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Home Furniture Specialty retail store in downtown Howell closing as owners retire

Specialty retail store in downtown Howell closing as owners retire

While shopkeepers Donna and Tim Hostetler have had a good experience owning their rustic home decor shop Up North Decor, they said the time has come to close up and retire. 

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The downtown Howell shop at 113 East Grand River Ave. will close before the end of December.

The Hostetlers hope holiday shoppers will clean them out of inventory first. 

“We’re going to try to have the store open until just before Christmas,” Tim Hostetler, a 67-year-old Howell resident, said. “Our lease runs out at the end of December … so, the week after Christmas, we’d be taking care of anything in the store to close and have it ready for (building owners) to lease it.”

Up North Decor sells rustic furniture, art, throw blankets, tapestries, wind chimes and gifts. Items for sale at the shop are outdoors-themed or Michigan-themed.

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“It’s very bittersweet and I’m going to miss it,” Donna Hostetler said. “My husband calls it my playhouse because I’m always coming in rearranging things and doing displays.”

The Hostetlers opened the shop four years ago. They previously owned a similar shop, Ranger Bob’s Trading Post, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for about seven years before selling it to new owners in 2008 and moving to Howell. 

“The store has an up North, lodge, cottage, lake house feel,” Tim Hostetler said. “We use many Michigan suppliers and also suppliers from around the country from when we had the shop in Tennessee, and we tried to specialize in rustic home decor and specialty gifts.”

Donna Hostetler said many of the customers shop there to buy gifts for people with lake houses or own lake houses or cottages themselves.

“We have a lot of the stuff you’d find in stores up north, but we kept the prices down to compete with up north and some people bring what they buy here up there with them,” she said. “And, I think our best customers come from out of town and know downtown Howell is a good place to shop.”

The couple agrees downtown Howell needs brick-and-mortar retail to keep its reputation as a shopping destination.

“I think retail brick-and-mortar in general is probably more challenging than it used to be with a lot of people shopping online, but I think there is still a need for it and Howell’s a unique place that does draw people in from outside the city,” Tim Hostetler said. 

The retiring couple plans to travel, spend time with their grandchildren and enjoy their free time. They are the store’s only two employees.

Building co-owner John Cleary said he is looking for a new tenant to fill the space. Members of the Cleary family, who own and operate Cleary’s Pub next door, own several retail spaces on the block.

“You couldn’t have asked for nicer people, and I wish them well in retirement,” Cleary said. “I think the store was an asset to downtown, because any time you have specialty retail downtown it’s a good thing.”

He hopes to rent the space to another retail business. 

“I’d love specialty retail,” he said. “Offices, there are a few in town, but they don’t generate the foot traffic that retail does. You can never have enough foot traffic and I hope we’ll at least just continue with the foot traffic that Up North brought.”

Howell Main Street Inc. Chief Operating Officer and Howell Downtown Development Authority Director Cathleen Edgerly would like to see a business move into the space that will bring people downtown.

“What the community continues to tell us is we’re looking for retail or any type of attraction, some kind of entertainment, or even a youth-based business … and more businesses and activities geared toward children and families,” Edgerly said. 

“You never like to see a business close, but when they can go on to retire and enjoy the next step of their adventure, we support that,” she said. 

Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at 517-548-7148 or at [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook @Jennifer.Timar99 and Twitter @JenTimar99.

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