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Michigan Made: Leon and Lulu, Three Cats Café is in the business of smiles

Leon and Lulu, Three Cats Café is in the business of smiles
Leon and Lulu, Three Cats Café is in the business of smiles 03:05

(CBS DETROIT) - Do you remember the old Ambassador Skating Rink in Clawson? Or how about the movie theatre next door? If you haven't been out that way in a while, things have changed, but the nostalgia of what once was is very much still part of the present. 

"We want every visit here to make you happy," said Mary Liz Curtin, the owner of Leon & Lulu and Three Cats restaurant.

"What we sell here is fun and happiness and, you know, a couple of cheap laughs ... We're more than just the things that we sell."

The retail store is housed in the former Ambassador Skating Rink.

"We still have the roller skates. We have the practice marks on the floor. We've got the hockey scoreboard, and we do still sometimes have roller skating working here. We still have the trophies," Curtin said.

The Three Cats restaurant is in the former movie theater next door.

"We made it better than it originally was, so we restored the marquee, we brought back a lot of memorabilia, and made it look like a vintage movie theater. We sell things from 50 cents to 'Holy crap, is that expensive.' We have things for kids. We've got furniture, clothing, gifts, decorative accessories. The largest collection of non-educational literature probably in the state. We have an inappropriate card for every occasion. Our wine shop, All American Wine's, really interesting things, you won't find any place else," she said.

Profit isn't a driving force in the business, according to Curtin. 

"If you leave here smiling, we've done our job. Whether you have a bag in your hand or not. We need more joy in our lives. We need more interaction with each other. There is an epidemic of loneliness in the United States, and shopping, especially independent retail, is one of the places to help combat that."

Curtin uses both shops to house local charity events.

"We have a fashion show that generally benefits somebody who's looking for clothing for women. We've done pet rescues. We have done blood drives; anything that we can do to help the community."

The businesses also feature local artists.

"We firmly believe if independent retailers like us don't support those new guys, they're not going to grow into the next, new big guy. So we are always buying things from people who are making things on their kitchen counters or in their garages, and it adds a lot of charm and a lot of fun," she said.

Curtin says community support helps keep neighborhoods thriving.

"Support your local businesses and remember local business isn't just gift shops and restaurants. It is the tire change place. It's all the mom-and-pop business ... All of us contribute to the local economy, and the money you spend with us stays here. The money you spend here stays within the tax base, helps the local people, plus, we're more fun." 

On Sunday, Sept. 17, Leon and Lulu is hosting a Michigan Made artisan market at their store in Clawson.

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