Interview by Mandy Lancia
Photography by Emily Berger
Stacia Garriott Kass always wanted to be shopkeeper. A talented designer with a passion for handcraft and an affinity for the Lake Michigan shore, she chose a sleepy Michigan beachtown to open her first home store. Ten years later, Dwell magazine named it among the Best Independent Design Shops in America. Here, Stacia shares how a love of craft and respect for makers remains the driving force behind her work.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in a manufacturing town in Indiana. I have a degree in English and spent time teaching before I went to design school in my late twenties. I worked for a Chicago designer, but to be honest, I always wanted to have a store. After having my third child and a stint as a stay-at-home parent, I really wanted to get back to work. Since I knew I would be taking time away from my family, I had to be sure I was doing something meaningful but flexible. So, I started Sojourn.
What inspired you to open a shop? Why in Southwest Michigan?
I laugh at this now, but I thought it would be nice to have a part-time gig to start. I could dip my toe in while I balanced kids and work. Of course, this was naive. And the more I worked, the more I wanted to dive in, not dip toes.
We loved this area and were looking for a home at the time. When we found our building, it seemed like a unique chance for a work/live space. So, with a major remodel and a very understanding and patient family, Sojourn was born.
How would you describe the mix at Sojourn?
Sojourn has evolved over the last decade. And why not? I have, we all do, so that only makes sense to me. Currently, I’d describe the mix as beautiful and useful things for the home and beyond—ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and apothecary, with a good dose of vintage objects and original art.
I always have two goals in mind that guide my choices. First, know the source! I work with artists and makers, family-owned businesses, and small businesses that source ethically. Second, I have to love it, and I suppose that speaks for itself.
There are so many talented makers. Describe the work that speaks to you.
I love ceramics, so the store sometimes can feel heavy in that direction. It’s a life-long love, and I feel incredibly lucky these days to have work from so many talented artists and makers. But mostly, I want things to feel like they are made by a person—whether it be textiles that are plant-dyed or carved wood bowls. Anything made by hand just feels special.
Sojourn is unique in its ability to feel very curated, yet always approachable, welcoming, and fresh. Care to share your secret?
Thank you for saying that. While I do think the pieces we carry are special, I really strive to be approachable. I suppose I want to be the kind of store where I’d like to shop. And, I love to share where things are from, details about the artist. Feeling that connection is so important in what we consume, be it art or food.
After ten years in Sawyer, you recently opened a second shop in Chicago named Tribute. What connects the shops? What makes them different?
I finally opened a shop in the city, yes. The mission is the same—another space to represent more artists and makers we love. We work with many talented designers, helping them select unique accessories for their projects, so we also aim to be a good source for the design community.
Sojourn and Tribute are interesting names. How did you come to them?
Well, Sojourn made sense because it means a temporary stay, which so many folks do in Southwest Michigan. It’s truly a special place to retreat, and I am so honored that people include our store in their itinerary. For that reason, I felt like the city store needed a new name. Tribute means to honor or show admiration. Tribute is designed to honor the art of craft. We have endless admiration for all of the artists, makers, and businesses we represent.
Best part of being a shopkeeper?
The people. Always. On both sides. We have lovely and discerning customers and have met so many talented people who make really great things. It’s pretty rewarding work.
Local tips or favorite spots in Southwest Michigan?
Oh gosh. Because we have kids and usually kids’ friends in tow, we always enjoy Red Arrow Roadhouse. They aim to please, with a wonderful staff. Grabbing fresh produce at Granor Farm’s market is simple but feels special. And lucky you if you can score a dinner there.
I admire creatives like Ariane and Archer (Prewitt) for all they do at AP, so I encourage a visit there. But, sometimes it’s just a long drive—maybe to Williams Orchard or maybe no place at all with a good coffee (Red Arrow Roasters!) and a playlist. Southwest Michigan celebrates the simple, and I am on board.
12908 Red Arrow Highway
1857 W Chicago Avenue