Mike and Joann Kramer, who operated Kramer’s Bed, Bath & Window Fashions in the Village for more than 36 years, are being honored this week by the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce.

Mike and Joann Kramer, who operated Kramer’s Bed, Bath & Window Fashions in the Village for more than 36 years, are being honored this week by the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce.

Photo by Frank Bunker, provided by Melissa Bunker


Village home fashions store brought comfort, beauty to local residences

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 29, 2019

  Kramer’s Bed, Bath & Window Fashions in the  Village was known for carrying exclusive luxury brands of towels, bedding and other home fashions.

Kramer’s Bed, Bath & Window Fashions in the Village was known for carrying exclusive luxury brands of towels, bedding and other home fashions.

Photo by Frank Bunker, provided by Melissa Bunker

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GROSSE POINTE CITY — There are plenty of places where you could buy towels and sheets, but if you wanted to know the difference between sateen and percale, you went to Kramer’s Bed, Bath & Window Fashions in the Village.

For more than 36 years, the store epitomized quality home goods and exceptional customer service. Owners Mike and Joann Kramer and store staffers helped countless customers find beautiful items for their homes from exclusive lines like Yves Delorme, Pine Cone Hill, Casafina and Peacock Alley. And, as Mike Kramer said, he frequently explained to customers that, with regard to sheets, percale is more crisp and sateen is more soft.

The Kramers, who closed their doors at 16906 Kercheval Ave. Jan. 25, are retiring after a long career in retail. They will be honored by the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce during the GPCC’s annual awards ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms.

“Businesses may come and go, but people like Mike Kramer don’t come around very often,” Grosse Pointe City Manager Pete Dame said by email. “He has been a leader and advocate for the Village for decades. He has volunteered thousands of hours to the Village Association as a longtime president and as a DDA member, organizing events and promoting Grosse Pointe’s downtown. As a colleague and friend, I will greatly miss working with him as he moves into retirement.”

When the Kramers started their store in 1982, malls were thriving retail hubs and online shopping didn’t exist. The retail landscape has changed dramatically over the last few decades, but despite taking a hit during 2008’s Great Recession, Mike Kramer said their business “has held up pretty well.”

“A lot of what we sell in the store, people want to touch it and feel it,” he said. “If you can offer the service people want, you can survive, you can thrive.”

Kramer’s was all about providing good customer service and quality merchandise, as well as accurate product information.

“Shopping at Kramer’s provided a glimpse at what retail used to be,” Melissa Bunker, event and marketing coordinator for Grosse Pointe City’s Downtown Development Authority, said in an email interview. “You knew the owners and they knew you. Kramer’s carried the finest brands one would have to have shopped for out of town years ago. They also set the bar for every retailer in Grosse Pointe with their professionally designed display windows.”

Those gorgeous windows were among the reasons the Kramers received three beautification awards from the City for their store. They also received a separate beautification award for their home.

Bunker said Kramer’s Bed, Bath & Window Fashions was one of the three oldest continuing businesses in the Village.

Rob Lubera, past president of the GPCC Board and its nonprofit arm, the Grosse Pointe Chamber Foundation, said the couple deserves recognition for their hard work.

“Mike and Joann Kramer are the parents of four children, long-term residents of Grosse Pointe and successful businesspeople,” Lubera said via email. “They have been giving back to the Pointes for more than 36 years with their store, Kramer’s Bed, Bath & Window Fashions, which is known for their exceptional customer service! For all they have done, the Chamber has decided to honor them this year. Their business presence in the Village will be missed!”

Ted Everingham, the new president of the GPCC Board and Grosse Pointe Chamber Foundation, also had praise for the Kramers.

“Joann and Mike and their store have been an anchor in the same Village location for 36 years,” Everingham said by email. “Over those decades, they’ve offered high-end linens and other home fashion merchandise and extraordinary personal service to a community that appreciates excellence. And they’ve been longtime leaders among the Village merchants. The Chamber is pleased for the opportunity to thank them for all they’ve brought to the Grosse Pointes for so very long.”

