In September, Jean Husby will launch REO Town Marketplace, an eclectic indoor vendor space that will be able to accommodate up to a dozen merchants. The new market will take over where Husby’s previous business, Foliage Design Systems, once stood.
A prominent Lansing decorative vegetation business is being transplanted to a new location. This will make room for a massive, new indoor market space. This month, the last of the plant care paraphernalia at Foliage Design Systems, 1027 S. Washington Ave., will move about a mile and a half southeast into the home of Smith Floral & Greenhouses, 1124 E. Mt. Hope Ave. The two businesses will now share a roof, while the building that formerly housed Foliage Design will be transformed into a vendor space accommodating roughly a dozen merchants. It will also be given a new name: REO Town Marketplace.
“I wrote down some words that I want to keep in mind as the concept grows,” said Jean Husby, the building’s owner and founder of the REO Town Marketplace. “Industrial. Eclectic. Vibrant. Weird. Actually, I’m not sure how weird, but it’ll be fun playing around.”
In 1992, Husby and her late husband, Greg Husby, opened a Lansing location for Foliage Design Systems, a national franchise that provides customized interior plant care services.
They were initially set up in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood, but moved the business to the REO Town location in 2000 after purchasing the building, a 14,400-square-foot space built in 1925.
“It’s a steel frame, concrete block building, but we gave it a new roof in 2011,” Husby said. “It could have been a lot of different things, but I kept coming back to the idea of a space for artisan vendors."
Husby, who sold Foliage Design Systems last year, hopes her new venture will fill the void left by the Lansing City Market, which has hemorrhaged vendors since it moved to its new location in 2010. Since then, it’s gone from more than two dozen individual stands to just six. Husby said she’d like to nurture an eclectic vibe, luring shoppers and start-up businesses alike, basing the concept on a combination of successful markets around the world.
Husby has been cultivating the idea for at least three years. In 2014, the REO Town Commercial Association used a portion of her building to host its inaugural REO Town Thrift Store Gala and Burlesque Extravaganza. The now-annual event celebrates local avant-garde culture through carnivallike, vaudeville-style live performances. “I’d like to see those kinds of (retail stands) to be a permanent part of the neighborhood,” Husby said. “Clothing, artisans, jewelry, Michigan-made specialty products, leather goods. Niche stuff that’s as local as possible.”
Husby’s first taker is Amy McMeeken, owner of the Vintage Junkies thrift store, which closed its storefront space last month in anticipation of this move. Mcmeeken will have about the same footprint—about 500 square feet—but she’ll have the symbiotic benefit of shared location with similar businesses.
“I’m really looking forward to helping bring this vision to life,” Mcmeeken said. “REO Town is growing and becoming more dynamic every day.”
Husby said other possibilities inside the building include a green grocer, a performance venue, and a food truck anchored to the entrance. She encourages anyone with ideas to email her at email@example.com.