Midwest Modern Moments- Party Stores
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Turns out the term "party store" is a purely Michigan thing. The rest of the world probably knows them as convenience stores, general stores, bodegas. And if you Google "party store" you will get a list of stores that sell party supplies like paper plates, balloons, and napkins.
Party Store Definition and History Here's my Michigan definition of a party store: a party store is basically a liquor store with a small selection of food, snacks, and dining utensils. Like if you're driving home from work and decide to throw a party that night. You can stop at a party store to get everything you need for a basic party. Hot dogs & buns, plates, cups, chips, and beer. Instant party! I know some gas stations have all these things too. But, in my definition, a party store does not sell gasoline. Totally different thing!
My understanding of the evolution of party stores is that they originated as trading posts. So as soon as humans began travelling away from certain resources to areas with other resources, those paths would end up with spots where different resources from the different areas were collected and traded/purchased. Many of today's large cities started as trading posts. New York, New York and Venice, Italy are common examples.
Of course in the U.S, the Europeans hit the East Coast and spread westward. So as travel progressed, so did trading posts. As areas became settled, those trading posts tended to turn into general stores aka party stores. Now, your average size town probably has 2 to 3 party stores.
Party Stores Are Great Because...
They have it all. And besides all the name brands that we're all used to, I love that party stores will typically have a few local goodies from the cottage food industry. Some local beef jerky, some grandma made fudge, crazy weird pickled foods, that kind of thing.
Some of these items make the stores a destination stop. I recently got to take a girls weekend away. We booked an Air Bnb in the middle of nowhere in the woods up north outside of Ludington. Myself, my friend Emily, and my friend Melissa (who were kind enough to join me in the video of this episode) each brought food and drink. Emily stopped specifically at 2 different party stores; one for meat and one for bread. It was a good move on her part- both were delicious. It's one of the joys of party stores; local delights that you stumble upon or only find out about from someone in the know.
Party stores that are around vacation destinations often have more seasonal type items in addition to the typical party store goods. When you go up north in Michigan during the summer, you are guaranteed to find sunscreen and pool floaties and hand warmers and ice scrapers for your car in the winter.
It reminds me of kind of a scene in Jaws. It's kind of an under the radar moment, but the party store owner is crabbing at his distributor because his beach stuff is arriving late and the tourists will be there before the goods arrive:
"This stuff and gonna help me in August. The summer dinks come down here in June. You haven't got one thing on here I ordered; not a beach umbrella, not a sun lounger, no beach balls!"
The scene above is in more of a general store but throw in some alcohol and you've got yourself a party store.
You can also meet all your souvenir needs at most tourist destination party stores. They're like airport gift shops and grocery stores all rolled into one. And almost all of them have bundles of firewood for sale outside. And of course ice.
Favorite Party Store
In the trip to Ludington mentioned above; Emily, Melissa, and I discuss our favorite party stores. We came to the conclusion that there are basically 3 factors: location/convenience, selection, and nostalgia. We may or may not be 4 cocktails deep in the video, but you can hear us talk about our favorites and why. Spoiler alert: my favorite is the party store my dad used to drive us to when we would just drive the back roads looking for deer. Dad would get a 40 of Miller Lite, and I would get a back of Skittles. Dad would call them Skeeters and of course that was hilarious to 7 year old me.
Party Store Cocktail: The Party Store Love Potion #9
The cocktail we indulged in in the above video totally reminds me of a party store drink. Mainly the peach schnapps. Not sure why, but peach schnapps just screams "there wasn't much to choose from" at the party store. But a peach schnapps cocktail doesn't have to be boring. Black raspberries were in season so that was the garnish. Throw them in your drink and by the time you're finished you have a little boozy berry treats at the bottom of your glass.
Tip: this recipe multiplies easily. I made it ahead of time and put it in some jugs for transport. Something about the 3 days it was in the fridge prior to drinking, really allowed the flavors to blend and the peach schnapps to mellow, if that's even a thing.
We also had the luxury of enjoying this adult beverage at a lakeside cabin. And if enjoying a cocktail with friends isn't enough- you can find 5 other reasons to have a lake house here...
Recipe for Party Store Love Potion #9
I hope you enjoyed this little nugget of the midwest. I hope you get a chance to hit up a party store and give this drink a try. Cheers!