April 23 • 04:19 AM

Looking back, moving forward

Almont's 1843 mill houses 21st century livelihoods

Built in the 1840s, Almont’s historic mill still hums with activities more suited to the 21st century. photo by Catherine Brakefield.

November 07, 2007
Just as progress mapped a jagged course throughout the pages of American history, so has The Mill, located on 622 S. Main Street in Almont.

Back in the early 1800s The Mill was first a carting and fulling mill for the Scottish immigrants who settled in Almont. Later it became a flour mill, a feed and grain mill, and a cider mill, satisfying the ever growing needs of the community. Its services changed yet again three years ago when it awakened Almont into the stimulating European tradition of fine coffees and became the Brew House Café.

The Mill and Brew House Café provide the community with a taste of Italy and the literary collections of ReLiteration Book Store. It has become a popular and inviting way to spend a morning or afternoon browsing through a historical artifact in our modernized society.

"It's an adoptive reuse of an historical building," says owner Deborah Schumacher. Utilizing The Mill for modern applications promotes the theme that historic buildings can be and are a functional asset in today's society.

Mill owner Deborah Schumacher and her daughter Melissa in the Brew House Café located inside The Mill. A trip to Italy inspired Deborah to open the café. photo by Catherine Brakefield.
"Old buildings do have a current use," Schumacher says. "A building a lot of times doesn't have any value to people. For us, it's keeping a piece of Almont history standing."

The idea of the Brew House came upon the heels of Schumacher's tour through Italy in 2004. During her tours of Venice, Rome and Florence, coffee shops were as common as party stores are in the United States. People would congregate throughout the day and catch up on community news and chat.

One resounding aspect was evident throughout Schumacher's tour: People lived in and utilized the old buildings that had weathered the centuries.

"I was holding onto a little piece of American history," Schumacher says of her 1843 mill. "We like coffee and my family and I were always going out of town to get a good cup of coffee. We had the kitchen and I liked the community aspect of having a cup of coffee in my own home town."

The Mill and Brew House evolved and presently offers more than 9,000 types of drinks. Anything that Starbucks and Caribou make The Café has.

"We've got the largest selection of sugar free syrups and 40 different flavor shots of coffee syrups," Schumache says. "Our Lavazza espresso beans are from Italy."

Baked goods offered are made from scratch and without preservatives in The Mill's kitchen daily.

"There are two of us baking," Schumacher says. "Some staples that are consistent are my triple chocolate brownies and raspberry oat jam bars."

Through the thirteen years of Schumacher's ownership of The Mill, she has gotten involved in Almont's community and has served on the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) for six years. She continues to create the historical allure of a leisurely lifestyle at The Mill and Brew House where people can chat over a cup of coffee.

Every season brings its own unique appeal as well. During the summer and early fall months, antique arrangements are attractively displayed beneath the draping of tents. Though lately Schumacher's antiques have taken a back seat to the Brew House, she has plans to encourage her art and artists in the area.

During the winter months, sofas and chairs are conversationally arranged around an inviting fireplace. An antique typewriter and period accessories decorate the beamed walls and ceilings. Pulleys and line shafts above create a nostalgic appeal, complementing The Mill's historical significance and standing as a lasting testament to the hard work it took just to erect the mill.

"People can come in and see hand hewn logs cut from the trees that were on the property in 1843," Schumacher notes.

The second floor reveals more pulleys and line shafts overlooking the collection of books at ReLiteration used book store.

A teacher for six years at Oakland University, owner Janis Grant has infectiously provided her visitors a peak into the exciting world of the written word with her pleasing array of books to appease her ever growing clientele.

"I'm out shopping all the time for these books," Grant says. "I like to provide folks with books you can't find anywhere else."

ReLiteration provides all ages, both genders and all genres of reading pleasures. The oldest book that has graced her shelves was dated 1761.

"It was a thrill to have that," says Grant. "It was an anthology of English writing."

Customers who climb the stairs into ReLiteration take one look at Grant snuggled in her easy chair with a book spread across her lap and sigh, telling her they're envious of her job.

"You know this (ReLiteration) was always on my mind," Grant chuckles. "You meet great people who love books and are a lot of fun to be with."

ReLiteration’s shelves are filled with unique offerings to suit every reader’s taste, including a selection of children’s books. photo by Catherine Brakefield.

Grant says her books are comparably priced with other used book stores.

"My children's books are geared toward a child's pocketbook," Grant notes.

She says some people who come into her shop have trouble thinking of giving someone a used gift. But, actually it can be the perfect gift when given as a gift certificate for that special one on your Christmas list, Grant adds, to browse down Reiteration's colorful shelves at their leisure and seek out their treasure for themselves.

She says the best way to shop in ReLiteration is with an open mind. Grant explains that when people come into her store without an objective in mind and are open to what is on the shelves, they find what they're looking for.

"There is new used stuff coming in all the time," Grant says with a laugh.

ReLiteration is open every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday from noon to 8 p.m., and the first Sunday of every month from noon to 4 p.m. Call ReLiteration at 810 706-0220 for more information.

The Mill is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and closed on Sundays. Call 810 798-8214 for more information.

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