Lansing’s newest shop, the Gourmet Traveler offers a wide variety of culinary items and gifts

Sisters open a second business in Lansing ... Wendi Wilson-Eiden, left, and her sister, Diana Wilson-Thompson, right, opened the Gourmet Traveler in Lansing May 20. They also own Coffee on the River, which opened September 26, 2019. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

Some of the many products available ... Pictured above are just some of the cooking and specialty food items available at The Gourmet Traveler opened by sisters Wendi Wilson-Eiden and Diana Wilson-Thompson in Lansing May 20. The new store also has a variety of gift items that are eco-friendly and made from sustainable material, as well as locally crafted and custom gift items. Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

by Julie Berg-Raymond

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
 - Julia Child

Evoking the charm and unpretentious beauty of an open-air market in the French countryside, Lansing’s newest retail addition to its Main Street is a dream-come-true for lovers of food and cooking - and for their gift-buying friends.

The Gourmet Traveler (located in the historic McGarrity’s building, next door to Red Geranium Floral and Gifts) opened May 20, and features a wide variety of cooking items from pots and pans, mixing bowls and tableware to salt cellars, utensils, handmade cutting boards - and measuring cups so pretty they could be mistaken for decorative counter pieces.

The shop also stocks specialty food and beverage items like marinated olives, infused vinegars, spiced fruit jellies, cocktail mixes and crackers - and includes gluten-free and vegan products. Other gift items include custom totes, and eco-friendly products like metal straws and items made from sustainable material like coconut wood.

The Gourmet Traveler is owned and operated by sisters Wendi Wilson-Eiden and Diana Wilson-Thompson - whose award-winning coffeehouse and wine bar, Coffee on the River, is located two blocks away, on the banks of the Mississippi River. The same design aesthetic that transformed a former grain elevator into a vision of rustic chic - attributable to Diana’s eye for re-purposing and for historic restoration - informs the sisters’ new shop. Old doors lovingly refinished and put into service as tables; furniture pieces salvaged from basements and given new, beautiful life in the brick-walled interior of another historic building: These are among the hallmarks of Diana’s work in having created what her chef-sister, Wendi, calls “the perfect space, bringing our vision to life.”

If Diana is the design inspiration behind the Gourmet Traveler, Wendi could be considered its curator of all things culinary. The chef behind the menus at Coffee on the River, she says she is “always looking at food magazines and food websites trying to get ideas for what I want to do - not only at Coffee on the River, but also, of course, in the kitchen store. I just love food and playing with flavor combinations.”

Wendi’s love for cooking and good food is central not only to both of the businesses she and Diana operate; it is central to her life. “Food, to me, means laughter and family and friends,” she says. “Something that every human being has in common is food - it brings us together to share stories, laughter, even sadness.”

Even her personal “bucket-list” is food-related. “I can so clearly see places, through food,” she says. “I want to sit in the French Quarter, having a chicory coffee and hot beignets from a paper bag. Or walk down the street in a Moroccan spice market, with all those blue doors… I would love to travel to so many places, but I can’t right now - so I guess (the shop) is my way of bringing other places to me.”

In addition to handling the bookkeeping, ordering and other behind-the-scenes work for both businesses, Diana also works most days at the new store, and says she is excited about the new products coming in all the time. “Customers have told us they’re really liking the food items, and we love the feedback,” she says. “Let us know what you think.”

Hours at the Gourmet Traveler are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. During the slower winter season, the shop will follow custom and close some days.

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (2 votes)