Love antique shopping? Then check out these Ypsilanti stores who thrive through collaboration

YPSILANTI, MI — Mercedes Crane and Jeremy Thybault knew they’d be neighbors with next-door Apple Annie’s Vintage Clothing when they opened Ambient Antiques in August 2021.

Then, The Thrift Depot opened on the other side, and they became side-by-side trio of similar stores along Cross Street in Ypsilanti. But, Crane said, they don’t mind the company.

In fact, community has been pivotal in the success of Ypsilanti’s antiquing scene.

“When we first came in, (Jim MacDonald’s Antiques and Apple Annie’s Vintage) told everybody about us. They were like, ‘Yeah, go check out the new kids,” Crane said. “And then when (The Thrift Depot) opened up next door, we did the same thing for them.

“It’s not a competitive arena like it is for some other businesses. It’s like we married into a nice, little family.”

Ambient Antiques, 25 E. Cross St., is neighbored by The Thrift Depot, 19 E. Cross St., and Apple Annie’s Vintage Clothing, 29 E. Cross. St.

Related: Couple wants to share stories, history at new Ypsilanti antique shop

They are three of nearly a dozen antique and vintage shops packed into Ypsilanti’s downtown, along with several other more modern thrift stores. Options include a2vintage, 109 W. Michigan Ave.; Ypsilantique Vintage, 56 N. Huron St.; Silver Spoon Antiques, 42 N. Huron St.; and Salt City Antiques, 115 W. Michigan Ave.

Kelly Callison used to work as an asset manager for a Fortune 500 company, but found that “saving old things from being tossed was where my heart was.” She now owns a2vintage, which sells records, vintage clothing and collectibles and is known for the records it constantly has spinning.

The antique and vintage stores in Ypsilanti are rooted in a feeling of cooperation, Callison said.

“And that’s something that’s super appealing to me – businesses aren’t necessarily looking out for themselves, but they’re looking out for our community and our city as a whole,” Callison said. “Nobody wants to go to a downtown area with empty storefronts and, you know, take on the mindset of being only out for themselves.”

Crane agrees.

“If someone comes into my store and they’re looking for some vintage jewelry or clothing or maybe pop culture collectibles, I can refer them to one of the other stores that carries more of that stuff,” Crane said. “Whereas, if somebody’s looking for some rustic American housewares, they send them over to us.”

Ypsilanti’s vintage and antiquing scene is also driven by its eclectic and dedicated clientele.

When Bowerbird Mongo, which operates under extremely limited hours, opens each month, 15 to 20 people are already waiting to get in.

“We have a very loyal clientele,” said Ward Freeman, who owns the shop with wife Joyce Ramsey.

Bowerbird Mongo, 210 W. Michigan Ave., features mid-century modern- and art deco-style pieces. The couple does not advertise widely, but said they still turn over pieces quickly thanks to a dedicated customer base.

“It’s more of a passion gone wild than it is a regular business style,” Ramsey said.

Ypsilanti’s wide offerings of antique and vintage stores is driven by the individual interests of shop owners, Ramsey said.

“They’re all going to be different because the people who choose the items to put in the store are different and they are looking for things that they know that their customer base will look for,” she said.

Crane said she and co-owner Thybault have been surprised by their customer base, which they assumed would gravitate more toward decorative items than the functional items which had previously caught their eye.

“A lot of times, I will have younger people come in that are looking for a really cool, antique piece that is also function. I have a couple of really old kitchen scales, and those aren’t just something you put on a shelf to show off. They’re something that you can use that has a story behind it,” Crane said. “I’ve found these kids love that.”

Callison said she has noticed similar trends, pointing specifically to people who seek out vintage band T-shirts for their durability.

“I do think that there’s a ton of overlap when you’re interested in that type of life and collectible community,” she said. “Just that kind of idea of finding original vintage things versus going into IKEA or Target or whatever looking for new things. I think it’s a way of life in a lot of aspects.”

That durability has helped keep vintage shops open, Callison said. And when one shop stays open, others do too.

“If one of us is successful and doing well, then we’re all successful and doing well,” she said.

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