This Northern Michigan Antiques Shop Is Like a “Curiosity Cabinet Come to Life”
Welcome to August.
Published Jan 27, 2023 1:20 AM
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In our Ask a Shopkeeper series, we tap the coolest store owners we know for a tour of their space and to ask them what items are trending right now—and beyond. For this installment, Jenna Zerbo, owner of August, takes us inside her northern Michigan decor shop, where vintage finds effortlessly mingle with thoughtfully curated artisan brands.
You opened your doors in the summer of 2022. Tell us how August came to be.
My mother had been taking me to auctions and flea markets since I could walk, showing me that newer isn’t always better. A misspelled word on a postcard, the worn grooves on a well-loved bread board—all those objects tell a story. August has been a dream of mine since childhood, and it grew out of a deep love for antiques.
My biggest inspirations in life have been those who have created little “worlds” within their shops, such as Bob Melet of Melet Mercantile, the vintage clothing showroom in [New York City’s] Soho where I worked for a summer. That’s the feeling I like to give to the spaces I touch—like you’ve stepped into a curiosity cabinet come to life. I’ve always had a knack for taking a space and developing it into something emotional—warm, cozy, alive, and full of history to share. That was my impetus to create a retail shop.
Even your storefront has a story to tell. What was the renovation process like?
It was so important to me to bring the space back to its original 1890s roots, when it served as a post depot for the Grand Rapids Railroad. The shop had gone through quite a few transformations already and there was lingering evidence of each one.
We had to strip the walls to their lathe and brick, then we resurfaced them with beadboard and built out a bank of wood shelving. We removed what felt like miles of track lighting across the beautiful tin ceilings and installed new porcelain Leviton sockets. We finished those with big incandescent bulbs and ruffled ceramic pendant lamps from DeVol that cast the perfect glow on our window displays. We repainted the entire space in Simply White by Benjamin Moore for a clean yet warm feel. Fortunately, the original wood flooring was kept throughout the building’s life, so we just gave it a good cleaning and coat of wax sealant.
And at the front, we added a solid wood door with unlacquered brass knobs and fittings. The finishing touch was a solid brass schoolhouse exterior sconce from Shiplights that hangs right above the door. It’s the perfect welcoming beacon.
How did you choose the name August?
I was given the middle name August, after my grandfather, August Zerbo, who emigrated from Italy in 1927. I have such a strong connection to my Italian heritage, and it’s an undercurrent for all that I do. The intensity, the passion, the fiery love of family, the culture of food and sharing and entertaining—it all deeply informs the products I bring into the shop and how I imagine my clients using them.
August also happens to be the best month here in northern Michigan. The sun takes on a delicious golden amber hue, the wildflowers are dancing in the fields, and it’s the height of togetherness up here. Everyone is gathering for their last hurrah at beach cottages before returning to the reality of daily life.
What products are customers loving right now?
My most popular items are antique oil paintings and wall art. I can’t keep them in stock! Any type of bench or small, unique stool would be a close second. These items easily fill a gap in your home—whether it’s on a wall, in a mudroom, or in a bathroom—with a special bit of character.
Music that’s always playing in my store: 1960s and ’70s funk, soul, or jazz.
Instagram accounts I go to for inspo: Bode, John Derian, BDDW, Tail of the Yak, and Choosing Keeping.
Dream person to walk into August: It already happened—Kate Berry! But Paula Rubenstein would be an equally amazing contender.
Favorite nearby shops that are not my own:
AP Shop, Huzza, Elk Rapids Antiques, and Farm Club Market.
Favorite items in stock right now:
Wax Atelier long twisted candles in goldenrod, Campo de Fiori solid cast brass poppy candlesticks, Apres Ski’s Jour earrings, Siren Song’s carved hornfish comb, and the Gillian Stevens Howell coat.