There aren’t many businesses left in Thompsonville, and one of the few that remains is closing.
Paul’s Party Store is a place to grab a gallon of milk or buy a pack of cigarettes. But you can also find a more hard-to-find item, like balsamic vinegar.
The store is a small, blue pole barn. It used to be a fishing shop — you can still find fishing gear for purchase — and it’s retained the feel of a tackle shop, dark with a concrete floor.
Paul Henry, who owns the place, says one of the keys to running a party store is stocking what even just one person might want.
“If somebody comes in and asks for something, I put it in,” Henry says. “And then you’ve got that person as a customer. So in Traverse City one customer isn’t much. In Thompsonville one customer is plenty.”
Henry knows the names of most of the customers who come in the store. He’s got a bushy white beard and white hair, and on top he wears a baseball cap with one word stitched on it: ‘grumpy.’
Henry isn’t sure when he picked up the nickname, but he’s embraced it. A sign for the store just outside of town reads, ‘Buy from Grumpy.’
Paul Henry has decided to close the business.
“I’m tired of it. I’ve had enough,” Henry says. “I’m still making money, but I’m tired of it. I’m not going to trade my time for money. If I’m not getting something out of it more than money, I’ll move on. I’ve done that all my life. I’ll be 70 years old and I’m not going to change my style now.”
Henry says he used to enjoy the challenge of running the business. Now he might sell it, but a party store in a small town is not that attractive.
“Party store in a big town … they do exceptionally well,” Henry says.
Some people in town are upset that the store is closing. It could be tough for people who don’t drive.
But Henry isn’t worried, and he says there are enough other stores nearby.
There’s a mini mart on M-115 a couple miles away, and in nearby Copemish there’s a grocery store and a dollar store.
“I’m done with it,” Henry says. “So if you feel that there’s an obligation to jump right in here, you do it.”
Henry says he’s not sure when he’s going to close exactly. It could be a week or two, or maybe longer.
But he says he does have plans for a new business in Thompsonville — but he won’t say what it is just yet.