LivingMichelle Adams

The Counting House: A 1920s Bank Turned Home Store

LivingMichelle Adams
The Counting House: A 1920s Bank Turned Home Store

Out of the cold, through great, old, heavy doors, and into the warmth. There’s a gas fireplace aglow at the far end of the room, and a bark-encased Whiskey River candle by We Took to the Woods, just lit, gives off the scent of real fire. A sofa piled with wool blankets and a coffee table loaded with books suggest a nap and a reading binge. This is The Counting House. And it’s as close to home as a shop gets.


Against the nearest wall, there is the cabinet—a family heirloom—lovingly scribbled upon, with pencil marks of all colors: brick red, dandelion, Granny Smith apple, robin’s egg blue. “We’ve had that forever,” says the shop’s owner, Megan Adams, who’s the sister of The Maryn’s Michelle Adams. “When I was little, that’s where I kept my stockpile of art supplies.”


If it weren’t for a grand old bank building on Wealthy Street, this shop might still be a work in progress. “I looked at a few places that I really wasn’t excited about, and my realtor ended up asking me if I wanted to go look at this property that wasn’t even listed yet,” owner Megan Adams recalls. “He brought me here, and I just knew it was the one and I wouldn’t find a space that I loved more. So my whole timeline jumped up six months.”


Now, with The Counting House, a 1920s bank turned home store that’s been open since November 10 at 758 Wealthy Street SE in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Adams has a 2,187-square-foot stash of her most favorite things: woodsy-smelling candles, local pottery, Filson barrel packs, Pendleton wraps, Faribault beer cozies, Michigan-made pancake mix, and Michigan-harvested maple syrup.


“Even as a kid, I would set up a fake little store with my stuffed animals and dolls.”


It’s as if the cabinet became a building, with 24-foot ceilings and a huge cash vault in the basement. “And that vault still has all of the original painted details,” Adams says. “I’m having it and the whole lower floor turned into a private entertainment area.” There’s even a separate side entrance and a set of stairs that wind down to The Counting House’s underground rooms. “I think it would be fun to collaborate with other local businesses for afterhours, hosting a mixology class in the vault with a nearby bar or a flower-arranging class with a Grand Rapids florist,” Adams says. “There’s just so much space down there, and I want to make good use of it.” For the moment, though, The Counting House’s sales floor, which used to be the bank lobby, is the only part of the building open to the shop’s visitors.


A roaring fire, lots of plaid, wide-brimmed hats, a dozen sets of antlers, and some empty beer barrels—just several slices of life in Michigan. “I got the barrels from New Holland Brewing,” Adams says. “I knew that I wanted them from a local brewery, and New Holland happens to be one of my favorites.”


Constructed in 1922 as a branch of the Kent County Savings Bank, the building boasts certain other original details, aside from the vault, that have also survived the last century. Much of the floor is covered in Roaring Twenties black-and-gray tile work. The bank counter remains, too. (“Now it’s our jewelry counter,” Adams points out. “It was near the door, but it was too small to be a cash wrap, so we found another purpose for it.”) And then there is the night drop box: “People try to open it all of the time,” she laughs. “It rattles through the whole place. But you can’t open it.”

Despite being nearly 100 years old, the building, which was most recently home to a bookstore, only needed some cosmetic work before becoming The Counting House. “The fireplace, which was definitely not original, got a serious makeover,” Adams says. Fresh concrete was poured to repair sections of the floor that had been badly damaged. Two partial walls were installed to create fitting rooms. A big, beautiful 20-foot showpiece of a showcase, crafted by Ann Arbor–based furniture designer Walt Swanson, was installed beside Adams’s beloved scribbled-upon cabinet. She also found the enormous antique general-store counter and cash wrap that welcomes the shop’s visitors as they walk through those great, old, heavy doors.


The Counting House’s customers are men and women and kiddos, too. “We have a little bit of everything,” Adams points out, “and it’s nice seeing all different ages, whole families, and even little kids coming in here, and everyone being surprised to find so many things that they like.”


From there, it was just a matter of stocking The Counting House’s shelves with Adams’s most favorite things: a carefully chosen inventory of classic goods that, like the bank building itself, recall a robust, mythic America, with a particular slant toward the stylish ruggedness of the settled frontier, the Great Lakes states, and the wider Midwest.


“I only wanted to offer things that people can hold on to for years and years,” Adams says. “And I wanted it to feel like Michigan—to reflect the kinds of lives that people lead, and our lifestyle. We all know how cold it can get here. Everyone could use a good flannel.”

Written by S. Pajot  |  Photographed by Marta Xochilt Perez  |  Produced and Art Directed by Michelle Adams