. U.P. Reader Issue #3 is now available at Island Books & Crafts in Sault Sainte Marie (“The Soo”). You can find the store at the corner of Ashmun Street and Portage Avenue. Put this into your GPS: 101 E Portage Ave, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783.
Island Books & Crafts isn’t your typical small-town bookstore; it’s also a showplace for more than 170 U.P. artists and crafters to display their goods and creations. That’s partly because the building it occupies, the historic Sault Savings Bank building, also formerly Traverse Bay Woolen, offered owner Les Townsend so much space that he began thinking up ways to use it all and support other local businesses.
What started as a 1,500 book collection has now grown to over 13,000. This collection offers new and used books from every category and covers half of the first floor and a good portion of the basement. When the store first opened, crafters were only available from three artisans; now you can find locally made crafts from over 170 artists. These crafts range from jewelry, clothing, photographs, pottery, and more.
“We started with the idea of doing both books and crafts in one store,” says the Sugar Island businessman. “Eighty-one people have stuff in here for sale now. There’s paintings and there’s woodcrafts and all kinds of cloth crafts.”
Jewelry, handmade furniture, birdhouses, photographs, prints, quilts, greeting cards, handmade toys and purses are among the other locally-crafted offerings you’ll find upon walking into the high-ceilinged, sunny store. It’s not a stretch to say most people will find it a challenge to leave the store without finding something they have to have.
Townsend first opened Island Books & Crafts in December of 2010, right before Christmas, but held a grand opening in May. “Once the snow was gone,” he says. Townsend’s focus on local arts and crafts also extends to local books. While the shelves of used books are extensive, the section of new books holds names familiar to readers across the U.P.
“We have all the U.P. authors we can find,” says Townsend. “Local authors and everybody that writes about local stuff.”
Rounding out the shop’s offerings are a series of art classes on topics like jewelry making and oil painting, often led by artists who exhibit at Island Books and Crafts.
You can reach Les Townsend, the owner, at (906) 253-1768 or email firstname.lastname@example.org