Leaps of Faith: The Unicorn Feed and Supply

Unicorn Feed & Supply:

Feed Your Happy Place in Downtown Ypsi

by Tracy Scherdt

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The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into downtown Ypsilanti’s Unicorn Feed and Supply is Reginald Peppercorn, the life-size unicorn who greets you from his permanent place at the entrance. In true character of this community-centric retail shop, it was not Jen Eastridge, the owner of Unicorn Feed and Supply, who chose Reginald’s name, but the Ypsilanti community. “I had hundreds of entries in June and July of what he should be named, and then we narrowed it down to the top ten, put out a poll on social media, and they voted on Reginald Peppercorn. Some people call him ‘Reggie Pep’ for short,” said Eastridge. 

Reggie Pep is undeniably special, bringing happiness to visitors of all ages and making Unicorn Feed and Supply a special destination. Happiness is truly at the heart of Unicorn Feed and Supply, and it is the reason that Eastridge decided to open a business in Ypsilanti. “I wasn’t sure, but knew I wanted to be a part of the resurgence of downtown Ypsi. I wanted to invest in the community, and I wanted to help bring joy, because life is hard sometimes, and I choose joy. And I wanted, literally, to do something that would bring happiness to people.”

Eastridge grew up all around Ohio and moved to Ypsilanti for the first time in 2005. Her wife, P.K., had come here for a professorship at Eastern and they lived happily in College Heights. They kept their home in Ohio as well, hoping to retire there together someday. They would travel back and forth between Ypsilanti and Ohio often and shared a happy life in both places. Eastridge lived with P.K. in Ypsilanti until 2013 when P.K. was diagnosed with brain cancer and the couple moved back to ...Ohio full time. Unfortunately, P.K. passed away two years later.

This incredible loss led Eastridge to a pivotal moment in her life, and she knew that when she was able to move forward, her next chapter had to be in Ypsilanti. So, she made the daring choice to start over completely. “At 43 I sold my home that I owned in Ohio, sold and donated almost everything of 43 years of life, and gave myself a small pod of things to keep,” said Eastridge, “and one of the things I kept is my childhood sticker collection”.

You might ask, “why a sticker collection?”, and you wouldn’t be alone in wondering this. Over a year ago Eastridge was sitting with her friends and girlfriend in her friend’s kitchen, and they, too, asked about the importance of this collection. “The conversation about the sticker collection was “What is so special about it? Why keep it?” and really the answer is that it feeds my happy place. And that is it. It just makes me happy every time I look at it. And it makes other people happy.”

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This conversation about the sticker collection was also the start of Unicorn Feed and Supply, a business born out of Eastridge’s own happy place in the hope that everybody can find their happy place in the shop. “On my business card, under our logo, it says feed your unicorn, feed your happy place, because I play on the figurative idea that Unicorn Feed is feeding the magical, special place that lives inside each of us.” Eastridge even calls her staff “unicorns”, emphasizing that we’re all unicorns. 

She keeps this sticker collection at the shop, and if you care to take a look, she’s more than happy to show you. “A lot of people ask me on the daily ‘How in the world did you come up with this? What is this about?’ and I literally say happiness and some people are like ‘Hmm, is that really what it’s about?’ Yeah, actually, actually it is,” said Eastridge confidently. 

What originated as being just the sliver of a sticker shop, turned into a much bigger endeavor. Her store has become a delightful explosion of stickers, glitter, fairies, socks, stuffed animals, birthday cards, mermaid tails, candles, and room décor. Those are just a few things you’ll find in Unicorn Feed and Supply as you explore the wonderfully colorful shop. It is very important to Eastridge that she has something for everybody and that her store is inclusive. “I’m a super proud queer business owner and so I wanted a pride section that is all year long. I wanted to have a mermaid section, I wanted to have a fairy garden section, I wanted fun costume-y things for young people, and I wanted the sticker section.

In fact, the opening date for Unicorn Feed and Supply was set on Pride of last year, June 1st. Eastridge and her staff of unicorns are looking forward to this year’s Pride celebration and their one year anniversary, as well as the number of other events they have planned. In only nine short months, Eastridge has already made her commitment to the Ypsilanti community a strong pillar of her business, coordinating and participating in a diverse range of events from Girl’s Night Out to Ypsi’s First Fridays, which run from April through December. “I like the idea of being creative and working with people on what it is that makes them happy. We did a 21+ ticketed event, the Mermaid Party, in November, and that was amazing; it was at Bona Sera Underground and that was a lot of fun. We’ll do that again, that’ll be an annual event. This year I’m really focusing on upping our workshops. We have terrarium workshops coming up, nail art workshops, mermaid bath bombs, succulent planters, gratitude journaling, you name it.”

Unicorn Feed and Supply is also renovating their space now to make room for even more parties and events. Eastridge shared some of her vision for future events at the store. “I very much understand and believe that people really are more about the experience now than they are about necessarily going and getting something. And so that’s why we’re turning the old office and kitchen into a year-round workshop and party room, because we have many people come and say, ‘My 5-year-old really wants a unicorn party’ or ‘Do you throw parties here? Please?’ I would love to cater to even groups and/or businesses/offices that want to have a private party event, like an after-hours. We close at seven, so if somebody wanted to have a 21st birthday party with their friends, and they wanted to throw it here because we have adorable flasks and fun different things, you can bring your cake in here, you can serve your things and make it a fun little night or a fun place to stop in and do a private hour of shopping with just you and your girlfriends before going to dinner.” 

The Ypsilanti community is near and dear to Eastridge’s heart, which is why she wants to continually be a part of community-building events in the city. “I am proud to be here, and excited to be here, and want Ypsi to not just survive, but I want it to thrive, and I want to be a part of that. I want to make that happen, and I will make that happen,” said Eastridge. “I call Ypsilanti my perfect punk Rockwellian town because I was thinking of it one time and I said, you know, it’s like a Norman Rockwell painting, but everybody’s pierced and has cool funky hair, and tattoos, you know, it’s like, ‘That’s my town’. That’s my town.”

Eastridge was even asked to join the Downtown Development Authority because of her strong community presence. When I arrived at Unicorn Feed and Supply, Eli, from The Rocket in downtown Ypsilanti, was just leaving. “Eli was in because we want to start up a downtown retailers group again. I’m new to retail, this is my first retail venture, so I’m not following any guide; I learn as I go and ask tons of questions of everybody. But we’ve got such cool, interesting retailers downtown right now, and realized we need to organize, so that’s exciting to talk about. And we all complement each other so much. As long as everybody knows that competition is not a bad thing and actually improves everybody, because together we’re putting Ypsi on the map as being a really unique destination.” 

A friend said to Eastridge recently that Unicorn Feed and Supply is the store that nobody knew Ypsilanti needed, but it did. In Eastridge’s pursuit of happiness, she found her niche and her community, and she is excited for what the future will bring, enjoying what she has already accomplished in her first few months. “I’m having a blast! I’m exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I want to be doing, and even though there have been scary moments, I have no regrets.” If you’re in downtown Ypsilanti, stop by Unicorn Feed and Supply to feed your happy place and give Reggie Pep a hug. I promise you will have no regrets either. 

Unicorn Feed & Supply is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., and Sunday from 12 - 5 p.m. Visit them online at www.unicornfeedsupply.com or at the brick and mortar location at 114 West Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. To contact the store call 734-961-8610. You can also keep up with the fun through Facebook or Instagram @unicornfeedsupply

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Posted on May 1, 2019 and filed under Columns, ISSUE 72, Local Businesses.