Carl Shorter’s Legacy Lives On

June 8, 2021

My grandpa, Carl, was a genius at marketing his business through all his years. He used billboards all over northern Michigan. He even had one painted on the top of a barn!

He held in-store events with Native American artists and stamped their art with “Ottawa Indian Made”. He used moccasin and deerskin glove catalogs as bag stuffers. Before the use of computers, he kept information on his customers for use in direct mail campaigns. He would take mail and phone orders and ship merchandise around the country. He knew to chase his summer customers! At Christmas, he and Ruth would hold raffle contests for the local customers. Grandpa was very charismatic (must be why he was class president!) and he believed in being on the sales floor chatting with customers. He had patience with children shoppers and his kindness turned them into loyal, lifetime fans of Shorter’s Gifts. Carl’s philosophy was “Any fool can sell it on sale, but it takes a real talent to sell it at full price!”

Grandpa Shorter passed away in 1983. A tribute to Carl, written by Don Ward, from the store Ward & Eis, speaks eloquently to the legacy he left behind.

“Carl’s sudden death took from us a gentle-man, who with his wife, Ruth, gave time and talent in a quiet and unassuming way for 37 years, in building Shorter’s Gifts into a landmark store. Beginning in 1946, in a space only 8′ by 20′, they were the very first to be open in the winter. Now over 30 stores follow their lead, assuring that quality merchandise is available for Petoskey shoppers all year long. We will miss you, Carl.”

Grandpa’s legacy lived on through the generations. My dad, Bill, and my mom, Mari, came in to help out Gram for a few months, and then purchased the business. Bill and Mari continued the traditions of the shop while putting their signature mark on the store. They kept the same product categories that were successful in 1946 but searched for new products to reflect the change in the generations running the store. Mom has always been known for her display talents and beautiful windows enhancing the interior and creating a merchandise mix that carried the store into the future.