Exponent staff writer
Have you ever thought seriously about what products and services you spend money on and where that money goes?
“When the economy was really bad, the idea was to get people to think about where their money was going,” said Lisa Diggs, founder of the “Buy Michigan Now” campaign.
There were 80 vendors inside the American 1 Events Center at the Jackson County Fairgrounds and another 12 outside greeting patrons at this year’s Buy Michigan Now Fall Fest held Saturday.
Diggs estimated the crowd for the weekend to be in the 3,000-4,000 range. She started the “Buy Michigan Now” campaign about 10 years ago.
“They come and learn about products that are made in Michigan and which businesses are based here,” she said. “Being right on the cusp of the holiday season, there’s probably something for everybody on your list that’s Michigan made.”
“We’re hoping to make it a ‘Made in Michigan’ Christmas,” said Jackson’s Deb Warner, who was a newcomer to the event with her husband.
There was a wide gamut of vendors displaying their wares that visitors could check out including food, health-related items and services, jewelry, artwork and other special creations, framed photography, clothing, and many others.
“It’s in the eye of the beholder – it all depends on what’s unique to you,” Diggs said when asked what were some of the most unique businesses at the fest.
Deb Sautter with Hearthstone of Brooklyn (hearthstoneofbrooklyn.com) was promoting her Deb Sautter Photography business at the fest. She specializes in wildlife photography.
“It’s a larger show than a lot of the craft shows,” she said, adding that the event brings her new business clients. “It brought in quite a few people from the Jackson area last year.”
One unique business that Diggs mentioned is Lena Marie Creations (lenamariecreations.com) that specializes in interchangeable magnetic picture frames. One can change out the frame plates in the matter of seconds, no matter the mood or season.
“You don’t have to keep buying new frames,” she said. “You can change the look in your house every day. I think that’s pretty creative and unique.”
“I just wanted to make framing fun, easy, and fast,” said owner Lena Pietrzyk of Ypsilanti. “I love to create.” The interchangeable frames, made of recycled wood and metal (zinc-coated for no rust), can also hold up to 12 pictures deep, so once a frame is stocked, your searching around the house for new photos is done. “It’s kind of a gift that keeps on giving, because people can keep adding to it [with new photos] and changing [the frame plates].”
Brittany Dancy was at the fest working a booth for Jackson’s own Dancy’s Fancy Butter (dancysfancybutter.com).
“Its real butter cultivated from local dairy farmers,” she said. “We use fresh herbs and fruit. It’s one of a kind because it enhances flavor. It’s everything you wanted and more. It makes everything so much better. Any kind of dish you can think of is so much enhanced with this kind of butter. This is our fourth year in business and we’ve achieved more than we thought we would. We’re very proud of it.” The company is in the running for a “Dolphin Tank” award ($10,000 to advance a business) this week at Consumers Energy.
Another Jackson-based business, Dream-Create-Share (dream-create-share.com), was promoting personalized ornaments, glass-etched mugs, and other custom-made items. They’ve been in business 10 years.
“We started crafting when I was real little,” said Allie Strong, who runs the business with her mother, Anita. “We continued it and made it into a business. It’s a lot of fun.”
Jackson’s Shelby Fay was found checking out the honey at Ole Bearz Bees (olebearzbees.com) booth, another Jackson-based business.
“We’re doing the best we can to help the honey bee population,” said owner Ben Schlenker. “We do a lot of removals, relocations, and rescues,” he said. “The products come secondary to that.” Among their products are bee bread, natural honey, and various lip balms and body balms.
“I just like to support local businesses and wanted to come out and see what products were available from Michigan businesses,” she said. Fay particularly liked the honey, in addition to salsa and roasted lentils she found at the fest.
Speaking of the salsa, there was a “buzz” going around the Buy Michigan Now Fest about the salsa from My Salsa (mydetroitsalsa.com) out of Highland, Mich. The “my” refers to Tina Mulder, creator of the five different levels of salsa she makes.
Mulder’s mild-spicy level won a Scovie Award in Texas and a Fiery Food Show Award in New Mexico.
“It’s absolutely awesome,” said Napoleon’s Susan Fisher, taste-testing the various salsas. “There’s no preservatives – it’s all fresh stuff.”
Mulder said she got the business started with help from the Michigan State University Product Center.
“They help you through all the testing, requirements, and rules and regulations in the state of Michigan.”
So why did a small salsa business come to Buy Michigan Now in Jackson?
“We support all the Buy Michigan Now fests every year,” said company spokesman and supporting husband Marc Mulder. “Jackson is one of the highlights of the year. This is our second time here. It’s been a great experience both times.”