New shop intersects science, art, everyday life

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When Renee Leone was a child, people told her to get a Ph.D. They said she could research a subject that’s never been studied before. She was convinced that it would be impossible to find something that no one knows. 

With age and experience, Leone came to realize that — with every answer we find — more questions reveal themselves. 

Leone is the proud founder of Quark! Yes, exclamation point included. It’s a new gift shop that sells merchandise celebrating the intersection of art, science and everyday life. 

“Opening a brick-and-mortar business is a risky thing right now,” admitted Leone. “But I felt that it was the best way to share what I wanted with the community. So I took the risk.”

As a former therapist, Montessori teacher and founder of the Michigan State University Science Festival, Leone has tons of experiences in many different fields. She’s also casually studied gardening, mixed media art, astronomy and paleontology. 

“This has all fed my knowledge and helped inspire me to open the store,” said Leone. “My goal is to make people smile with these items that can remind them of their connection with science.”

Leone has so far enjoyed running Quark! and meeting new people every day. She loves to see the excitement on customers’ faces when they walk into the store. Allowing them to realize that science can imbue magic into their everyday lives has brought her joy. 

“I am not a scientist. I just take great joy in the complexity and the wonder in pursuing curiosity,” said Leone. “I just love it when scientists share what they do and make it accessible to everybody.”

The store has something for studied scientists and hobbyists alike. She wants people to know that it isn’t just for diehard researchers. In her opinion, having a connection and understanding of the sciences can make people feel more grounded, ready to engage with the world. 

“Just a basic understanding of what’s going on around us can help us understand ourselves,” said Leone. “That appeals to the therapist side of me.”

If you’re curious by nature, she thinks that you will find something to appreciate on the shelves of Quark! It has everything you’d expect to find at a gift shop — postcards, jewelry, T-shirts, posters. The shop is a perfect fit for Grand River Road and will probably be a hit when college students return this fall. 

Leone is happy she took the risk and opened up Quark! despite her initial concerns about starting a brick and mortar storefront. 

“It’s just been going good,” she said, with a sense of relief. “The response I’ve gotten from the people who have come in so far has made me incredibly happy.”

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