Purple Tree Books
334 North Main Street
Cheboygan, MI 49721
Purple is my favorite color. What's not to love about the royal color, the product of a union of red and blue, two perfectly respectable colors in their own right. The color of mystery, magic, eggplants, and amethysts, majestic purple was worn by ancient rulers and Roman Catholic bishops. I must not be alone in my love of the color. There is even a purple Web page. Literally! (purple.com) And a purple store, which as you probably guessed, sells nothing but purple items. (thepurplestore.com) You can imagine how excited I was to discover a bookstore with a special association to this lovely color. More about purple later. First, let me introduce you to Purple Tree Books.
I was on my way home from a whirlwind tour of the beautiful Straits of Mackinac area where I enjoyed visiting a charming library and two unique bookstores. (See Tip of the Mitt, parts I, II, and III.) If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll remember that I have written about many lovely coastal Lake Michigan towns. This trip provided my first opportunity to visit some towns along the shoreline of equally awesome Lake Huron. One such town, Cheboygan, lies just southeast of Mackinaw City, and as it was but a small detour on my route home, I decided to stop and check out Purple Tree Books.
After passing through the tidy entrance, framed in purple and accented by purple flowers, I was warmly greeted by store owner, Emily Clare, who filled me in on some of the interesting history of the shop. It occupies space in the historic 1904 Steffins Block building. John Steffins, a doctor, had both a residence and an office upstairs while another doctor occupied space just across the hall.
Known as the Logmark bookstore for about 40 years, the store is in its second year as Purple Tree. And just this summer in a space adjacent to the bookstore, Emily and her parents opened Purple Tree Coffee, which coincidentally was once a used bookstore.
The bookstore is bright and cheery. Emily says they get a good mix of local and tourist business. She does a lot of special orders and also supplies discounted titles for 3 or 4 book clubs. New and good-condition used books are offered along with an assortment of magazines, newspapers, greeting cards, and the like.
I was particularly drawn to a space in the back of the store dedicated to the "Sheeplady's Woolery" where crafters can find a selection of wool fabric and fibre. Now, I don't have an artistic bone in my body, but I have a special place in my heart for wool crafters as my mother-in-law was a skilled latch hook wool artisan. She would have loved the idea of shopping for wool in a bookstore.
I spent a few moments discussing wool crafting with the Sheeplady herself, Emily's mother, Kim Clare. I found her behind the coffee counter with bags of wool in front of her. She's been hard at work, not just with the wool business, but with getting the new coffee and ice cream shop up and running. The old building's tin ceiling and now purple wood floor provide the perfect accent for the cozy seating area around the fireplace and the antique tables and chairs sprinkled throughout.
The Sheeplady is not the only artist in the family. Several paintings by her daughter, Elizabeth Iamba Mullins, are also on display in both the coffee shop and the bookstore. One of them, a Mackinac Island scene, now hangs in our cottage.
This brings me back to the subject of purple. How is an artist related to the color purple, you may be wondering. Well, purple is the color to create awareness for cystic fibrosis, and Elizabeth's young daughter, Evangeline (Evie) is a victim of this disease.
So purple is not just a color, and Purple Tree is not just a bookstore. Purple Tree Books has a mission to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis and help find a cure for this terrible disease. To that end the family also participates in Great Strides fundraiser walks for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and they support the Friends and Family of Cystic Fibrosis organization.
And so I ended my Tip of the Mitt tour with an enlightening and gratifying stop at Cheboygan's Purple Tree Books. Emily and Kim Clare are two more examples of how the beauty of northern Michigan is equally matched by the friendliness of the people who live and work there. I headed for home with a new painting in hand, a great cup of coffee for the road, and another reason to love purple.
For more information on cystic fibrosis and how you can help, check out these links:
Friends and Families
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Elizabeth Iamba Mullins is on Facebook under Iamba Paintings