Not many entrepreneurs would open two brick-and-mortar businesses in the midst of a pandemic, especially when those businesses rely on gathering people together. But Calvin alumna Kelly Karsten Tuit ’92 did just that. Her stores, Gather-d and Pour-d, both located in Rockford, Michigan, are home to a range of goods and services, with a focus on the restoration, joy, and hope gathering together brings.

Step into either space and you’ll find shoppers and friends lingering over beautiful displays and delicious food—evidence that Tuit’s passion for human connection makes a successful business model, too.

Tuit’s first store, a small boutique called Gather-d, opened in 2020. At the time, she and her dad ran Rusty Palette Co., making and selling farmhouse-style décor at area stores and local markets. Early in the pandemic, Tuit’s close friend decided to close her own home décor business and offered Tuit the lease on her small retail space.

“I basically said yes to this crazy idea. And the minute I did, God gave me a vision of what it should be. I’m a people gatherer. My house was always full of people and I’m happiest around my table. We need people, we were created to be around each other. I really believe God gave me that vision in the middle of the pandemic to give hope to others.”

Gather-d boasts a curated collection of goods to help customers host get-togethers everything from table settings to clothing. Tuit applies her artistic training to creating a full experience for shoppers. “It’s about all your senses. What you see, hear, feel, how you’re treated. The better the experience, the more likely people are to come back. I really take a lot of time with the visuals. We do these huge resets every season, and people know when they come in, they’re going to see something new.”

From the beginning, Tuit envisioned Gather-d as much more than a store. She also wanted to offer customers space to pause, gather, and enjoy or learn art. Though the limited space at Gather-d supported this dream in its early phase, it wasn’t a long-term solution. Enter Tuit’s second business, Pour-d.

“Another building became available in Rockford in June 2021, and I made the mistake of going to look at it. It was perfect.” Pour-d, an art gallery and tea bar that opened in January 2022, offers classes, provides rental space for private gatherings, sells art from around the country, and hosts local exhibits. An upcoming exhibit will feature Calvin senior art students between May 2 and June 17.

How do tea and art relate? Tuit says she hopes visitors feel welcome to linger over both. “I’m actually a coffee drinker, and I opened a tea bar,” she laughs at the irony. “But serving tea takes time and you have to let it steep, just like you have to let friendship steep. We do offer coffee, but even our coffee is made with a French press, so that takes time, too.”

Tuit says she doesn’t think of herself as the typical entrepreneur. “I was not a business major. I just love what I do. It’s one of those things where you say yes, and God immediately blesses it.”

Though no longer using her art education degree in a traditional sense, Tuit credits her alma mater with encouraging a spirit of lifelong learning. “Because Calvin is a liberal arts school, I never felt pegged into a single path. It made me bolder. Not scared to dig into stuff.”

Tuit and her husband, Dave ’90, are parents to three daughters, Allie ’18, Emma ex’21, and current sophomore, Olivia. An empty nester, she admits owning two businesses keeps her busier than she imagined possible at this stage of life. Yet, with her family’s support and the talented team of women she employs, Tuit doesn’t plan to slow down just yet. “We’re trying to be a positive presence in our community,” she says.