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Calumet Mercantile and General Store offers barrels of fun, goodies & gifts

November 24, 2010
The Daily Mining Gazette

CALUMET - A visit to Calumet Mercantile and General Store is truly a magical experience from the moment you step inside.

The upscale candy store and gift shop, located at 107 Fifth St., brings a fun, old-fashioned feel to downtown Calumet with its barrels of colorful candies, aroma of freshly made fudge and friendly smiles. It's the kind of wholesome atmosphere owners Mike and Donna Bausano hope will leave a lasting impression with customers.

"Our main philosophy of doing business is to create a warm, happy experience for the customer from the second they walk in the store," Mike said. "They can browse as long as they want and there's no pressure from us. We're very friendly, but we're not pushy."

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Calumet Mercantile and General Store offers all sorts of unique upscale goodies and gifts.

Calumet Mercantile is a unique shop in that it carries products shoppers can't find anywhere else. Higher-end brands like Sanders chocolates and Jelly Belly jelly beans, along with candies customers remember eating as a child, come together under one roof. Not to mention, the shop carries over 40 different barrels of fresh salt water taffy and hard candies in flavors like caramel corn, pumpkin pie, cotton candy and, cookies and cream, to name a few.

"We sell candy by the tons," Donna said.

The shop's gourmet food line includes 62 kinds of county fair winning jams and jellies, jarred butters and salsas, dessert toppers, coffees, teas and hot chocolate varieties, as well as local Thimbleberry jam

"If you're buying food as a gift, you don't want to say 'I hope it's good,' you want to know it's good," Mike said.

For that reason, sampling is encouraged

"We sample heavily and we sell an awful lot of gourmet food," he said. "My theory is if you can taste it and say, 'this is good,' you'll buy it."

The sugar plum candy created by the Jelly Belly company is one of the shop's biggest sellers during the Christmas holiday. Like the sugar plums, Mike said they have a lot of seasonal flavors which change throughout the year, particularly their award-winning homemade fudge.

Earning the first-place title at a fudge contest in Sault Ste. Marie a few years ago, the shop's fudge has long been a customer favorite. And the secret ingredient behind the shop's sweet success is the fudge maker, Mary Swetich.

"I could sell a lot more fudge than I sell today if I wanted to but I don't want Mary stuck in the kitchen," Mike said. "We make a good supply and we sell every ounce that we manufacture."

In decadent flavors like chocolate walnut, pumpkin fudge and Lake Superior Mud, the possibilities are endless when it comes to Mary's handiwork.

Mike said they got into fudge making about 10 years ago and interestingly enough, the equipment came from a gift shop at Yosemite National Park, a former client of Mike's.

Prior to returning to their hometown of Calumet, Mike worked in specialty advertising while living in Fresno, Calif. During a phone conversation with Yosemite officials, Mike learned they rearranged their gift shop and eliminated their homemade fudge products.

Next thing Mike knew, the equipment was heading his way.

"We bought Yosemite's fudge making equipment and shipped it here," he said.

A few years after their June 1994 opening, the shop expanded to offer upscale gift items and familiar brands like Yankee and Beanpod candles, and the new craze, Webkins.

"These stuffed animals are really unique in that each has its own serial number," Mike said. "They're an online interaction toy with other Webkins. We have some customers who have 30, 40 of them."

Cookie cutters, stationary, Burt's Bees products, books, decorative coffee mugs, humorous signs, household items and hand-painted dishware from Poland are just a taste of what shoppers can browse.

What Donna enjoys most is helping customers create gift baskets for their special someone.

"Here's what makes small town different than big box stores is that you get a lot more individual attention," she said. "Tell me something about who it's going to, what do they like, and we'll combine things and package it. We do all sorts of fun things because it should not only be about the item but how it makes somebody feel."

Whether you're a local or a tourist, one thing customers won't find at Calumet Mercantile are souvenirs.

"We're a gift shop, gourmet food store and a candy store," he said. "Post cards are as close as the business gets to souvenirs."

While Mike and Donna purchased their shop's building in 1993, while they were still living in California, they said the earliest record of it's existence dates back to 1884. Over the years, the building housed an antique shop, camera store, women's hat shop, cigar store, and a hardware store.

Around the time they purchased the building, Mike said the Keweenaw National Historical Park had established and his business was one of the first to undergo a historic remodel.

"We wanted it to look like it had been here for 100 years," he said. "Richard (Hays), a local architect, did an awesome job helping us design the building to look historically correct."

Mike, said their family played a major role in their opening Calumet Mercantile next to Copper World, which happens to be his brother Tony's business.

Donna's father installed the hardwood flooring, wallpaper and trim work, while overseeing the construction and remodel. Mary, the fudge maker, is her stepmother.

The backbone of the shop's success are the many loyal and customer-oriented employees Mike and Donna have hired over the years, several of which have been siblings or close friends with one another.

"We've been really lucky to have honest, hardworking, pleasant employees," he said. "That's important because they're a reflection of us, the owners." They make shopping at Calumet Mercantile a fun, unique and enjoyable shopping experience.

Calumet Mercantile and General Store is located at 107 Fifth St. in Calumet. Business hours are 9:30 a.m 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday with extended hours during the holidays. For more information, call 337-0903.

Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by Calumet Mercantile and General Store of Calumet. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.



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