Support your local merchants: Great places to find holiday gifts across Michigan

Lara Abramov

| 4 min read

There’s nothing like the quaint feel of a downtown shopping area during the holiday season. There’s something old-timey and comforting about cozy storefronts, with lights ablaze and adorned in creative holiday trimmings. To me, it’s a welcome departure from the overcrowded shopping or strip malls and can enhance the holiday spirit of the solitary online shopper.
Marvelous Milford
Want to share in the holiday cheer by shopping locally? Longing to hear festive tunes while admiring creative wares in downtown storefronts? If yes, then Milford, located in western Oakland county, is worth the trip. Easily accessed from both M-59 and I-96, Milford boasts over 250 specialty boutiques, restaurants, galleries, cafes, and fine dining establishments in or around the downtown area.
Many retailers in the downtown area are small mom and pop shops, indie stores with little if any ties to the chains that put small businesses out of business. It’s in these environs that our local talent can be showcased, where Michigan made artists and craftsmen are featured and can exhibit their imaginative and original wares.
Art is for all
One of those places is the Aubergine Gallery, located at 338 N. Main Street. It’s far more than a store; in fact, it strives to “promote creative awareness and expression in the community…to make art accessible to a greater spectrum of society while at the same time providing a relaxed environment catering to unique events, demonstrations and concerts.”
I’ve been to gallery on several occasions and each time been welcomed by either the friendly staff or the owner, artist Janine Rudzki. And it wasn’t a painful experience – there’s nothing worse than feeling the pinch of a high pressured sales pitch or exploring under the hyper-vigilant eye of someone who’s making sure that you’re not knocking things off the counters or walls. No, instead I was encouraged to check out all the store had to offer, from prints to plates, framed oil paintings to wine bottle wraps…there is just so much to see…
The gallery is spread over two floors, with pottery, handmade purses, holiday themed gifts and jewelry taking up most of the first, while prints, wall masks, photographs, tapestries and paintings occupy the second. Local artists such as nature photographer Mike Moats, mixed media artist Bonnie Mottaghi and painter Dennis Bruce Spencer are just a few of the folks showcasing their amazing work in the Aubergine.
Will shopping at the Aubergine Gallery break the bank?
I know what you’re thinking – many times, if the word ‘gallery’ is in a stores name, one can expect to pay a pretty penny for the goods contained within. However, that’s not the case at the Aubergine Gallery. Everything is reasonably priced. For example, I bought an amazing hand crafted wall hanging ceramic vase by Allison Berlin for around $20.
A one of a kind wall hanging vase by Allison Berlin
I also picked up a handmade prayer flag, which originates from the Buddhist tradition, for less than $20, created by Janine Rudzki. According to tradition, the prayers reflected on the flags, when hung outside “spread throughout the universe as they flutter in the wind.” And that after exposure to the natural elements, eventually the flag will fray, “symbolizing the natural passing of all things.” Lovely, right?
A Buddhist inspired prayer flag by Janine Rudzki
The reasonable prices in no way detract from the level of craftsmanship or creative vision of the artists; instead it promotes the objective of the gallery: to make art accessible to all.
Proud to support local merchants
The Aubergine Gallery also participates in the 3/50 Project, a movement that encourages shoppers to purchase locally crafted items and goods. One of the major tenets of the 3/50 Project is to get consumers to spend $50 each month in locally owned businesses. For example,
  • Think about 3 indie businesses you’d miss if they closed up shop.
  • Go in and visit them, say ‘hi’ and pick up a little gift that would make someone smile.
  • Added bonus: you can feel good knowing your purchase contributes to keeping indie stores open.
  • When visiting those three stores, keep this in mind:
– If half of those employed in the U.S. spent $50 a month at our local mom and pop shops, we’d generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.
  • And if you spent $100 a month at a local indie business:
– $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures
– If you spend $100 at a chain, only $43 is returned to our community
– If you shop online, nothing is returned to our community
Support Michigan artists, our communities and make gift giving special
The Aubergine Gallery is just one of the many enchanting shops Milford has to offer. Visit Milford today to support our artists, our communities and to thrill those you love this holiday season with wonderful and unique gifts!
Photo credits: Lara Abramov

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