Faces in the Crowd: Robin and Mike Kruskamp

July 5, 2019


By Gene Bodnar

I stopped in Clarabella Flowers located at 1395 N. McEwan, introduced myself to the owner, Robin Kruskamp, and asked her for an interview.  She agreed. The interview was scheduled for the following day about a half hour before the store officially opened. When I arrived, she was accompanied by Mike, her husband of 39 years.  I was welcomed to sit on one of the three chairs on one side of a long, marble-topped table that serves as the main counter in the store, and Robin sat on the other side. She pointed out that Mike had designed and built the table to her specifications; she wanted her customers to feel totally at ease while discussing orders or giving advice to folks who are struggling with their house plants (she has a definite knack for keeping house plants alive).

Robin was born in Clare Hospital in 1960.  Her family lived on a farm in Harrison on which they raised cattle, a few horses, and put up hay each year. Her parents have owned the farm for about 60 years now.  Her mom, Jean Cook, owned a flower shop aptly named, The Flower Shoppe, in Harrison, and Robin spent many hours working with her mother there.
    Robin attended elementary, middle, and high school in the Harrison Public School system, graduating in 1979.  During her senior year, she became the first employee to be hired by the newly opened Quik Stop, a gas station and convenience store at the south end of Harrison.  She also worked with Mary Jane Hilton cooking at church camp and catering. In her youth, she belonged to the 4-H Club, where she showed horses and garnered a few ribbons. 4-H is a hands-on learning and education program for kids that builds skills like responsibility, resiliency and hard work.
    She married Mike in 1980.  They have two sons, David and Michael, who both attended Clare High School.  There they wrestled, ran cross country and played football. Currently, David, who was born in 1982, is one of the managers for United Apartments in Mt.  Pleasant. He’s married to Kat, a school teacher in the Clare Middle School. Michael, who was born in 1984, is the Director of Clinical Pharmacology at McLaren Hospital in Mt. Pleasant.  He’s married to Veronica, an ICU Nurse.
    In the late 1980s, Robin and Mike bought a home on 301 E. Fifth St. in Clare, which was the Cornerstone Adult Foster Care Home.  It required a great deal of remodeling and renovation, and they converted it to maintain private bedrooms. When fully operational, it housed 6 residents plus their family members upstairs.  In 1996, they closed it, but still owned the home until 2003, when it was sold to the perfect buyer.
    During this period, Robin also painted signs and billboards.  Soon, she and Mike began working for a company that maintained service warranties for manufactured homes, which required them to travel in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and other states, repairing the homes as required by the warranties.  Of course, this required lots of traveling, so they spent a great deal of time living out of their pickup truck and trailer. They enjoyed the adventure.
    They worked for Ultramodular Homes on Colonville Rd during the boy’s high school years, but they returned back to service warranty in 2002.  A year later, they bought a small home near Long Lake.
    Since the housing market was crashing by 2007, they decided to move to Wyoming, where they built a house in Gillette.  In 2008, Mike started attending college in Casper, Wyoming, and was hired by Black Hills Power while attending. Robin worked at one of the biggest flower shops in Wyoming during this period and acquired a lot of new knowledge and techniques. They moved to Gillette and she worked for another shop there that also filled her head with new ideas.  
    In 2009, their first grand daughter was born.  The following year, although they loved Wyoming, they relocated to West Olive, Michigan, another beautiful area, and Mike began working for Consumers Energy.
    In 2011, Robin began to capitalize on her artistic talent after learning pastels in a course at a local Hobby Lobby. She now paints pastels of animals and portraits of people. Eventually, some of her pieces were accepted into juried shows in the Holland and Grand Haven area. Several pieces of her artwork hang on the walls of Clarabella Flowers, and she showed me a few portraits on her cell phone — highly detailed work filled with beauty and artistry.
    Today, they live in the White Birch Lakes Community.  Last year, they bought Clarabella Flowers from Carla Hilton with whom she had worked for years. At the time, it was in a small building, and they decided to move the flower shop to its current location.  She loves to stay busy. Incidentally, years ago, Mike’s mother was a waitress in the same building, and he can stand in the same spot where he once washed dishes for the former owners.
    Yes, Robin and Mike have traveled a lot and worked in a lot of different jobs.  Mike said, “You see, we are basically vagabonds based out of Clare.”
    Clarabella Flowers sells not only flowers but also house plants, engraved cement stools, and candy bouquets (just like flower bouquets but filled only with candy instead of flowers).  If you have a problem with your house plant, bring it in to Robin, who can offer great advice on any problem. She has a rescue plant area at her home. She can work with you on any level you wish for weddings, funerals, school events, or home décor.  All flowers and plants are sent out in containers that make them easier to keep and maintain. She loves to participate in the milestones in people’s lives, including anniversaries, weddings, graduations, and birthdays. She enjoys meeting new people and welcomes them to this great community.
    Robin says her three passions are her grandkids, art, and flowers.  She speaks about each of these subjects with ardent enthusiasm.
    Robin and Mike came up with three words that describe Robin – Spontaneous, Creative, and Problem Solver.  Mike also describes her as “a calm organizer who has a knack for taking ideas people have and running with them.  Those who ask for themes or who bring objects by are delighted by her ability to incorporate them into designs.”
    She once provided all the flower arrangements for her sister-in-law’s sister’s wedding, which was held in Romania.  She needed dozens of vases for all the flowers, so they had several pieces of baggage of the various participants packed with the required vases.  She had no idea about any of the decorations expected to be at the wedding, but it turned out that everything, including the vases, was perfectly coordinated.
    Robin loves to read, especially history.  She enjoys any good book that has a good plot, but doesn’t like a weird book that makes no sense. She also likes long walks, hiking and traveling to new places.
    Robin and Mike own a family cat named Snowflake that invariably gets car sick while riding in a car.  They have a cat door with steps up to it for Snowflake in their home. The cat loves to sit in the door, half in and half out, just waiting to stalk anything that moves.
    If you need flowers for any occasion, or if you need help with an ailing house plant, or if you merely like to learn more about flowers, stop in to Clarabella Flowers and talk with Robin.  She loves meeting new people; she’s a great conversationalist; and she has a seat at her marble-topped table just waiting for you. If you’d like to place an order or ask for further information, her number is (989) 802-0102.

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