in your community, because we give back,” Durand said. “We donate to local schools. We hire local employees.”

Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Palms Boettcher said studies have found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $45 to $63 worth of that goes back into the community, versus only $14 from purchases made at a national chain store.

“Ninety-one percent of small-business owners contribute to their community, including schools, nonprofits and community groups, by volunteering and making donations,” Palms Boettcher said in an email interview.

Like Durand, Anne Duffey-Leo, owner of Duffey & Co. Inspired Goods at 15120 Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe Park, is a resident of the Pointes. Also like Durand, she gives back.

 “I probably donate to at least 20 different organizations on a yearly basis through gift baskets and gift certificates,” Duffey-Leo said.

But her store — which offers purposeful gifts for men, women and children; organic and vegan body products; and home décor — is also able to tailor its merchandise to its customer base. Like Durand, Duffey-Leo said she listens to her customers to make sure she’s meeting their needs.

“The customer will receive better — and more — customer service because the (local) business owners understand the community,” Duffey-Leo said.

Palms Boettcher said local stores “offer unique products and services” that national chains don’t — and can’t. And they add to what makes Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe.

“Today’s workers are choosing to settle in places that preserve their distinctive character,” Palms Boettcher said by email. “Grosse Pointe has multiple small businesses that have been in town for more than 25 years, thus contributing to the town’s special quality.”

The businesses are an important source of tax revenue for the cities, and they’re the basis for vibrant commercial districts.

“In an increasingly homogenized world, it is important to support what is unique and special about a community,” Palms Boettcher said via email. “By shopping locally, you are investing in Grosse Pointe and supporting people who care about it — the local shop owners.”

Grosse Pointe Farms City Manager Shane Reeside appreciates the neighborhood businesses as an official and as a Farms resident.

“It is hard to imagine what our community would be like without the variety of restaurants, cafés and shops that we all enjoy,” Reeside said by email. “Being able to talk to a butcher to find the perfect cut of meat, or a jeweler to find a special gift, is something you can’t get online or at a box store. Local businesses provide human connections that are essential to a thriving community.”

Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke said having small businesses in a city makes for a more complete community.

“We’re very supportive of the small businesses on Mack Avenue,” Novitke said. “I think they add a lot to the community. It serves our residents. I do think you have a lot of people who shop locally to avoid the large shopping malls.”

Many of Grosse Pointe Woods’ businesses also support the city in a number of ways. One manner, for instance, is sponsoring the city’s annual Music on the Lawn series held in the summertime. Several Grosse Pointe Woods businesses sponsor the annual event by donating money so the city can finance the bands that perform. Sponsorship dollars also are used for other expenses, including adding extra staff members on-site where necessary.

Music on the Lawn is open to Grosse Pointe Woods residents and their guests. Generally, there are three concerts during the summer on the City Hall lawn where attendees can enjoy live music from local bands.

“Our sponsors fully fund it at no cost to the taxpayers,” Novitke said.

Sponsorship donations from Grosse Pointe Woods businesses also have funded the city’s Fall Fest held in September.

Business sponsorships have enabled the other Pointes to host community events as well, such as the popular After 6 on Kercheval summer street festivals in the Park. Another growing tradition is the West Park Winter Social. To celebrate Small Business Saturday, Grand Circus Media, the Cotton family, the Richard and Jane Manoogian Foundation, Grosse Pointe Park and other sponsors are offering the fifth annual West Park Winter Social from 4 to 11 p.m. Nov. 24 along Kercheval Avenue, between Maryland and Wayburn streets. There will be a heated tent with craft beer and holiday cocktails, craft vendors and artists, activities for kids, local food trucks, live music and more. Admission is free.

The event benefits the nonprofit Grosse Pointe Housing Foundation. Many businesses in the district will be open, giving visitors a great chance to shop for holiday gifts. For more information, visit

Shopping locally is something almost anyone can do, and it’s something that will have a lasting, positive impact on the place where they live.

“Even if people start taking a percentage of what they would spend on Amazon or at the mall (to spend) locally, it would change the face of what business owners can offer,” Duffey-Leo said. “There’s a lot of us that have big plans and want to grow, but you have to have (customers).”

To Grosse Pointe City Mayor Christopher Boettcher, the reason to shop locally is simple.

“Because the money stays within the community,” he said.

Boettcher also acknowledged the many contributions local businesses make, such as contributing items or gift certificates to school auctions and supporting community events.

“There’s plenty of sponsors that contribute in all kinds of ways,” he said.

Staff Writer Maria Allard contributed to this report.