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For 24 years, Shaker Messenger was a staple in the Holland community. Its owner, Diana Van Kolken, was one of the first people in the area to make a conscious effort to support local businesses in Holland. Her enthusiasm for the community was contagious, and though she passed away in October, her ideas about supporting local producers have caught on. A large part of her mission remains intact thanks to Robin Nash, owner of the new Michigan Pantry.
Michigan Pantry, which replaced Shaker Messenger in November, specializes in Michigan made food and gifts.
Diana and Robin first met as neighboring business owners in downtown Holland. When Robin decided to close her scrapbooking store, Diana invited her to join the Shaker Messenger team.
“She just said ‘Come on over,’” said Robin.
For eight years, Robin worked for Diana. At first, she helped out with payroll and bookkeeping, but her responsibilities increased as the years went on and Diana’s health issues progressed.
“Little by little, I started doing more and more,” said Robin. “I got a good understanding of how she ran the business.”
As a result of their time together, Michigan Pantry resembles Shaker Messenger in some ways. But it was important to both Diana and Robin that the new store be just that: new.
“The store was her identity, her whole life. There couldn’t be another Shaker Messenger,” Robin said.
They talked about the changes to be made once Robin took over. The important things included focusing more on food and incorporating “Michigan” into the name, as supporting local food producers and artists is an important part of Diana’s legacy.
“We talked about what she wished for the store going forward. Expanding on the food section seemed like the most natural direction. More than anything, she was excited for the changes.”
THE HOLLAND COMMUNITY
Despite having only been open a few months, Michigan Pantry can already feel the support of the West Michigan community.
“The people we meet are incredible. Our customers want to support local businesses. We feel a strong sense of loyalty from them,” said Robin.
People feel good shopping at Michigan Pantry because they know that all of the food and gifts were made right here in Michigan.
Robin shared the reasons why she personally likes to shop at local businesses. “The people who own businesses here are just like me—they have a family and kids. I know that by shopping there I am helping them make their living.”
By supporting those who own small businesses in the community, people get the opportunity to make an impact on the local economy and, in turn, they get to have stores like Michigan Pantry that care about the community. Not only is Michigan Pantry dedicated to the promotion of Michigan made products, it is also concerned with the good of those right on the Lakeshore. For the local business owners here, it is easy to see why working together is one of the best perks of the job.
“It’s all about building relationships,” said Robin. “We are a community, all trying to help in our own little ways.”
Robin especially enjoys being among local business owners in downtown Holland.
“We love to promote each other downtown. I know the people, and that makes a big difference,” she said.
As Michigan Pantry continues to grow its own roots in the Holland community, plans to expand their offerings are already in motion. Looking around the Michigan Pantry store on South River Avenue in Holland, the space is full of jams, candies, coffee, bread, tea, and more. But Robin hopes to add even more food to her shelves and get more local artists involved in the store.
“We have plans to expand the food lines. We also want to bring in more local artists—that’s our goal right now. We know there are people out there we just need to find them,” she said.
Spring is always an exciting time in Holland, with important events like Tulip Time bringing lots of people to the city. Robin hopes that the new season will introduce her new business to people all around the West Michigan community.
“We’re proud to show off all the cool things Michigan has to offer,” she said. “We want to spread that love to others.”
This story was originally published in the Spring issue of Urban St. ShoreWest.