Local. Organic. Sustainable.

What: Old Town General Store
             408 E. Grand River
              Lansing, MI 48906

Who: Rhea Van Atta, Owner

Looking for fresh Stone Circle artisan bread? Craving some Mooville’s vanilla ice cream? Or maybe just really wanting a mug with the state of Michigan on it? Rhea Van Atta has her store stocked from a quick snack to munch on to a new gift for a friend. The Old Town General Store recently opened its doors in May to welcome the people of Greater Lansing to enjoy the many products a general store carries, but unlike most, this general store carries local, organic, and sustainable products. Located in Old Town in Lansing, Van Atta turned an idea that would bring the community together into the business she owns and operates today.

The Question: What does Old Town need?

A long standing idea started between friends many years ago is exactly what the Old Town General Store is.

“The discussion was ‘What does Old Town need?’ and we all decided it needed a place where you could buy good food, like a little grocery store, but something that was conducive to the neighborhood and inclusive to all the different types of people that live here,” Van Atta said.

She didn't think she would eventually be starting a business but sometime after this idea formed, Van Atta unexpectedly came across a career change, and the time couldn't have been more perfect.  She decided to take the investment she had and put it towards something she really strongly believed in.

“There are so many different ways that this business gives back to the community and fulfills what I want to do,” Van Atta said.

“We’re all geeked about Michigan, I love my state.”

Van Atta grew up in the North side of Old Town with her family. After graduating college she moved out to Haslett but now here she is, back in the town where she remembers going into the original general store with her mom and dad. Van Atta took the idea of the old general store that has a warm, friendly, and eclectic feel but integrated technology and the products people are looking for today.

“I wanted sustainable, I wanted local, I wanted organic, and I wanted Michigan too. This store’s main focus is the integration of all of those things. I bring those types of things to my customers who are mindful of the environment and who are also mindful that we want our local economy to prosper so we have to support each other to make that happen,” Van Atta explained.

When searching for organic and sustainable products, Van Atta always looks for a local vendor first. She carries Stone Circle breads which is a local bread company in Holt, MI, Mooville dairy products from Nashville, MI, Soulful Earth Herbals body products from right here in Lansing, MI, and so many more Michigan products.

“There are so many people, so many wonderful people that we've met that are passionate about what they do and want to come here and talk about it.”

The Old Town General Store hosts a few different events. Being recently new to the area, the store had its Grand Opening Party in June and is having its six month anniversary party in November to celebrate. Here at these events Van Atta has vendors come in and talk about their products and let the community try the products they learn about. But it doesn't stop there. With a courtyard in the back of the store, Van Atta got creative and took advantage of this space by turning it into a garden and building a stage. Through her love of music, Van Atta created the event Concerts in the Courtyard. During the warm summer days she invited local musicians and non-local musicians to perform in the courtyard of the store.

“We wanted to integrate that into this whole vibe because it sort of just fits, you know, music and food, it always brings the community together,” Van Atta said.

 As for future events at the store, Van Atta plans to continue Concerts in the Courtyard on two Thursday of each month starting in June. The Old Town General Store also recently got their permit for wine tasting and plan on having wine tasting events during the Sunday Gallery Walk through Old Town starting this late fall, with the first winery showcased being Burgdorf’s Winery which is located in Haslett, MI.

Concerts in the Courtyard Newsletter from this summer

“I love everybody. I mean, there isn’t a human being that I don’t like if they’re nice. You just have to be nice. That’s all I’m asking and I’ll be nice back.”

As a farmer herself, Van Atta is inspired from the other local farmers nearby. 

“In Lansing the local farmers inspire me. There are so many of them here, whether they’re working on a small 50x25 plot or if they have an acre or more, those farmers work really hard to bring us good food and they are putting good ingredients back into the soil so that we can continually harvest good food from it. They’re not overusing the soil. Having that understanding of how we work with our natural resources is so important for my store and working with these people who believe in the same thing I do gives me a lot of joy,” Van Atta explained.

Although local farm products can be a bit pricier, the store has recently been approved to take EBT cards, giving everyone a chance to be able to afford the organic and sustainable food.

“We are very strongly focused on the local economy and bringing good food to all social economic levels,” Van Atta said.

“I think that you should always have a vision in your mind of where you want your store or business or whatever you’re doing to go. You should always focus on the far future, whatever that may be for you. I always try to do that.”

Six months since the Old Town General store has opened its doors to the Greater Lansing community and Van Atta is continuously focusing on the future of it. Getting the name out and around is a slow task, but technology is there to help. The Old Town General Store has its own website, newsletter, Facebook page, and Twitter account where it keeps its customers updated. It even holds a “Shareaway” competition on Facebook where one person who shares the photo of the product they’re giving away will be selected randomly to win it.

To find more information on Old Town General Store:
Go to their Website
Find them on Facebook
Or go in and visit at: 408 E. Grand River, Lansing, MI 48906