How to revive an old mill town? Two words: antique shops
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If this past summer found you thinking that Harbor Country is starting to feel a little crowded, you're not alone. Alan Robandt and Thomas Jolly, two beloved Chicago antique dealers, are among those who have recently staked out new territory in quiet Buchanan, Michigan (about 20 miles inland from touristy New Buffalo), for just that reason. Their new shops, Alan Robandt & Company (114 E. Front St., 312-560-7482) and Redbud Home and Garden (107 E. Front St., 312-217-2147; thomasjollyantiques.com), respectively, are just the beginning of the renaissance the two have in mind for this sleepy old mill town.
"We're envisioning art galleries, a wine and cheese shop, and at least one upscale restaurant," says Jolly, who became mesmerized by the 19th-century buildings in Buchanan's tiny downtown, along with the rolling hills of the surrounding countryside, two years ago while visiting a friend who had bought property on nearby Madron Lake. (Several new vacation homes in the area start at $500,000, says Jolly, indicating that the customers are there.)
When he found out that Robandt had bought an 1863 building in downtown Buchanan with the intention of rehabbing it and relocating his Chicago antique business there, Jolly bought a building (and then a few more), as well. Robandt opened his shop this past summer, offering a funky mix of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century furniture and accessories, including mid-century modern and industrial pieces. Jolly's more countryish shop—featuring a lot of painted 19th-century American pieces and a new line of English country-style furniture that he designed—opens this month (he still has his shop in River North). Watch for a more fully transformed Buchan- an in the next couple of years.
Next: Destination: Buchanan, MI