September 6, 2008

Road Trip to Three Oaks’ Elm Street

I'm a big fan of road trips, allowing you to see small towns and businesses you might miss when traveling by plane. Even though my last long drive wasn't exactly planned, there were still many parts of it that were enjoyable.

Once or twice a month, I visit family members who live in southwestern Michigan. Along the way, I drive by a town called Three Oaks. This historic village is located just off Interstate 94 and was first settled in 1850. If you have children, you'll recognize the town from Prancer, a popular Christmas movie that is broadcast every year on television. Much of the 1989 holiday favorite was filmed here.

But before the movie made Three Oaks popular, the small town was known for its Featherbone Factory. In the late 1800s, Edward Warren discovered that he could stiffen corsets and buggy whips with a turkey's quill (i.e., a 'featherbone'). This replacement for the 'whalebone' material helped the town's economy to boom. The factory still stands today and is now the home of an antique market.

welcome to three oaksNowadays, the economy relies heavily on tourism; there are plenty of boutiques and galleries to visit. Froehlich's sells homegrown preserves, jams, fruits, and vegetables in beautiful jars. The store is also usually filled with the smells of breads, bagels, and muffins made from scratch. Just down the block is Studio B, a gallery with 'fine art and fabulous finds.' Here, you can find everything from paintings to sculpture, from glass to jewelry. If you want to extend that artistic look to the rest of your home, step into Springdale, a vintage furniture store. The shop specializes in Heywood-Wakefield, a modern line of birch furniture popular from the 1940s to the 1960s.

For you ladies, walk a few doors down to French Twist. It's a European-style boutique that offers fashion-forward selections by designers from all over the world. Across the street, you'll find a bit of history. Drier's Meat Market has been run by the same family for four generations and has been in continuous use since 1875. The smoke house used to produce the butcher shop's hams, bacon, sausages, and bologna is more than 100 years old!

homemade piesYou'll need to refuel after all that walking and shopping, and Three Oaks offers great country fare. Nelson Saloon is a small-town bar that makes a tasty burger, grilled right in front of you. They also serve barbecued pork with their own special sauce, and for dessert there are homemade pies. (There is also a kids' menu available.) Another good choice is Viola Cafe, located in a restored 100-year-old building. The menu changes seasonally and offers daily specials such as mesquite grilled chicken sandwich and hot roast beef dinner. Be sure to try the namesake Viola Salad: sliced tomatoes, fresh asparagus, black olives, red onions, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, and bacon, all tossed in Ranch dressing.

ladies roomAfter a good meal, it's time for some entertainment. The Vickers Theatre is a turn-of-the-century film house specializing in foreign and independent films. If you prefer live drama, the Acorn Theater is for you. They offer a wide variety of live acts, but one of the most popular attractions of this beautiful theatre is the women's restroom!

Three Oaks is only about a 90-minute drive from Chicago and has become a popular destination place in Harbor Country. The town only spans one square mile (2.5 km2) and has a population of approximately 1800 people. It's the perfect setting for those looking for a main-street, small-town escape complete with great dining and shopping opportunities.

Photo credit: Google Maps, (c/o Flickr) polomex (1, 2, 3)

Featherbone Factory: 111 N Elm St (Three Oaks, MI); 269-756-7320
Mon ' Sat: 10:00 a.m. ' 5:00 p.m.
Sun: 1:00 p.m. ' 5:00 p.m.

Froehlich's: 26 N Elm St (Three Oaks, MI); 269-756-6002
Thurs ' Mon: 8:00 a.m. ' 5:00 p.m.

Studio B Gallery: 114 N Elm St (Three Oaks, MI); 269-756-9954
Fri: 12 noon ' 8:00 p.m.
Sat: 10:00 a.m. ' 8:00 p.m.
Sun: 12 noon ' 6:00 p.m.
(By appointment also available)

Springdale: 19 S Elm St (Three Oaks, MI); 269-756-9896
Fri ' Sun: 11:00 a.m. ' 6:00 p.m.
Mon: 12 noon ' 6:00 p.m.

French Twist: 9 S Elm St (Three Oaks, MI); 269-756-3970

Drier's Meat Market: 14 S Elm St (Three Oaks, MI); 888-521-3999
Mon ' Sat: 9:00 a.m. ' 5:00 p.m.
Sun: 11:00 a.m. ' 5:00 p.m.

Nelson Saloon: 18 N Elm St (Three Oaks, MI); 269-756-6161

Viola Cafe: 102 N Elm St (Three Oaks, MI); 269-756-9420
Sun: 7:00 a.m. ' 1:00 p.m.
Mon, Wed-Sat: 7:00 a.m. ' 3:00 p.m.

Vickers Theatre: 6 N Elm St (Three Oaks, MI); 269-756-3522

Acorn Theater: 107 Generations Dr (Three Oaks, MI); 269-756-3879


2 comments to Road Trip to Three Oaks’ Elm Street

  1. Driving Along Michigan’s Red Arrow Highway
    September 19th, 2008 at 8:50 am

    [...] I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I make a monthly trip to visit family in southwestern Michigan. The trip usually takes about three [...]

  2. Fine Wine from the Midwest
    October 3rd, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    [...] my southwestern Michigan series, great American wines don't just come from the coastlines. There are actually a [...]

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