Georgia and Roger Newman receive flowers and good will from a group of city leaders.

Otsego Antiques Mall for sale after couple retires

By: 
Ryan Shek, Intern

When Georgia Newman watched Otsego Main Street manager Molly Wieber walk by the Otsego Antique Mall on its last day of business—followed by the Otsego city manager and mayor—she just figured there was something important planned at the Art Garden.

“I saw Molly walk by and I hollered at her—she waved and said she’d be back in a minute,” Newman said.  “(Then) Thad walked by with Tom Gilmer and I said to (my husband) Roger, ‘Oh it’s our last day—wouldn’t you think they’d stop by?’“

And they did—moments before their cover was blown.

July 31 marked the last day of Georgia and Roger Newman’s long standing Antique Mall. City officials and local business owners stopped by the building to surprise the couple and send them off into retirement.

“We had no idea (the surprise) was for us, no idea,” Georgia Newman said. “I just couldn’t believe it—it almost made me cry.”

Wieber said she couldn’t allow the Newmans to retire without a proper goodbye.

 “(Roger and Georgia) have been very special to us.” Weiber said. “They’ve been very enthusiastic about (local) businesses and volunteering. We just want to tell (them) how much we appreciate (their) presence in our community for so many years.”

That presence has lasted even longer than the nearly 40 years they’ve spent as Otsego business owners. The two worked as teachers for Otsego Public Schools and even met while Georgia was student teaching at Otsego High School.  

“He was just this really nice looking bachelor,” Georgia Newman said. “We didn’t meet until 1963— He’s seven years older than I and I missed him by a year as a student.”

After spending a year on her own teaching in South Haven, Roger and Georgia married and eventually moved back to Otsego to buy the antique mall building from

Roger Newman’s father. It has been in his family for the better part of 60 years.  

“I’ve been associated with this building since 1950,” Roger Newman said. “I was a teenager when my dad bought it—so I was painting, scraping, fixing, insulating (and) whatever.”

“He knocked the walls down in the 1960s and made it a Gamble-Skogmo (store). (Georgia and I) came back in 1976 and took over the store—called it Newman’s Skogmo department store. (Meanwhile) the big box stores were coming out here, like Big Wheel and Ames and we couldn’t buy the stuff for as cheap as they were selling it.

“They were like the Walmarts and Meijers then—they took the market away from us— but (eventually) they got overrun by those two out there,” he said, pointing down M-89, where Ostego’s Walmart and Meijer are located today.

According to Georgia New­man, the big box stores were determined to run her and her husband out of business.

“People would actually come in and inventory our merchandise to see what we were selling—as they were eating us up,” she said. “(Finally) we just had to liquidate everything and were left with this big empty building.

“After two years (of owning a furniture store) Roger says to me one day ‘We’re working too hard for the money we’re making;’ (meanwhile) antique malls were popping up all over the place.”

“I thought about it—it just seemed like a good idea—no employees, no inventory,” she said. “And (here we are) 22 years later.”

After all this time at the antique mall, Roger and Georgia both said they will miss the people the most, vendors as well as customers.

“I tell you,” Roger Newman said, “You meet so many different people—just look at the traffic we’ve got—so many cars driving by—(it’s been) interesting to see people from all over.”

Georgia Newman said she and her husband plan on travelling between Arizona, California and Michigan throughout retirement and will sell off their remaining merchandise periodically throughout the fall.

The two will also seek a buyer for the building; currently, Otsego Main Street is exploring concepts for the space and may soon search for an investor.

“The building will be for sale, sooner rather than later,” Geor­gia Newman said. “I just want somebody to love it—I have so much confidence in Molly (Wieber) and the

Main Street program that I think, whatever they would think is best.”

“It would just be wonderful to see something that’s going to bring people downtown.”

For more information on dates of the liquidation sale, visit their Facebook page or Georgia’s Jewelry Art on Facebook.

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