ANN ARBOR – Alan and Karen Freedman have sold gemstones, jewelry, fossils and even dinosaur eggs at their shop Four Directions on Main Street for 27 years.
The couple recently announced their plans to retire, but the shop will go on.
Unlike other businesses like Hollander’s that recently closed due to retirement, the store will be run by new owners who plan to add to the name.
The Freedmans owned both the business and the bottom level of 211 Main St. and have found a young couple to take over the gem store.
“We have a new owner and it’s already sold,” said Karen. “We’ve been very lucky in this time to find someone. Not only were we able to sell, but the people that bought it have the love for the same things we do. It’ll look different -- it won’t be us -- but it’s up to them.
“I always say we’re a high end rock shop or a low-end gallery,” said Karen, laughing. “Everything is in its place and looks very nice.”
The Freedmans, who both had corporate careers, decided to open the shop in the mid 90s. They have enjoyed a diverse clientele thanks to the University of Michigan and have seen the downtown shopping district change over the years.
“We are one of the last standing Mohicans on the block,” said Karen. “There’s nobody else here who’s original.”
They have been members of the Main Street Area Association for years, where Alan sits on the board.
“We’ve had a very lucrative business,” said Karen. “We’ve loved every minute of it. Our problem now is that we have no foot traffic. Ann Arbor is pretty dead with the restaurants being closed and the students not on campus.
“It was the best place for our business that we could have ever imagined -- up until COVID hit. Because Ann Arbor is a college town and brings people in from all over, especially the parents, in a way, now, it’s the worst town you could be in.”
With two months to go until they hand over the baton, Four Directions is now having a clearance sale. Currently, all items are 30% off. The discounts will increase to 40%, 50%, 60% and 50% biweekly until the merchandise is gone.
Visiting the store is a nostalgic experience. Not ones to jump on the latest technology, the Freedmans still write their receipts by hand and most of their items include a card that explains what the item is, where it is from and its significance.
“Even if our customers don’t buy anything, we like people to walk out with a little knowledge of something they knew nothing about,” said Karen.
Eighty percent of their gemstones, rocks, jewelry, art and more are handpicked during the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in Arizona -- the largest gem and mineral show in the world.
True collectors, Karen said they will still likely continue to attend the event because it has become a part of their lives and they have made friends there year after year.
However, they look forward to slowing down and spending quality time with family.
“We had a long run and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but it’s just kind of time to go now,” said Karen. “At this age now, our grandchildren are in Florida with our daughter. We have a place down there and we want to spend more time with them.”