local handprint. small michigan brands with huge community impact.
Local Handprint is a blog and social media campaign that highlights and promotes local brands and businesses.
Through a photojournalistic approach and genuine interest in the people behind great brands, products and service - we tell a brand story that encourages engagement and loyalty.
Let us tell your story!
Independent Book Store, Kalamazoo
Back in New York, working hard to finish grad school while living in a tiny apartment with a new baby, these two dreamed about creating a place where folks could share their love of words and stories. Opening an independent bookstore these days is a revolutionary act, born of courage, grit and a deep understanding of the power of words. It arises from a love of community and hope for the future. Joanna and Derek brought that love back to Kalamazoo.
Bookbug embodies everything a bookstore ought to be: from bringing nationally-acclaimed authors and hosting weekly story times, to supporting community programs like Read and Write Kalamazoo. Grab a coffee from their neighbor at Water Street Coffee Joint, swing in, find a chair or a couch and get comfy. Bookbug is here to stay.
Ceramics Studio, Kalamazoo
In 2014, Shay Church and his wife Maura Carney teamed up to create a business where they could forge their love of art, food and drink. Naturally, a functional pottery business was born (Grayling Ceramics), specializing in handmade wares for home and restaurants. If you are part of the craft beer movement in Michigan, there’s a good chance you’ve filled one of their growlers at your favorite brewery, or enjoyed a pint or two out of their mugs.
Shay Church is a studio artist in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He’s known for his temporary clay installations that have included life-size whales left to fall apart in abandoned buildings, parking lots, outdoor spaces and galleries. It’s this kind of thought and brilliance that attracts us to the work and people behind Grayling Ceramics.
Grayling Ceramics is located in the basement of The Reality Factory in Kalamazoo. When we stop in there’s a friendly ‘hello’ yelling from downstairs. The kilns are always going. The artists are always creating. Grayling Ceramics stands for thoughtful design, material integrity and fine craftsmanship. Follow them on facebook or instagram for updates on new products and open houses that usually call for pizza in Shay’s portable ceramic wood fired oven.
FRESH FOOD FAIRY
Kaleamazoo Chips, Kalamazoo
Hether Frayer doesn’t take the role and title of Fresh food fairy lightly. She is driven by a passion to get kids to fall in love with, or at the very least try, fresh healthy food. Hether is an inspiration and a model for how small businesses in our community can make a huge social impact.
The Fresh food fairy provides a colorful, fun, and interactive program to get kids excited about fresh heathy food by teaching about the awesomeness of flavors, textures, colors and shapes in veggies. She teaches at least seven different crunching techniques in classrooms all over Kalamazoo! Her Fresh Food Friends can be found at vendors throughout the Kalamazoo Farmers' Market on Saturdays, where kids search them out in a scavenger hunt style game.
Hether started Fresh food fairy in 2011 with the help of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation Change Makers Grant, a day long workshop that helped turn ideas into projects that benefit the community. Since then, she has launched Kaleamazoo Chips, a small batch Kale Chip manufacturer, partnering with local and sustainable farms and using organic ingredients. She began making kale chips at the Can-DoKitchen, and they became so popular that she now has her own commercial kitchen. 100% of the profits from Kaleamazoo Chips go to fund the Fresh Food Fairy Nutrition Program. Follow them on Instagram or Facebook to learn about workshops, events and where to locate Kaleamazoo Chips.
Unclee's Barber Shop
Vine Neighborhood, Kalamazoo
This is the story of a Kalamazoo barber. Leland Pratt grew up on the South Side of Kalamazoo. He attributes being poor and learning to survive on his own as pace setters for his life. He learned to hustle to make ends meet. He learned to make people laugh to keep laughter erupting in even the darkest of places. Being a teenage father launched him into a life with one purpose: to provide a happy childhood for his kids. Along the way he “fathered” dozens of youth who’s fathers were absent. A nephew, who he took in as his own, unassumingly combined Uncle and Lee, which created his title, UncLee.
UncLee's Barber Shop has a goal of providing the community with a place rooted in love and giving. From a free library to monthly reading programs for free haircuts to the #TrevonWilliams Pay-it-forward program, Unclee’s is an example of living life to it’s fullest and pulling the community along with him.
This is Unclee's Barber Shop. More than a barber shop, this is a community.
Dan Kastner bought these buildings to house 1977 Mopeds and to create a space for innovative projects and super rad ideas. He jokes with me about a line on Portlandia, and immediately uses it to describe why he and his family moved back to Kalamazoo after living and owning businesses in San Fransisco. He says “The dream of the 90s is alive and well in Kalamazoo.” This rings true for us and the other businesses and non-profit who call The Reality Factory home.
Of the names on the doors, you’ll recognize Grayling Ceramics from our introduction to their studio here at Local Handprint. Read and Write Kalamazoo, or RAWK, also calls The Reality Factory home. RAWK is one of our favorite small Kalamazoo non-profits making a huge impact on our community. RAWK was born of the need for school-aged kids to have a place outside of school that fosters their growing development as writers. Their programs include creative writing workshops, reading events and publishing for students in Kalamazoo ages 4 - 18. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook to learn more about events as well as ways to help give back to an organization that is investing so much in our kids.
It all started here. 1977 Mopeds. Founded by Dan Kastner, one of the founding members of the Moped Army, 1977 Mopeds began as an adventure to outfit the newly-formed and under-supplied Moped Army. In 2003 they opened the doors to the very first Moped Culture shop. In 2011, they launched a new company, by riders for riders, to manufacture brand new moped parts called Indigan. Stop in some time and see for yourself…we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the culture at The Reality Factory, and we’re pretty sure it will spark and inspire you to get started on turning that dream you’ve had into a reality!
mamaleelu cold brew
Small batch cold brew coffee producer, Kalamazoo
Mamaleelu Cold Brew is about stories and action. Maliesha's goal is to build a company that empowers women. As a young single mother, curious about the world and where she would go, she packed up and moved to Spain to travel and study while working on her Bachelors degree.
The Mamaleelu Cold Brew tagline is “Strong. Black. Bold.” It’s about taking risks, understanding our power, and going for it no matter what. It’s about the women her business supports by buying from their fairly-traded, organic coffee cooperative in the valleys of eastern Uganda. It’s about her. It’s about the stories we tell with friends or the thoughts we have while we sit with that first cup of morning coffee.
Wherever you find Mamaleelu Cold Brew, whether you're at one of the many stores across Michigan or you see Maliesha herself slingin’ iced drinks at theKalamazoo Farmers' Market be sure to stop by and see what’s new. She’s currently working on delivering a new product this summer, a ready to drink single-serving, with the help of a KIVA Loan campaign currently underway.