For some, dance may seem like a fun hobby. Something frivolous but pretty—a fun way to pass some time. For Dance Street Studio owner Jenice Groth, however, dance is more than a hobby and more than a business; it’s a tool for growth.
“Many activities for young and older are an outlet,” said Groth. “An outlet for stress, anger, and all emotions.”
It’s an outlet that has served Groth well and in turn, it gives her an avenue to serve others.
“I have had a lot of loss and emotions in my life, and I choose to try to be a light to help others find an outlet and better themselves through dance or fitness,” she said. “I truly love to serve others.”
But it’s not always easy.
“In dealing with all ages, you deal with emotions of all ages,” said Groth. “Although this can be difficult, we do our best to encourage kindness, positivity, and personal growth – inside and out.”
Another struggle is to keep dance accessible, because it is known to have considerable cost associated with it, especially at the competitive level.
“It’s difficult staying affordable for our community so that more people can enjoy the benefits of health and fitness at an affordable price, Groth said. “All business has overhead but we do our best to accommodate and pay our staff their worth – as quality instruction is important – as well as keeping the fees affordable for our dance and fitness programs.”
This struggle is one we hear often from business owners. It can be difficult to balance the passion to share something with the community with the need to make a living. It’s hard to deliver high quality and keep costs down, but it’s something our business owners strive to do.
“Small businesses are so important for our community and our economy, said Groth. “When you shop or choose a service locally you are helping your community stay afloat, especially in today’s times of crisis and worry.”
Groth, like so many business owners, has had more to worry about in 2020 than in previous years.
“I feel that I am most proud, recently, of being able to fight the fear of closing during COVID and to not have to shut our doors for good, although it was a struggle for a few months,” she said. “Because of my business experience, community involvement and strong work ethic, we were able to push through stronger than ever.”
Having a business in Historic Lapeer matters to Groth partly because this is her home. She’s a lifelong resident of Lapeer, and has happy memories of this place that she wants to carry with her as she plays a role in its future.
“There are so many memories of Lapeer, but I would have to say partaking in parades has been a favorite,” she said. “It started when I was in the parade as a kid and as a graduate, many years ago. And now setting up our own ideas and floats for parades and enjoying seeing others’ happiness in parades. Community Fairs and Events are also great memories, as a kid, as a parent, and also as a business owner.”
For Groth, who describes herself as a positive person, optimism about her life, her business and our community is part of her nature and contributes to forward movement.
“I try to see the good in everyone and everything. I also have a very strong drive for success and also to help others,” she said. “Most small businesses are not in business to be a millionaire like the huge corporations, but they are in business because they have a passion for what they do and, in some way, to help others.”
She’s right. Groth and business owners like her aren’t in it to get rich, they’re in it to bring something good to Historic Lapeer, because for them, it’s more than just a place to have a business, it’s the community they call home.
We talk a lot about loving Historic Lapeer, and why we need to support it. We show you pictures of the beautiful buildings and share the promotions and activities of our local businesses. But when you think about it, it’s not the places that define us; it’s the people.
So we’re trying something new here. We want to tell you about the people that make this place special. We want to tell you why they matter, and why supporting them matters. When you support local you do so much more than support a business or an event or even an idea—you support real human beings, with goals and dreams and stories.
We want to take time to share some of those stories.
Here’s one about Kristin Griffis, the owner of The Odditorium, one of the weirdest, coolest little shops you’ll ever find:
“It’s my hometown,” said Griffis, when asked why she opened her business in Historic Lapeer. “What’s better than selling old items in a historic area?”
The old items Griffis is referring to aren’t your traditional antiques. Her shelves are stuffed with curiosities. The haunted faces of old dolls stare at you, seated next to various taxidermied animals, bits of bone, a necklace adorned with a lifelike human finger. Things you need to see to believe because you would have to dig deep through the dusty basement of your imagination to even picture them.
“I started out selling at flea markets,” Griffis explained. “Then I upgraded to flea markets. Now I own my own shop.”
The business, Griffis said, is something she views as her greatest accomplishment.
“I was able to turn my passion into a career, and that’s an incredible feeling,” she said.
It’s that passion for what she does that oozes out of every kooky little corner of The Odditorium. And while her store is unlike any other, that passion is echoed in the voices of most of our local shop owners. They tell us how their place is the realization of a dream, and how they wanted to live that dream right here in Lapeer.
“I’ve lived here my whole life,” Griffis said. “When I was a kid we’d eat at Brian’s a lot. I remember one time we had a mini food fight in our booth. We cleaned up after.”
