Dustin Hartz believes in leading by example.
It’s why he opened the bookstore 99 Trees in his hometown Bay City in 2018. And it’s why he continues to not only operate business out of his downtown storefront, but host an ever-evolving series of events aimed at community building.
Not content to let a few select city leaders and stakeholders guide city development, Hartz says that the entire community needs to take a pro-active approach toward making Bay City a more vibrant place.
"I see Bay City as a place that is up and coming but still needs some help. It needs the community to step in and take an active role," Hartz says.
"As a bookstore, we’re in a unique position to engage the community and help get them to start working toward a better place for everyone to live."
99 Trees has hosted book signings and poetry readings, musicians and children’s literacy events. Many of the events help raise money for larger causes, including local food pantries and little libraries.
This December is no different.
On Sat., Dec. 7, 99 Trees will host Fred Reif, author of Detroit blues book Tell ‘Em About the Blues. On Sat., Dec. 14, the bookstore partners with City Market for its monthly book club event. And also on Sat., Dec. 14, Hartz has arranged for a Photos with Santa event at the bookstore, a Santa photo-op that doubles as a toy drive for children in the Philippines.
An event taking place Fri., Dec. 6, and Sat., Dec. 7 – a $1 Book Sale – will help raise funds for one of Hartz’s biggest projects: A downtown public art mural. Hartz hopes to transform the alley next to his store into an active work of art, one where not only people will want to come and visit, but perhaps host events one day.
"The alley project is a unique way to improve the downtown atmosphere by using art," Hartz says.
"Art is a good thing for a community to use to grow. It draws attention. Just look at the light bridge. I want to continue that trend and make Bay City pop on the map."
99 Trees is located at 302 Center Ave. in downtown Bay City.
Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.