Sep 18, 2023
News Photo by Mike Gonzalez Customers, family, and friends gather in the back of Jimmie Garant’s Party Store on West Chisholm Street for the 70 year anniversary of the store on Sunday.
ALPENA — Jimmie Garant’s Party Store, a longtime mainstay on West Chisholm Street in Alpena, celebrated its 70 year anniversary of opening for business on Sunday afternoon at the back of the building.
Jim Garant, current owner of Jimmie Garant’s Party Store and son of Jimmie Garant, the man that opened the store, said the store has been around for 70 years and he’s worked there for 60 years.
“I was in my diapers when I started,” Garant said. “We had twins behind me. So I think my mom didn’t want three diapers at home. My dad took me to work. We had two ladies back in the old days and they were my second and third mothers. I was working for nothing, then a dime an hour. I got my old timebook and I’m making $4.80 by five years old.”
Anyone that wanted to come and celebrate Sunday with the family-owned business received root beer floats, pulled pork sandwiches, and free apparel from liquor brands.
Garant is the sixth child of Jimmie and Margaret Garant, the couple who opened up the business in 1953. Every family member at some point worked in the store. One of Jim Garant’s brother, Dennis, is the current accountant for the store.
Through the decades, the store was known by different names and evolved with new products. The location was once known as Jimmie’s Toyland and sold many toys. When large company stores came in and hurt sales, Jimmie Garant pivoted to the liquor business and provided supplies for weddings.
“You just learn and become self taught,” Jim Garant said about evolving business. “My dad was self taught. I’m self taught. You know what I didn’t learn from him, he just learned from salespeople.”
Margaret Garant passed away on March 7, 2000. Jimmie Garant passed away on Jan. 19, 2015.
Jim Garant mentioned that, before the store, his mom and dad worked at a cement plant for a year and didn’t enjoy the labor.
When the business opened, Margaret Garant would keep the store open past the assigned closing hours until they had enough money to keep up with payments.
“It’s kind of a good story, I like it,” Garant said. “I mean, that’s how we got where we got. My parents weren’t scared to work. They were workaholics.”
Right after saying this, Garant’s granddaughter, Ella, rushed over to see him. He asked her if she could have candy in the store. He quickly said ‘no’ and Ella playfully said ‘yes’ afterwards.
“I tell them no every time,” Garant said light-heartedly . “They go to the candy rack, come back, get a cup and put it in a cup … You always get Skittles because I won’t eat Skittles … She goes back in the corner and eats them by herself because she won’t give them to Papa.”
Jim Garant said 40 years ago, his father told him that he was thinking of selling the store and retiring. His father, as an offer, said “you can run it if you think you can make a go at it.”
Garant was 20 at the time and is thankful he stayed to run the party store to its 70th year.
“Some of my greatest memories for me at this stage of the game are the grandkids up here,” Garant said. “Watching them go through what I went through, filling stuff and holding doors open and getting tips from people. And I think seeing people come in that bring their kids and their kids are bringing kids in is great. People who went to college here in the 70’s say ‘you’re still here?’ People remember Jimmie’s.”
After 60 years with the store, Jim Garant hopes to retire soon. He said nobody in the family wants to take on the challenge of running the store, so he wants to sell to a local family. No plans of selling have been made, but it still sits in Garant’s mind.
“It’s great that it lasted this long,” Garant said. “Wish it would last longer. But you know, it’s inevitable that it has to come to an end.
“I can’t believe I’m 64,” Garant said later. “Where did the time go? Three life sentences, I call it. The gates on the back door, that wasn’t to keep people out. That was to keep me in.”
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