Poke around the quiet 19th-century neighborhoods and tree-lined roads of the village of Benzonia and you’ll be amazed at the industrious community of artisans that thrives here. Artist and poet Gwen Frostic pioneered this Northwoods creative spirit when she moved to Benzonia in the 1960’s and opened her print shop, Presscraft Papers (River Rd., two miles west of U.S. 31, 231-882-5505, gwenfrostic.com). Frostic became renowned worldwide for her delicate block prints inspired by the world outside her shop doors. Frostic died in 2001, but Presscraft Papers lives on, and the cool, earthy stone shop is a fitting place to kick off your artisan tour.
Follow River Road back east and stop off at BeeDazzled (6289 River Rd., 231-882-7765, beedazzled.com). The sweet, minty smell of beeswax candles, soaps and lotions handmade from the wax of the honeybees buzzing outside permeates the shop. Take home some Sunshine in a Jar honey to open on dreary winter days.
Back in downtown Benzonia, explore shelves of glittery-winged angels and butterflies at the home art boutique, Mecca (1084 Michigan Ave., 231-882-2583). At Fernand Footwear (7 Milliron Ln., 800-419-8621, fernandfootwear.com) around the corner, slide your feet into a pair of custom-made shoes crafted at this small shop.
You’re just across U.S. 31 from Rubini Gallery (1047 Michigan Ave., 231-882-2787). Picture dining room tables decked out with bold black-and-white dishes, then fall in love with hand-painted tiles featuring botanical designs. Now walk next door to Vigland Gallery (1057 Michigan Ave., 231-882-7203) and browse hand-thrown pottery, handcrafted jewelry and wearable art.
Ready to eat? Dig into a sombrero salad and crispy empanadas at the Roadhouse Mexican Bar and Grill (1058 Michigan Ave., 231-882-9631). Their fresh tortilla chips and homemade salsa are artistic in their own right.
Katie Holland was an intern at Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
This article was first published in June 2007, and was updated for the web February 2008.