Spend 24 hours in Midland with Julia Kepler, entrepreneur

Julia Kepler is the proud owner of three local businesses in Midland: Serendipity Road, Joyful Tantrum, and Joyful Tantrum Recess. She is known for her strong community spirit and her dedication to supporting the local art scene and its residents. Her typical day is a true reflection of her commitment to enriching the downtown area.

A lifelong Midland area resident, Kepler, alongside her husband, David, chose to start their lives in the city after graduation from college, "We felt like this is where we needed to be.”

Kepler's entrepreneurial journey was sparked by a request to research a new business concept for downtown Midland. "I had a large group of creative friends who were struggling," she notes, identifying a gap in the market. This led to the founding of Serendipity Road, filling the need for a storefront where local artists could sell their creations.

Located at 215 E. Main St, the boutique showcases products from over 100 Michigan artisans, 50 small out-of-state businesses, and items from larger companies. Kepler's hands-on approach ensures diverse goods, including locally-made freeze-dried candies and jewelry created from recycled graffiti. Not only can you find Kepler’s storefronts in Midland, but they’ve extended to an online presence
Julia Kepler in Joyful Tantrum, downtown Midland's toy store.
“Every successful downtown has a toy store,” Kepler says when asked how her second venture, Joyful Tantrum came to be. Specializing in non-electronic toys, the store operates under the motto, “A toy store unplugged so you can plug in with those you love.” 

Her third venture, Joyful Tantrum Recess, expands this concept by blending toy retail with educational activities. It’s located on the corner of Sugnet and Jefferson. The store organizes events like classes and story times catering to all age groups. Additionally, it supports local causes, such as collecting items for Shelterhouse's playroom.

For Kepler, her businesses are more than commercial endeavors. “Creating memories and community is so important to me,” she emphasized. She carries this sentiment daily, infusing her stores with purpose and connection.

Morning meetings and a trip down Serendipity Road

Kepler’s day begins early. “I sleep six hours, it doesn’t matter what time I go to sleep,” she said. 
Julia Kepler meets with Gus Wojda of Pizza Sam's
At 8 a.m., she was at a meeting with the Midland Downtown Business Association, hosted at Pizza Sam's, owned by Gus Wojda. The agenda focused on the 2024 Art Seen Festival, the success of past events, and future city plans. 

Post-meeting, Kepler and Wojda discussed a contract for the festival, with conversations evolving into potential collaborations using Wojda's restaurant for team-building events. "We have symbiotic relationships," Kepler remarks, highlighting the mutual support among downtown business owners. "I want to see them succeed, too."

By 10 a.m., Kepler's morning was in full swing at Serendipity Road. Her initial task involved coordinating with her employee, Jessica Gilbert, to strategize the day's activities. Once plans were set, she delved into managing the store's inventory. Unpacking deliveries for pricing and placing orders for her hand-picked items, Kepler shared how Serendipity Road came to be. She also used this time to jot a few things down on their whiteboard, a tool she uses to motivate her staff.

Julia Kepler takes some time to walk through her store, Serendipity Road.
A significant part of Kepler's routine also included a contemplative walk through the store, a time she used to connect with the products and the stories they carry. This moment allowed her to spotlight some of Serendipity Road's most impactful Michigan vendors, whose products offer uniqueness to her boutique and resonate with her commitment to the community.

Rebel Nell is one such vendor that stands out prominently on the shelves of Serendipity Road. The company is not just known for its  jewelry but also for its mission and the materials it uses. Rebel Nell specializes in crafting pieces from fallen graffiti and artwork, transforming discarded fragments of color and creativity into wearable art. This Detroit-based company extends its impact beyond the artistic realm by employing homeless women, equipping them with vital life skills to navigate their path to stability and success. 

Mend on the Move is another vendor whose presence in Serendipity Road is a testament to Kepler's values. The company empowers abuse survivors by teaching them how to craft unique jewelry from salvaged auto parts and car seat leather. Each piece sold not only supports the journey of these women toward healing and autonomy but also contributes to reducing auto waste in landfills.

"Connection with our people is important," she says, capturing the spirit behind her business approach.

An afternoon of meetings
Kepler checks her phone before a meeting at the Midland Area Community Foundation.
At noon, Kepler attended a meeting at the Midland Area Community Foundation for the Public Arts of Midland. The day’s agenda focused on the upcoming Art Seen mural festival, scheduled to coincide with the Midland Center for the Arts festival. Discussions involved current funding status and future planning.

At 4 p.m., Kepler headed to Live Oak Coffeehouse for a meeting with Self Love Beauty, an organization where she serves as a board member. This nonprofit is dedicated to helping individuals thrive by developing a growth mindset, learning wellness habits, and enhancing communication skills. 

Evening family time and relaxation

Evenings are reserved for family, a priority for Kepler. She spends time catching up with her son after work, supporting her children's decision to homeschool in 2019.

Thursdays are her designated "me nights," a time for relaxation and personal rejuvenation. “I think I’ll probably watch a girly movie in my bedroom,” she says.  

Julia Kepler maintains a healthy balance between her professional pursuits, community involvement, and family life, making her a vital component of the ongoing revitalization of Midland's downtown area.

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Read more articles by Misty Barron.

Misty Barron is a Mid-Michigan native who has proudly called Midland her home for the past six years. She served as Editor-in-Chief for the Delta Collegiate, where she earned various awards for her writing, including Journalist of the Year in 2023 from the Michigan Community College Press Association. In her free time, Misty enjoys spending time with family and friends and enjoying all our beautiful state has to offer.