Before opening his own shop, Mike Kramer spent 19 years working at Hudson’s stores at Eastland and Northland malls, and in Pontiac and downtown Detroit. During the last 10 years of his career for the now-defunct department store chain — which was later purchased by Marshall Field’s and later Macy’s — Kramer was in the Hudson’s buying office. His experience in the drapery department and then sheets and towels — then called “domestics,” he said — gave him a strong background in those areas. Hudson’s is also where Kramer met his wife, who did sales training.

Kramer acknowledges it was a risk to leave a stable career to branch out on his own — especially with four kids still at home, the oldest of whom was then only about 14 or 15. Still, it was the fulfillment of a long-standing dream.

“It was just something that I always wanted to do,” he said. “I used to take the bus downtown and go by this building (in the Village), and I saw the ‘For Rent’ signs go up.”

Kramer said he signed the original lease in the bar at the Lochmoor Club in Grosse Pointe Woods.

“It was witnessed by the bartender,” he said with a grin.

Joann Kramer has always done the store’s bookkeeping from the couple’s Grosse Pointe City home. Her husband said she also worked inside the store for a time when their children were grown, although she’s been back to working from home since successfully battling multiple myeloma in 2008.

As if running a store wasn’t time-consuming enough, Mike Kramer spent roughly 30 years as an active member of the Village Association, the business association for the commercial district on and along Kercheval Avenue in the City. The Village Association organized several major community events each year, including an annual sidewalk sale, the Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade and Grosse Pointe’s Greatest Garage Sale — which later morphed into Grosse Pointe’s Greatest Block Party and then VillageFest, which was last held in 2017. Parade operations were turned over to the GPCC several years ago, and the City’s Downtown Development Authority — which encompasses the Village — now organizes other special events in conjunction with the Village Association.

Ellen Durand is a longtime Village business owner, having operated the Village Toy Co. with her mother for 25 years before closing that store and opening El’s Boutique down the street in 2013. In an email interview, Durand said she’s known the Kramers since Village Toy Co. moved into the same block as Kramer’s Bed, Bath & Window Fashions.

“They were instant friends and supporters in so many ways,” she said. “The Kramers were an integral part of the Village landscape. They were professional retailers who knew how to treat their customers and their fellow business friends.”

Durand said she and Mike Kramer served together for 15 years on the Village Association Board.

“When he was president, he truly became my mentor in all things Village- and City-related,” she said. “He taught me how to lead with grace and understanding and always a willingness to listen. We spent many hours organizing the Grosse Pointe Garage Sale, the Grosse Pointe Santa Parade and the VillageFest. We had great laughs along with some frustrating times, but managed to always look at the bright side. He even talked me into following him as president of the Village Association! I said YES, as long as I could rely on him for guidance and support.”

Mike Kramer, who’ll turn 76 in March, said he and his wife would like to be able to spend more time with their nine grandchildren — who range in age from 10 to 21 — and travel.

“When you have a retail store, you’re really tied to the business,” he said. “It just seemed like a good time (to retire). I laughingly tell everybody I’d rather walk out than be carried out.”

He said they’ll miss their customers — many of whom have become “good friends” over the years — but the Kramers still live in Grosse Pointe City, so they hope to run into people in the community. He’s got a year left on his most recent term on the City’s DDA Board as well.

At a January meeting of the Village Association, Bunker said Mike Kramer was greeted by a round of applause.

“We have a lot to learn from the Kramers,” she said. “Their customer service and professionalism is what continues to distinguish those retailers — independent and national — that are successful. Mike always helped new merchants get acclimated to the Village and is an invaluable resource to anyone looking to become successful as an independent retailer. … He will be missed, and I suspect many of us will continue to tap into his insight and expertise.”

Durand echoed that sentiment, and is among the many wishing the couple well in retirement.

“I’m so happy for them as they take this next step,” Durand said. “They have worked tirelessly for so many years, and now I hope they can travel and enjoy their family!”

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