Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Summer II 2019 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.
Cathy Sehnert has always had a taste for the artsy and a deep love of shopping. The two combined have made her a perfect fit for the Leelanau shopping scene.
The longtime shopping enthusiast describes her style as “colorful and whimsical,” her favorite finds unique pieces culled from local shops and art festivals. “I lean more toward the artsy everything,” she said.
Her taste has built her a reputation in her favorite Leelanau stores.
“She’s a great customer,” said Amy Peterson, owner of The Front Porch in Suttons Bay. “She’s got great taste and is always looking for something fresh and new and fun. We love having her in the store.”
The Front Porch is one of Sehnert’s favorites because of both her personal connection with Peterson and the items offered there.
“I’m in there weekly — several times,” Sehnert said. “It’s kitchen and household items, and it’s a great place to buy gifts because they’ve got a sale room in the back.”
Sehnert also enjoys the store’s frequent giveaways.
“I won this beautiful ‘Happy Everything!’ plate,” she said. “You can change out these little accessories you can stick on. Right now I’ve got an ice cream cone on, but they’ve got one for all holidays. It’s just a fun piece to display.”
Shopping has always been a meaningful activity for Sehnert, who grew up wearing her brother’s hand-me-downs and started shopping as soon as she earned enough money to do so.
“I worked as soon as I could, and shopped and really liked it,” she said.
Her love for shopping as a pastime intensified when she was introduced to northern Michigan, with its many shops that cater to her unique taste. After her husband visited a client’s family “Up North,” her own family fell in love with the area and spent 15 years summering at the Rustic Resort in Lake Leelanau.
Upon retirement 10 years ago, Sehnert and her husband moved to Lake Leelanau full time. And Sehnert dove even deeper into shopping.
“Once we moved up here, I really got the bug,” she said.
After originally studying and working as a dental assistant, Sehnert retired from a career in retail.
“I never made any money at it because I like to shop,” she joked.
In retirement she took a class in interior design and began coordinating the design of her own home and the homes of friends, now a favorite hobby.
Sehnert takes her artsy taste quite literally, frequenting favorite art galleries locally and elsewhere. She likes to shop at The Painted Bird in Suttons Bay for both art and clothing, and names the colorful A.D.D. repurposed clothing brand as a favorite, saying, “The clothing up here — so many people create it themselves out of recycled things, or they make the fabric.”
The artwork in Sehnert’s home includes a driftwood sculpture of a pelican, one of her favorite pieces. She bought it while visiting a friend in Wisconsin.
“There’s an art gallery over there similar to The Plainted Bird here,” she said. “That’s where I ran into that pelican. I just fell in love with it. It’s whimsical, and the colors are so pretty.”
Sehnert also finds artwork at local art festivals, like the Suttons Bay Art Festival, Aug. 3 and 4 this year. A favorite find there is a lamp made by a Ludington artist; its base is made out of discarded painted wood from cottages.
“He sliced the wood like a sandwich loaf and stacked them,” she said. “They’re all different colors, so they’re a lot of fun.”
To get the best selection and avoid crowds at art festivals, Sehnert advises arriving early and planning to bring purchases back to the car.
“If you don’t get there early, it’s pretty hard to find a parking space,” she said. “If you shop for big items, getting them back to your vehicle might be a problem.”
Sehnert’s love of artwork stems partially from the fact that she doesn’t consider herself an artist. She says this makes her value others’ talent more. She also appreciates the uniqueness of artisan pieces.
“They’re one of a kind,” she said. “You just don’t see them everywhere you go.”