When you step foot in Found, a charming antique and gift shop in Kerrytown, it’s easy to draw comparisons between the store and the city in which it resides.
For example: Ann Arbor is home to individuals with a vast array of backgrounds and stories and past lives. In one short walk through the downtown neighborhoods, you’re almost guaranteed to find students who arrived in Ann Arbor from New York City or California, business owners who came to make use of the vibrant downtown atmosphere, and children who have never known Ann Arbor as anything but home.
Found has a similarly eclectic nature: One lap around the store, and you’ll find a bright orange electrical box that hails from Ted’s Garage in Ypsilanti, a handmade satchel constructed from leather from WWII gun slings and vintage fabric from the late 1800s, and a made-in-Michigan reclaimed wood sign that reads, “The Lake House.”
These people and products all hold different origin stories, but, somehow all found themselves in a Midwestern college town. Perhaps the love that the people of Ann Arbor have for Found, then, is partly because the shop is a microcosm of the city itself. It’s a quirky, idiosyncratic place, but one step inside and you feel welcomed as if it’s your own home.
Found has existed as a brick-and-mortar store in Kerrytown since 2005, but for founder and owner Mary Cambruzzi, it has always existed— at first, as a seedling of an idea forming in the back of her mind.
“I grew up going to auction sales with my grandfather even when I was a little girl,” she recalls. “I always enjoyed rearranging my room and doing things like that, so I think it kind of came naturally out of that.”
As Cambruzzi grew up, so did her passion for display, and her desire to rearrange her bedroom turned into a desire to rearrange her booth at an antique shop.
“I had certain kinds of vintage things that I really liked, but what I enjoyed more than anything was display,” she explains. “I had a little booth and I found myself always wanting to kind of rearrange other people’s booths to make them look better, but, of course, I couldn’t do that.”
Cambruzzi took this desire and molded it into a concrete goal. In 2005, she opened Found, an entire shop over which she could exert her creative influence. From the very beginning, Cambruzzi ensured that every aspect of Found was evidence of her careful eye and creative spirit.
“When I first started thirteen years ago, my concept was to have vintage or antique things that had a modern vibe and modern use for them, plus work by artists who use recycled and reclaimed things,” she says. “I would find things that were in terrible shape or dirty, buy them at good prices, spend the time to clean them up, and then resell them in the shop.”
Eventually, Found grew beyond that initial concept, as Cambruzzi began to sell things like candles and homegoods that she sourced from wholesale shows and markets, tables from recycled materials made by Paul Hickman at Urban Ashes, and artwork from local artists like Chris Roberts-Antieau.
However, throughout its expansion, Found never lost the distinct aesthetic that comes from its origins as an antique shop.
“I think what kind of sets us apart is the combination of things,” Cambruzzi notes. “I’m always looking for things that kind of fit with the aesthetic that we’ve gotten to be known for, which is things with good, clean, simple lines, an uncluttered look. I walk by most showrooms or most aisles in showrooms and don’t see anything that I think would be perfect for this store. I think, okay, I like those, but they don’t fit with what I’m doing.”
Found was formed thanks to Camrbuzzi’s passion and creativity, but what does she cite as the reason for its continued success?
“I have the best customers,” she says confidently, referring to the Ann Arbor residents and visitors who regularly visit her store. “It’s a city where people like things that are a little bit different than what they see every place else. Just as an example, we have a lot of kind of sciencey kinds of gifts, and with Ann Arbor being such a well-educated community, it’s easy to sell smart gifts like that.”
She also notes that businesses in Ann Arbor foster a particularly supportive community for one another. “When I go to shows to buy, or when I’m buying from an artist, I always ask who else in Ann Arbor carries them, and if somebody else does, I don’t,” she explains. “There’s a whole group of us who does that. We’ve kind of made an informal pledge to each other that we’re not going to have exactly the same things. That makes it better for our customers, so they’re able to shop a whole group of stores and see so many things that are different, rather than going from one store to the next and seeing the same thing in each of them.”
This type of policy, that values customer experience over, perhaps, profitability or competitiveness, makes perfect sense in a city that is known for its sense of community. Cambruzzi made a smart business decision in choosing to open her whimsical, charismatic shop in a whimsical, charismatic town.