ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s a bittersweet end for an Ada business owner as Georgie’s Consignment prepares to close up shop.
Georgie Roth opened the shop on Thornapple River Drive near the village’s iconic covered bridge 42 years ago. Before then, she had worked as a furniture designer, but then she got married.
“They wouldn’t hire me. They asked me if I was married, if I was going to have children, and I said, ‘Yes,'” she recalled.
Her husband suggested buying the now-iconic red building and selling clothes out of it.
Roth was familiar with the building, which used to be a home. She said she remembers riding her bike as a kid into the village and bringing sandwiches to the man who lived there. At the time, it was white with green shutters.
The home, built in 1831, was eventually purchased by a business, and the owners sold it to Roth when they outgrew it.
“I thought I’d be here for 50 years. That was my goal,” she said. “Fifty years, and then the building would be 200 years old. But my body’s falling apart, so I can’t do that.”
On May 18, Roth’s longtime friend and employee, Cathy Russ, died following a fight with cancer. Roth said she had been a good friend and a faithful worker.
“That loss was too much for me,” she said. “And the building around here has changed. They’re building everything around me. … I’m 71, it’s time to retire.”
Through tears, Roth said the decision to retire was hard.
“It’s not an easy decision. I mean, it’s pretty emotional. But I’m not going to die. I’m just going to change my lifestyle,” she said with a chuckle. “I’ll have time to go out for lunch with my friends now. I’m going to get my knees done. Try to lose some weight, get my life back to me and help other people. I’ve got some people that need some tender, loving care. I think some of my mom’s older friends need me.”
After retirement, she’s going to focus on doing art and photography, which she said she didn’t have time to do for many years. Her son just got married and her daughter just bought a house.
‘KINDEST PERSON I’VE EVER MET’
The consignment shop owner said she lives life one day at a time, and can’t believe it’s been more than four decades.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people, friends,” Roth said.
Many friends and customers have stopped in since the announcement to see her.
One customer who was shopping there Thursday, Nicky Conn, said she’s really going to miss shopping there.
“I love consignment shopping. I love that you can find unique pieces,” Conn said. “Because when you just go to the store, you just have certain things. This is where it’s almost like you’re searching, you can go and find that one special piece that maybe nobody else is going to have.”
Conn has been shopping at Georgie’s for a few years and said her favorite piece she found there was a pair of orange shorts. She said she recently wore them to a convention and received several compliments.
She found them one day as she was getting ready to leave after some shopping.
“I turned around, looked at the window display and there were (the shorts),” Conn said. “My favorite color is orange. I literally stopped came back in and I said, ‘You girls, you’ve got to see what size those shorts are to see if I could try them on.’ I love them. So it’s been super fun shopping, and here I am, shopping, back again.”
Roth currently has five employees, including her sister and a college student named Madeline Tietema. Tietema, who is studying psychology at Michigan State University, started working there four years ago, when she was 16.
“Every day here is so fun. I always look forward to coming into work. It makes me sad that I’m going to have to go get a career relevant to my field,” she said.
Through Roth, she’s learned about sales and business management. But most importantly, she’s watched how the business owner treats people.
“There’s truly no one better to work for and learn from,” Tietema said. “… She’s the kindest person I’ve ever met and she treats everyone so nicely, no matter what. And I’ve never met anyone with more compassion or empathy for other people.”
NEW OWNERS WILL HONOR LEGACY
As Roth gets ready to retire, her legacy will live on in the red building. Calder Financial Group is set to buy the building and will work to preserve it.
Brian Riefepeters, a partner at the firm, said he’s been hearing people give a “sigh of relief” as they hear they won’t be tearing the building down.
“That’s probably the most that we’ve heard from people is, ‘Hey, that’s fantastic. You’re moving and thank you for preserving this little red house,'” he said. “We’re excited about that.”
Riefepeters lives in the area and said he drives by Georgie’s multiple times a day.
“We love this building. I’ve always thought, ‘Hey, if this building ever comes for sale, we’re going to jump on it,'” he said.
His mother-in-law has known Roth for many years, Riefepeters explained, and he told her about his interest in the building.
“Many years ago, I said to my mother-in-law, ‘Hey, tell her if she ever sells that building to give us a shout,'” he said. “A couple years ago, Georgie was like, ‘I will never sell that building.’ So we were very surprised the day when we drove by and the ‘for sale’ sign was there.”
His mother-in-law introduced them, and he said they had a wonderful meeting.
“It’s obvious why the community loves her and loves her business,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure to get to know her through this process. And we’re looking forward to having her back once we have these enhancements.”
Riefepeters said it’s important to him to honor the legacy of the house and Roth. They’re keeping the building red and will not be changing the exterior much. Some enhancements are planned for the interior, like millwork, moldings and coffered ceilings.
Calder Financial Group will be moving in as soon as possible, likely in December.
Roth said it’s “heartwarming” to her that he’s going to “love on the house” and keep it red.
“I think it’s wonderful. He’s a young man that’s going to do the work himself. He’s going to change the ceiling, change the floors to the original. He loves the building,” she said. “They’re a young firm, so they’re going to fit right in here in Ada. Ada’s changed, and all us old people don’t like change. And the young people — he needs to be here.”
Roth’s shop will be open until Sept. 5, though she said she may extend that by a week. Her broker will be throwing her a party as she closes up shop.
“We’ll have some fun before we go and say our goodbyes,” she said.
Roth said it’s bittersweet.
“It’s like Christmas every time I come here, because I never know who’s going to bring in clothes or who’s going to be here, and so I’m going to miss that. I just have to make Christmas at home,” she said.
To the community, Roth said through tears: “Thank you for all the support and love. I’m going to miss them.”