The New York Times published a story this month about Three Oaks, Michigan, a weekend getaway spot about two hours east of Chicago. The story was a little bit off. “There’s not a storefront available, and not a chain store in sight,” wrote Meghan McEwen, a freelancer based in Detroit. She went on about the art festivals and gallery walks, the Vickers art-house cinema, Drier’s Meat Market, “which the poet Carl Sandburg once patronized.”
“I don’t know many other small, getaway towns that are this progressive,” Aron Packer, a Chicago gallerist who’d opened a place in Three Oaks, told McEwen. “I haven’t had to change my focus here,” he said. “It’s just as contemporary, just as challenging as my Chicago gallery.” And then there was the Acorn Theater, offering plays, concerts, and comedy in a renovated corset-bone factory. The Acorn’s a story in itself — the Times published that one last December.
But charm hasn’t completely insulated Three Oaks from the national economy, which is bad enough, or the Michigan economy, which is even worse, and in fact a few of the storefronts are available. Like the one where Packer’s gallery used to be. Last year wasn’t good for him in Three Oaks, and when he saw in April what was happening to the price of gasoline, he decided this year would be worse. So he didn’t open. And when he spotted the New York Times article on May 9 he shot an e-mail to friends and clients. “Sad but true to say that we have closed our Three Oaks Gallery Space,” he said. “Oh the irony! Anyway, Three Oaks is wonderful as you know. . . . Come visit us in Chicago at your leisure.”
It’s not that McEwen got her facts wrong — the Times didn’t publish them while they were right. She turned in the story last spring expecting the Times to run it last summer in its Friday Escapes section. But a story about a different Michigan haven got into print first, which meant McEwen’s had to wait. And rust, as they say, never sleeps.
I remember once diving into a piece in the New Yorker on a Chicago-based institution I knew something about and finding it bewilderingly askew in one niggling detail after another. Later I was told that the New Yorker had had the story in hand something like two years.
UPDATE: On May 23 the New York Times published (and posted online) the following correction: “The Havens column on May 9, about Three Oaks, Mich., described the area’s downtown business district incorrectly. There are a handful of empty storefronts; they are not all taken. The column also referred incorrectly to the Packer Schopf art gallery branch there. That branch has closed.”
I hope Meghan McEwen has broad shoulders — all the fault being put on her. Aron Packer promptly emailed the Times and asked for a correction of the correction. He felt the paper hadn’t made it clear that his main gallery, in Chicago, remains open. His email said, “Already someone has called me to ask if I have closed today. In the gallery world…. Word of closing can be DETRIMENTAL to someone’s business.”