It’s the kind of random little flash of memory anyone who grew up here could appreciate. Something small that still holds on tightly to history of a person. She is a mother herself now, wanting Lapeer to bring new memories to the next generation.
“We are an awesome, supportive town that is open minded, for the most part, and every day Lapeer grows into something larger,” she said.
Something larger that she is excited to be a part of.
When asked what she loves about her job, her answer comes easily; “I’m surrounded by all of the things I love and not having to answer to anyone, and having conversations with like-minded people.”
For Griffis, the most difficult part of being a small business owner is just getting her name out there and letting people know The Odditorium is here. And it can all be challenging, but it’s a challenge Griffis is ready to meet. “I’m a do-er,” she says. “When I get something in my head I don’t just talk about it.”
Then we asked Griffis the big question, the one this whole series is going to be about: Why should people care? There are so many options out there now; so much convenient and mass produced retail. Why should small businesses like The Odditorium and people like Griffis matter to our community? Why should we support them?
“By supporting a small business you’re supporting your community,” Griffis said simply, adding “there are not that many oddities shops around.”
And she’s right on both counts. There aren’t very many, but we are lucky enough to have one. So, if you’re a lover of the weird and the odd, the strange and the macabre, or if you just want to see one of the most unique little shops in our downtown, or if you just want to take a moment to support a dream, stop by The Odditorium. See how lovely different can be, and see why it’s worth keeping around.
See Kristin Griffis at The Odditorium in Historic Lapeer, located at 410 W. Nepessing St. Suite 101.
Historic Lapeer’s Holiday Depot is an organization with one very clear, very important mission: no child in Lapeer will be without gifts for the holidays.
Holiday Depot looks very much like any other store. Rows of new, colorful toys, clothes and books line the rows in crisp packaging. Nothing about the place indicates that these gifts are obtained through anything other than traditional means. Nothing about them screams “used” or “damaged” the way some similar resources for those in need might. In fact, director Debbie Marquardt says they only accept new, unopened goods.
“These families are often buying thrift all year. We feel that for Christmas, for that one day, they should get brand new items,” says Marquardt.
For those who have struggled financially, or are struggling still, the quiet dignity of that means more than words can convey. When you are always looking for items that are used, damaged or outdated because that’s how you can afford them, the privilege of just having something fresh, unopened and new is a special sort of gift in and of itself. Nothing about the gifts the parents get there communicates that their child is having a different holiday experience than any other child. And for struggling families, that can be a miracle.
And it’s a miracle made possible by this community every single year.
“We serve about 400 families each year, and approximately 1,700 kids,” says Marquardt.
That kind of giving doesn’t come without massive effort on the part of others. Marquardt says she spends an average of 30 hours a week working on the Holiday Depot, but stresses it’s not just her making this happen, but rather a huge collaborative effort on the part of legions of volunteers—each doing some part to make sure there are gifts for every child in need. Whether that be volunteering at the shop, helping with toy collecting, coordinating things, adopting a family or just helping to get the message out to both those in need and those in a position to help. It’s a herculean task to make this sort of holiday magic, but every year, they get it done.
Ways to help are numerous:
All donations stay right here in Lapeer County, helping our kids and our neighbors.
In addition to helping with gifts, Holiday Depot makes sure each family has access to food and personal care items such as toothpaste, soap, diapers, paper products, laundry supplies and more. Having enough of these personal care items available is an area where they especially have need at this time, and donations would be greatly appreciated.
If you or a loved one in Lapeer County is struggling and would benefit from the Holiday Depot, they are currently accepting applications. Low income residents can apply by coming to the Holiday Depot with a valid driver’s license or ID, birth certificates or Social Security cards for all children in the household, along with proof of income for the past 30 days. Please bring a list of gifts for your children with you when you come to apply. Walk in times are from 10 a.m. to noon on Nov. 7, 14, 21 and Dec. 5 and 12.
Marquardt stresses there in no shame in needing help for the holidays. “So many families are struggling this year because of COVID-19,” says Marquardt, “ and some, you know, work very hard and still don’t have enough extra for things like gifts. They are just putting food on the table and paying bills and can’t afford to do more.”
She says what we hear echoed so often among the people we hear working to better the community; “in Lapeer we take care of each other.” And she’s right. For all our differences and struggles, we are a community that looks out for one another. In all kinds of ways, we make sure those around us are going to be okay. And if doing that means pulling off a holiday miracle for 400 families each year, then Lapeer and the Holiday Depot will be here to do just that.
The Holiday Depot is located at 110 Park Street in Historic Lapeer. To learn more, follow them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/HolidayDepotofLapeerCounty