History of Wooden Skate
The business called Wooden Skate officially began in 1973. As the school year ended at Bridgeport High School (in the "thumb" of Michigan), Gary Durow left his position teaching commercial classes and running a co-operative education program, and with his wife, Diane, moved to the Lansing area. The couple had already been part-time antiques dealers for years, working shows and markets in their spare time, but were about to make their hobby a serious business.
For several years, the Durows contented themselves with running that business and starting a family (daughters Kim and Alissa). But by 1978, things were visibly changing. That year their first jewelry store ("Estate Jewelry & Gems") was opened in rooms attached to the back of their house.
From 1980 to 1982, the original antiques shop -- a mishmash of utilitarian structures -- was being renovated with architectural antiques to the charm and elegance of a replica 1880's town. Then Gary had his wish to become "Mayor" of a town: Durowville.
Over the years, a growing furniture inventory (including many shipments brought in from Europe) was housed in an antique barn, space above a mini-storage business, and a warehouse in Williamston. For a brief period (1987-89) "Wooden Skate East" sold furniture from a Queen Anne Victorian home in Williamston, beautifully displayed in room groupings.
In 1989, the jewelry business moved across from the house into a large new space in the main store, elegantly designed for just that purpose. There it expanded its range of merchandise and services, becoming a jewelry store worthy of consistently being voted Best Jeweler (out of 60 in Ingham County) in the People's Choice Awards.
In 1990, the Durows constructed a retail complex on farm property they owned at Jolly and Hagadorn Roads. Farm Village Antique Mall housed over 45 dealers in fine antiques and collectibles, sharing the property with Spud's Shop (the original antiquer on the site) and The Garden Barn (specializing in antiques, gifts, and botanicals), as well as several non-retail tenants: Happendance and Vineyard Christian Fellowship, who remain in the complex since its sale.
Tour guides scheduled stops at Wooden Skate because of the incomparable shopping opportunity, but also because of the charm and distinction of the site. The structure incorporates beautiful stained glass, tin ceilings, antique stairways, oak columns and woodwork, Outside, in addition to the vintage storefront, the beautifully landscaped grounds carry a Victorian 2-story child's playhouse and a wonderful gazebo.
Another unique feature is the Living Cemetery, with its one-way sign pointing upward (to heaven).
Each hand-carved wooden tombstone bears the name of a real person, still alive at the time, and all the inscriptions (mostly humorous) are unique, written by the individuals themselves.
The first was the owner's:
"Here Lies Gary Durow,
The only actual body buried in the Living Cemetery is the Durow's dog, Strudel, who lies in a place of honor next to an antique fire hydrant.