Last weekend I ducked into Lake Ann Grocery & Hardware on a quick errand, crunching over the snow past a marquee that promised: If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.

My list read like a haiku:

New mailbox numbers
A cup of homemade chili
Batteries and beer

Four house numbers, two neighborly hellos, one impulsive lottery ticket purchase and a Styrofoam bowl brimming with delicious chili later, I was on my way with all I needed. We are undyingly smitten with our hometown hardware stores in Northern Michigan for good reason. Their tenured staffers beckon us in from the cold and hand us what we need, whether it’s a bolt or a bratwurst. Here are four charmers—some in operation for 100 years—where the shelves overflow with both practicality and true small-town perks.  

W.W. Fairbairn & Sons

7529 US 31 Alanson, 231.548.2244

Hunt for delightful surprises like badminton rackets and ice cream makers among the handy necessities at this Michigan Historical Site. Scottish immigrant Walter W. Fairbairn founded the store in 1895. His modern-day descendants, who dispense state-of-the-art plumbing advice and still repair your screen door the old-fashioned way, run it with pride. 

Photo by Dave Weidner

Fife Lake True Value

119 E. State St., Fife Lake, 231.879.4094

Wander the nooks and crannies of this 1890s hardware store icon for paint, local maple syrup, flashlights, auto parts and darling made-in-Michigan gifts. 

Lake Ann Grocery & Hardware

19619 Maple St., Lake Ann, 231.275.6479

A rustic front porch festooned with garlands and Detroit Tigers posters welcomes you from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day but holidays. Inside, soak up the 19th-century general store vibes while browsing extension cords, wooden snowshoes, spicy brown mustard, and your pick of 15 varieties of hot dogs and sausages. Libations, too. 

McLeans Hardware of Kalkaska

109 Oak St., Kalkaska, 231.258.9136

Find nuts, bolts and popcorn… In a throwback to the good old days, McLeans’ staff still pops fresh, salty kernels so you can have a handful while you shop for snow shovels. 

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner