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Nominee’s nameMary Liz Curtin
SEEN Changemaker CategoryBusiness
Mary Liz Curtin and her husband take pride in the restorative reuse of two vacant buildings in the small town of Clawson, Michigan. In April 2006, the couple opened Leon & Lulu, a 15,000 square foot destination retail store. Located in a historic roller rink, it is a shop unlike any other and has won numerous local and national awards. Leon & Lulu, profitable since its fourth month in business, is an example of building a brand in an out of the way location, using skillful marketing, terrific product and excellent customer service to attract shoppers from the entire metropolitan area and beyond.
In 2015, the couple purchased the former movie theater next door, gutted it and renamed it “The Show” setting it up as a retail annex with additional furniture, made in Michigan products, specialty gifts and unique greeting cards. The Three Cats Café is in the front of The Show and serves pastries, coffee, tea, soups, salads, and sandwiches in the expanded 9,700 square foot space – it even has a bar for wine, beer and craft cocktails. The venue is undergoing a remodel and will soon reopen as the Three Cats Restaurant serving American-style cuisine served as small plates and made with Michigan-made products and fresh, locally sourced ingredients. It will be a casual fine dining and retail fusion with local celebrity chef Matt Prentice managing the modern kitchen and engaging dining experience.
Mary Liz Curtin is passionate about independent retail. Her knowledge of all aspects of the gift, craft and home industries gives her a unique point of view, encompassing the needs of retailers, vendors and sales representatives. She is also a heck of a retail shopper and loves to crawl malls, discover downtowns and walk through the Web to find ideas and inspirations for her presentations. With over 35 years of hands-on experience in the gift and home industries, Mary Liz is an internationally acknowledged expert in independent retail and has advised numerous manufacturers on marketing, sales and management issues with her unique brand of Sales and Marketing Therapy.
Although part of Curtin’s retail success always depends on maintaining a wicked sense of humor –good economy or bad, she is seriously serious about business and making it work. She has advised companies large and small, drawn crowds at trade show lectures and engaged (and taught) those who listened with her real-life examples of what works and what doesn’t.
Mary Liz is a humorous and engaging speaker, delighting audiences internationally at trade shows, sales meetings and conventions with her stories of how to build and market a brand, run a better business and maintain a mom-and-pop retail store without losing your sanity…or your marriage.
Mary Liz Curtin is past chair of Gift for Life, sits on the Retail Advisory Boards for both the Dallas Market Center and the Gift and Home Channel, and chairs the Clawson Downtown Development Authority’s Board of Directors.
Mary Liz lives in Michigan with her patient and understanding husband, two generally well-behaved children and their dogs Spot and Bertie Wooster, all of whom work in the store. Most important of all, Mary Liz is a shopkeeper. She now refers to her business as a “Mom and Pop and Pop” shop with the soon-to-be-expanded Three Cats Restaurant which will combine casual fine dining and retail in a unique undertaking with local celeb chef, Matt Prentice.
Mary Liz Curtin makes a difference in the small community of Clawson, Michigan and beyond Metro Detroit. She is passionate about people and takes personal satisfaction in knowing she’s done something to help others.
In addition to the fabulous merchandise and friendly, fun atmosphere, Leon & Lulu and neighboring Three Cats Café serve as unique event space. Of 64 events held at the store last year, 51 benefited local charities, including the American Red Cross, Cass Community Social Services, Karmanos Cancer Institute, American Diabetes Association, Gift for Life and Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA).
Mary Liz also promotes the annual Clawson Fourth of July parade, Clawson High School Marching Band, and the town’s pub crawls which usually start at Leon & Lulu. She is a passionate civic booster and chairs the Clawson Downtown Development Authority’s Board of Directors in support of its mission: “To ensure our downtown is a great place to shop, work, enjoy and invest while protecting and enhancing our unique character and history.”
The SEEN Changemaker Awards are brought to you by
Peter and Danialle Karmanos