We are known as the most unique gift and jewelry stores in Northern Michigan. We are also touted as the “most-shopped” store in downtown Traverse City. When you enter our stores you will see thousands of unique items in a vast array of displays covering the entire store space. It is not uncommon for visitors to spend several hours looking at all if the Nifty Things we sell.
It started out as an idea, create a gift store unlike any other where shoppers are exposed to products that they have never seen before and all have a certain “wow factor.” That is how the Nifty Things concept was born.
In 2005 Doug and Martee Hickman moved from Metropolitan Detroit to the northern woods of “Up North” Michigan. Both had worked in Corporate America for most of their careers and had extensive retail and food service credentials.
A friend of Doug’s owned a Model Train Company that was exhibiting at the Atlanta Gift Show and invited Doug and Martee to join him in Atlanta. He was trying to figure out if the gift market was right for his products and asked Doug and Martee to scout out the entire show to see “just how the gift industry works.”
After interviewing dozens of gift vendors, it was apparent that Doug’s friend’s business was not a good fit for the Atlanta Show. However, it was during this time that Doug and Martee got the “bug” to make their Nifty Things concept a reality.
The first Nifty Things store was only 450 sq. ft. in size. It opened in April of 2006 in Alden, Michigan located on the shores of Torch Lake, regarded as one of the three most beautiful lakes in the world! Nifty Things store is located directly across the street from Alden’s Mill House, a world-renowned Spice and Kitchen store that draws hundreds of customers every day to buy their spices and kitchen gadgets.
Back then Doug and Martee were the sales staff as well as the buyers, bill payers, janitors and wore any other hat that needed to be worn. It only took a few weeks to realize more staff was needed to handle the waves of customers showing up at our door each and every day. The “Nifty” concept was a success, and word got out quickly.
In July of 2006 the Executive Director of the Elk Rapids, Michigan Chamber of Commerce (about 20 miles away on the shores of Lake Michigan) happened to be in our store and began raving about all of the “nifty things” we had. She loved the store so much that she returned several weeks later with a busload of Elk Rapids residents to show them Nifty Things!
It was during that visit that the Chamber Director approached Doug asking if Nifty Things would have any interest in opening a Nifty Things store in her town. After some thought, Doug said yes, but stated that a prime location would be necessary in order to make the move possible. The Chamber Director left stating she knew of a possible storefront that might be coming available in the near future. Sure enough, the absolute best storefront in Elk Rapids became available, and Doug and Martee jumped at the opportunity to lease the space.
During that same time a neighbor of Doug and Martee came into the Alden store to shop, and in conversation, we found out that she had a background in the gift industry. Previous to her move to northern Michigan Kathy ran one of the premiere gift showrooms at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. What luck! We offered her a job, and she accepted almost on the spot.
Today, Kathy, aka Trilla, is our General Manager and is responsible for most of the products we sell at Nifty Things. She also has lots of experience in store design and layout, so our impending move to Elk Rapids became a lot easier with Kathy on the team. Nifty Things Elk Rapids opened in October of 2006 and was a hit with the locals from day one!
In 2008 Nifty Things moved to the “Big City.” Traverse City is our largest store right in the prime downtown Front Street shopping District. From Day 1, our TC store was a hit with the tourists and the locals alike. In spite of the weak Michigan economy, our Traverse City store continues to amaze, even us, and today our TC store has the designation of being “the most shopped store in downtown Traverse City!”
What makes Nifty Things successful is no secret. We have the best people. We work hard. We sell the most unique items way before other stores get them. We change almost 50 percent of the store items several times a year, and most important, we have fun doing it. That’s why our customers keep coming to our stores. They want to see what’s new, and what’s hot!
We look forward to many good years of business ahead. We know what our customers want. Our vendors work with us very closely, and most of all, we love what we do. That is what Nifty Things is all about. When you are in Northern Michigan be sure to stop by one or all of our stores. They are all unique, and you will have a great time shopping with us.
From Doug, Martee, Kathy, and the entire Nifty family, we want you all to share our world at Nifty Things!