IONIA — Downtown Ionia is well known for its history and charm.
One storefront on Main Street was home to Winchell and Stone in the early 1900s, a furniture and undertaking business and then later a bill-paying center for a utility company.
The storefront next door housed State Savings Bank and eventually the two buildings merged into the site of Western Auto, Buck’s Bargains and then, after a long vacancy, Divine School of Dance.
Now the buildings at 326 and 328 W. Main St. are home to The Jewel Box, an antique and gift boutique labor of love which aims to pay tribute to much of the rich local history surrounding it.
“Our buildings have a fantastic history,” owner Heather Poland-Sizemore said. “I joke that we have a little bit of everything here, but we truly do. We have specialty items made just for us showcasing Ionia, such as coasters, mugs and glasses. We also collect Ionia memorabilia and other Michigan historic pieces that are on display in the store.”
The Jewel Box celebrated five years in business this past November. Heather and her husband Carl Sizemore opened in November 2017 at 324 W. Main St. After outgrowing the space, they had the opportunity to purchase the two buildings next door and expanded into there, opening in March 2020 — tough timing, obviously. And now with Michigan dealing with increasingly higher prices, supply issues and predictions of a possible recession, the struggle continues for small business owners.
“We are still working on the buildings and hoping to have both buildings open soon,” Heather said. “The past couple years have been a little challenging. I think people are trying to navigate a lot of changes. Business, for us, has been a little slow. I think people are more cautious with their spending, understandably. We have a lot of people who stop in and visit us from all over and that absolutely makes my day. I would love to see more people walking around downtown and support the local shops, as we have some great locally owned businesses here on Main Street.”
Heather doesn’t just vocally recommend downtown Ionia businesses — she champions her fellow merchants in every way possible. She is a co-host and co-organizer of Ionia’s Thursday on the Bricks, which occur the first Thursday of every month from May to October, along with Karlee Bailey of Brick Street Studios. In Thursday on the Bricks, businesses are open late and events take place to bring more people into the downtown area.
“Heather is very passionate about making our community better,” Bailey said. “She is always pushing people to shop local and always wants what’s best for downtown. She is constantly helping out in any way she can and tries to make our downtown better for our customers and better for its businesses by coordinating new events, promoting our downtown in general, giving updates to our community about things going on and fighting for change that will benefit everyone.
“She pours her heart and soul into her building and business,” Bailey added. “I am so thankful that she has such a heart for our downtown. It’s great to see someone else so passionate and willing to continue making our community better.”
Heather is also a board member with the Ionia Area Chamber of Commerce, a citizen attendee of the Ionia Downtown Development Authority’s monthly meetings and serves on several other local committees.
“I really just love to see people visiting and supporting Ionia’s community businesses,” she said.
Selling local and Michigan-made products in general is important to the owners of the Jewel Box.
“We offer antiques and carry goods from a lot of other small Michigan-based businesses,” Heather said. “I also carry a few great products from small USA-based businesses, but a vast majority of my products are from Michigan. Some names that people recognize are Cherry Republic and Stormy Kromer. We carry art from A State of Copper. We just have way too many goods to list them all.”
Customers who walk into the Jewel Box will likely see a furry friend or two on site. The Poland family has a dog named Champ, a “very popular” cat named Quest (“He has his own following,” Heather laughed) — both from the Ionia County Animal Shelter. Sometimes visitors will be lucky enough to see Mr. Fuzz, a rabbit belonging to Carl and Heather’s daughter Fiona.
“We all have our different contributions to our store,” Heather said. “I’m the owner/boss, my husband is the one who helps bring my visions to life and Fiona often does little fundraisers for the Ionia County Animal Shelter — we always accept donations for them and deliver them, I have a box by our door. I sometimes call Fiona our walking advertisement, as she is drawing on the sidewalk or pushing Mr. Fuzz up and down the sidewalks in his vintage stroller.
“Always something here,” Heather said with a smile.
The Jewel Box
What: The Jewel Box is an antique and gift boutique store specializing in unique items and Michigan-made products
Location: 328 W. Main St., Ionia
Hours: Currently by appointment, but regular hours will be offered soon
For more information: Call (616) 727-0986 or visit “The Jewel Box of Ionia” Facebook page