Interior of Alan Robandt & Company.

Tom Jolly (Left) and Alan Robandt.

If this past summer found you thinking that Harbor Country is starting to feel a little crowded, you’re not alone. Alan Robandt and Thomas Jolly, two beloved Chicago antique dealers, are among those who have recently staked out new territory in quiet Buchanan, Michigan (about 20 miles inland from touristy New Buffalo), for just that reason. Their new shops, Alan Robandt & Company (114 E. Front St., 312-560-7482) and Redbud Home and Garden (107 E. Front St., 312-217-2147;, respectively, are just the beginning of the renaissance the two have in mind for this sleepy old mill town.

"We’re envisioning art galleries, a wine and cheese shop, and at least one upscale restaurant," says Jolly, who became mesmerized by the 19th-century buildings in Buchanan’s tiny downtown, along with the rolling hills of the surrounding countryside, two years ago while visiting a friend who had bought property on nearby Madron Lake. (Several new vacation homes in the area start at $500,000, says Jolly, indicating that the customers are there.)

When he found out that Robandt had bought an 1863 building in downtown Buchanan with the intention of rehabbing it and relocating his Chicago antique business there, Jolly bought a building (and then a few more), as well. Robandt opened his shop this past summer, offering a funky mix of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century furniture and accessories, including mid-century modern and industrial pieces. Jolly’s more countryish shop—featuring a lot of painted 19th-century American pieces and a new line of English country-style furniture that he designed—opens this month (he still has his shop in River North). Watch for a more fully transformed Buchan-  an in the next couple of years.



Next: Destination: Buchanan, MI



(Above) Exterior of Pears Mill. (Below left) interior of Alan Robandt & Company, (Below right) Interior of Pears Mill.

Buchanan is a charming year-round town with a population of about 5,000 and a downtown with a working grist mill and a creek running through it. For sightseeing tips, we hit up antique shop owner, architecture buff, and Chicago transplant Alan Robandt, and did some digging around of our own.

Sites/Activities: Pears Mill (121 S. Oak St., 269-695-2057) is a functioning 1850s water-powered grist mill situated along McCoy Creek. Operated by the Buchanan Preservation Society, it’s open seasonally. After Labor Day, tours are available by appointment.

Open year-round and located in a mid-century Prairie-style building, the Buchanan Art Center (117 W. Front St., 269-697-4005.) has three galleries featuring work by artists who live within a 50-mile radius.

Fernwood Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve (13988 Range Line Rd., Niles, 269-695-6491; in nearby Niles has miles of trails—many of them lighted after dark during the winter—that are great for woodsy walks.

Architecture lovers will get a kick out of driving around the residential neighborhoods just north and south of West Front Street and taking in 160 years of American residential architecture, says Robandt. He suggests scoping out Greek Revival gems at 307 W. Front St. and 201 N. Moccasin St., the 1870s Italianate at 203 W. Front St.; and, at 306 Lake St., a completely restored early 20th-century Craftsman bungalow.

Interior of Rebud Home and Garden

The countryside to the north, west, and northwest offers great drives, as well. You’re in the heart of wine country here, with wineries that offer tastings year-round, minutes away. Boyle Lake Road and Madron Lake Road are particularly magnificent, as they wind through forests and past vineyards. Warren Woods Road will take you the 22 miles back to Red Arrow Highway and the lakeshore.

Food: Buchananites’ favorite breakfast-only spot is Back Door Cafe (115 N. Red Bud Trail, 269-695-1332). Robandt swears by the hearty Egg Mess. Grab lunch at Memories Tavern, 215 E. Front St., 269-695-2223, home of the monster-sized Booster Burger. 

Lodging: Robandt recommends The Inn at Saint Mary’s, about 12 miles away on the St. Mary’s College campus, adjacent to the University of Notre Dame, 53993 Indiana State Rte. 933, South Bend, Ind., 547-217-4641.