|Geri and Laurie|
“We are always going to put people first, and in the way they need.” – Geri Horsley
If you are reading this, you probably know there is something special about our little town of Midland. A little larger than Mayberry and surely not quite as wholesome—the sense of community and family is strong here. It’s that unique appeal that brought Geri (pronounced Gary) Horsley back from a big job out east and it’s why we are lucky enough to have Wellington Limited in our little town today.
is a true Midland treasure, nestled in Midland Plaza you will find high-quality gifts for both personal and business use. Need a YETI® or Polar Camel with your business logo? Trying to create a portrait on a piece of jewelry? Building a service program or custom award for your employees, corporation, or special occasion? Just need a unique gift? Wellington can help! It’s their customer-first focus that has been the cornerstone of their success and why they have been in business in this town since 1974.
Interview day was not the first time I’d met Geri, but only the second. When you meet him, you know he’s in it for the relationship not the sale. He even said that to me, that he didn’t want to seem cliché, but that people walk in strangers and he wants them to leave as friends. With a personality like his and his first-mate, Laurie Kramer—you cannot help but become a Wellington family member and you will be glad for it.
Geri likes nostalgia, you can feel it all around from the Horsley’s sign on the wall, to some of their most challenging pieces on display to his U of M memorabilia in his office. Getting nostalgic about the origin story of Wellington was a true pleasure for me and I think you’ll feel the same.
As Geri would say “Many, many years ago…” Horsley’s was a floral and gifts business run by the Horsley children (four in all) and their parents, it was the predecessor to what we now know as Village Green. He recalls helping to carry the cement blocks that laid the foundation of the building. Geri’s father worked at Dow and the entire family worked at Horsley’s. Geri would later head off to Ann Arbor to earn a business degree and, “after university,” spend time out east working for Alcoa and then in sales for a medical supply company. A phone call from his brother would lead to a brainstorm about a business venture for the two of them: What if we opened a smoke shop and specialty store for men? The vision was strong enough to bring Geri back to Midland, but as I already mentioned, it was also that Midland magnetism that played a heavy hand. And so, it began, a 600-foot corner of Horsley’s was carved out for Wellington Limited to be born. They carried top-of-the-line articles from Cartier, Dunhill, Marc Cross leather, and George Jensen pewter. Wellington held pipe smoking competitions at the old Holiday Inn—entire families came to watch. If you are curious, as I was, as to what a pipe competition entails each competitor held a pipe with exactly 3.3 grams of tobacco and whomever could keep the pipe lit the longest would be the victor.
As is often the case in our small town, The Dow Chemical Company became an important part of the Wellington story early on. In the 70’s you could smoke just about everywhere, even at Dow corporate. As the Chairman of the Board was retiring, a special project was presented to the Horsley men: we need this 18-karat gold Dunhill lighter engraved with the Chairman’s initials. There were no engravers locally at the time. Geri, as he will still do today, said he would figure it out and came upon a hand-engraver in New York City. Dow flew Geri to New York where he hand-delivered the lighter to a man in Manhattan, returned three-hours later to retrieve it and flew back to Midland. This is where Geri realized Midland needed engraving. They purchased a heat-stamper that they still have and use to this day (albeit less often than their laser and sandblasting machines).
As is true for all businesses, they needed to evolve and grow. Wellington became a big retailer of travel accessories, carrying the Hartmann luggage line. When Dow AgroSciences (then located in Midland) approached Wellington for 50 attaché cases their corporate business began booming. It was this corporate focus that allowed Wellington to thrive. At one-point Wellington employed more than 30 people. Once the Horsley’s business was sold to Village Green, Geri moved Wellington to Dartmouth and Cambridge into an 1800 square foot space. They worked all day in the original space and built the new space by night. Fun fact: around this time, Wellington also had a shop inside the lower level of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island—it was the first shop of its kind in what’s now a multi-store boutique shopping space. Wellington spent 18 years at Dartmouth and Cambridge and later headed to Eastlawn Plaza where the Chinese buffet now resides; when their lease was up, they found out Walgreens would be built out front and decided to move on. They landed at their current location in Midland Plaza and have been there ever since.
You know I love origin stories for business names. Where did “Wellington” come from? Geri and his brother wanted a strong English name (as was their heritage). They started with Churchill’s—one of the strongest and most well-known English names, which was already taken—so they selected Wellington. The first Duke of Wellington (an original writing of his hangs in the store), was an impressive figure serving twice as Britain’s Prime Minister and a decorated military man.
We talked for longer than I’d planned but it wasn’t labored conversation. It was friendly and casual. Geri and Laurie ordered in pizza and salad, treated me to that lunch. They also laser engraved a few Let’s Go Midland articles for me to take (so nice!!!). We chatted through their upcoming deadlines—busier this time of year than usual. We talked about the ‘right now’ world we live in and how people sometimes pop in and expect things to be engraved immediately like some other shops can do. I, myself, am certainly guilty of this ‘right now’ expectation sometimes: Not willing to wait; Waiting too long and making it someone else’s problem; Not willing to venture outside of my house for a truly unique gift. Of course, sometimes Wellington can oblige a last-minute request, but other times they have an order of 100 for a corporate client in line ahead of the last-minute customer. A friend recently told me about a great experience with her own last-minute request for a Bible engraving—the team came in on a day off to complete the gift.
Geri speaks fondly of Midland, when I asked what has kept Wellington going for these 44 years? He said “Friendships; staying true to Midland; and loving this community the way we do.” As for competition besides the Internet, competition isn’t something that Geri worries much about because they don’t say ‘no’ very often. If they must, Wellington will work hard to find a local business that can say ‘yes.’ They aren’t afraid to help other businesses, keep it local and make it easy for the customer (we—at Let’s Go Midland—LOVE this!).
Geri is complex—he’s got a keen business sense and a bias for results for his customers that is unmatched, but he’s also a super sweet man. He said, “I have to get romantic for a second” saying that Laurie “has completed life.” The Northwood grad who once worked at Horsley’s entered his life years later and became his love and partner in business. You can sense a quiet satisfaction in the almost 45-year journey and as he prepares, in the next few years to retire, his daughter Natasha and son-in-law, Scott, will take over. The Horsley legacy and Wellington Limited will continue to thrive and grow in Midland—full of love for their craft and for this community. The meaning of the Wellington surname is “a prosperous estate”—I daresay it’s certainly held true for this small Midland business.
|Geri Heat Stamping|
Whatever your gift-giving needs, Wellington can help; from the Baggallini line to travel accessories or small leather goods to beautiful vases and scenic framed photographs, Wellington provides more than just engraved products. Wellington also tries to use as many Michigan and United States artisans as possible in their vast offering of merchandise; they carry many unique Michigan-made gifts including Petoskey stones and other products native to Michigan. So, next time you need a gift (engraved or not) make sure you check out Wellington Limited at 1900 South Saginaw Rd., Suite K, Midland, MI 48640, Monday through Friday from 10AM until 5:30PM, they are open for a few hours on Saturday for last minute gifts, just drop in between 10AM and noon. They are closed on Sundays. Follow them on Facebook at or visit their website . Have a question? Call them at (989) 631-5270 or shoot them an email at . Tell them Let’s Go Midland sent you.
Article and Photography By Joslyn Chulski