Quaint little shop born of larger stores

Main Street Mercantile continues tradition for shops owner

Main Street Mercantile owner, Lee Ostendorf, stands outside the small shop she now owns on Main Street in Seal Beach. The store specializes in hand-crafted items made by local companies and artisans. Photo by Ted Apodaca

Visitors to Main Street Mercantile can find a variety of items that might not make sense in the same store. But the history behind the little shop behind Brita’s Old Town Gardens clears up the timeline that led to the popular little shop.

Lee Ostendorf, owner of Main Street Mercantile, actually founded the shop as a boiled down version of larger stores she once owned. She started, and expanded, a string of shops beginning in 1964, that were called, The General Store. Like MSM, they offered a variety of decorative items, home goods, clothing and even food items.

At its peak, the chain of General Stores reached five locations. But Ostendorf came to need a change from the large business and sold the stores. Later, when she discovered the small space in the garden, she thought it would make a perfect location for a smaller version of the General Store.

She had kept in touch with many of the artisans and creators of the products she sold, mostly through a series of craft fairs she produced. She still produces one every Wednesday at the Long Beach Marina, at which many of her suppliers still sell their wares. One of her suppliers is a 95-year-old lady, who hand makes little girls dresses

“I look for good people with good things,” Ostendorf said.

One of the reasons she chose to sell the first business was the arrival of her daughter. Ostendorf said that her mother was a doctor and when she was a child, she remembered her mother working long hours and she wanted to be able to spend more time with her daughter. She sold the business and worked in real estate for several years. But for Ostendorf, the stores are more fun.

“This is fun and very good therapy for me and the customers, we have quite a good time together,” Ostendorf said.

Because the store and garden offered things like food items and vegetable plants, they fell into the essential category and were able to stay open during the pandemic shutdown. More people are discovering what Ostendorf calls, ‘the best kept secret in Seal Beach.’ And despite being tucked away in the back of the nursery, she said the location has worked out well.

“The garden is very charming and kind of draws you in,” Ostendorf said.

For more visit mainstreetmercantilesb.com, or stop by at 223 ½ Main St., Seal Beach, 90740.