Michigan's Small Town Treasures: Johnny Blue and a Bit of Fun and Funk in Saugatuck and Douglas

by Julie Royce /
Julie Royce's picture
Jun 01, 2008 / 2 comments

Johnny Blue and a Bit of Fun and Funk in Saugatuck and Douglas

Saugatuck is another west Michigan town that was born to the fur-trade and then lumber before transforming into the Art Spot of Michigan. In between, the little town tried to find itself an economic base growing produce and farming and somehow was blessed to side-step the great fires that burned out its neighboring villages.  

One local story says that during its struggling era an out-of state visitor offered to buy land from an area farmer, William McVea.  McVea ran to his newly installed telephone and placed a call to a surveyor insisting that the surveyor come first thing in the morning before the man changed his mind: “These fools want to pay $500 for a pile of sand in my cow pasture.”  We can only speculate what that cow pasture is worth today.

Saugatuck is on everyone’s list of “must visit” towns each summer and generally a visitor will want to stop at neighboring Douglas; unfortunately you can no longer visit one of my favorite Douglas spots: Johnny Blue’s Gallery. The gallery has closed and for the many loyal customers, as well as visitors to the area, that would be a tragedy, but for the fact that Johnny Blue is now exhibiting his funky metal sculptures at the Water Street Gallery. However, the Water Street Gallery has moved from its old location in Saugatuck to 98 Center Street in Douglas. The Gallery is open Thursday to Monday and displays the contemporary sculpture, ceramics, painting and photography of sixty local artists.

The James Brandess Studio and Gallery, 238 Butler Street, makes a great stop while in the Saugatuck area and is open daily. This one-man gallery showcases area landscapes, still-lifes and portraits and there is nothing stuffy about the attitude; Jim believes art is for everyone and encourages new collectors with affordable and worthy art.

Good Goods, 106 Mason Street, open 7 days, provides another “don’t miss” opportunity to explore fine art and American craft wearables, jewelry, paintings and sculpture. It is functional art that is also fun.

All of that shopping will help you work up an appetite, so stop at Marro’s, 147 Water Street, open Tuesday to Sunday in the summer. This is a bit on the pricey side but locals describe it with words like “amazing” and “unbelievable.”  For 36 years, Marro’s has been serving what may be the best Italian dishes on the Sunset Coast.

Afterwards, head across the river to Oval Beach. Reached by a forested, winding road, this is one of the best beaches on the Sunset Coast of Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan 


Julie Albrecht Royce, Michigan Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press.   She writes a bi-weekly column for wanderingeducators.com, entitled Michigan's Small Town Treasures.



Comments (2)

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    16 years 2 weeks ago

    Julie - you've written of one of my very favorite towns in the world! We'll have to head there this week, I have a taste for Marro's now...


    Jessie Voigts

    Publisher, wanderingeducators.com

  • Ed Forteau

    16 years 2 weeks ago

    If you want to know the best places to go in Michigan, read Julie's book - and start planning some trips to see the best that Michigan has to offer.

    Ed Forteau Publisher, WanderingEducators.com

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